SINGAPORE (Sept 23): Singapore is working with China to develop the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC), which is envisioned to become “the most efficient trade route between Western China and Southeast Asia,” according to Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Koh Poh Koon.

Speaking at the sidelines of 16th China-Asean Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, the capital of China’s Guangxi region, Koh says the project aims to improve traditional air, land, sea and river links, as well as strengthen modern dimensions of connectivity such as data, talent, technology and financial flows.

The ILSTC is part of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative (CCI). First mooted in November 2015, it is Singapore’s third government-to-government initiative with China, after the Suzhou Industrial Park in the 1990s and the Tianjin Eco-city in 2008.

The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor strategically connects the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which will enhance connectivity between Western China and Southeast Asia, and beyond Southeast Asia to the rest of the world.

To realise the full potential of the CCI-ILSTC, Koh says the governments are “intensifying efforts” to promote the use of the trade corridor.

“A trade corridor works best as an open and inclusive platform. The more partners we have, the greater our economies of scale, and the lower our costs, to the benefit of everyone,” Koh says.

To this end, Koh says the plan issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission last month to promote greater coordination among all 12 Western China provinces, as well as international partners, to further develop and use the CCI-ILSTC is a “positive move”.

He adds that the joint project will also look to facilitate trade by reducing non-tariff barriers and adopting best practices and standards in regulations.

Koh also urged businesses to continue to forge strong networks and partnerships to bring enterprises and organisations across the region together.

The move comes as intra-regional trade now accounts for almost 60% of Asia’s total trade, with Asean-China cooperation contributing to a significant part of the trend.

Asean is currently China’s third largest trading partner, while China has been Asean’s largest trading partner for the past decade.

Also speaking at the sidelines of the summit was Teo Siong Seng, chairman of the Singapore Business Federation, who notes that ties between Asean and China has grown steadily over the years, “underpinned by strong cooperation and strategic convergence”.

“The rapid growth of China-Asean economic and trade relations is accomplished through the joint effort of governments, businesses and people from both sides,” Teo says.

He also encouraged Chinese companies to “leverage Singapore’s capabilities in infrastructure, engineering, legal, financial and other professional services” in order to seize opportunities in Asean.