China, ASEAN Must Rekindle People-to-People Economic Ties, Says Singapore Prime Minister

(The Straits Times) – ASEAN and China must redouble their efforts to revive economic activity and people-to-people ties that suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday.

And as vaccines continue to be rolled out, cross-border travel must resume gradually, gradually and safely, with greater flight connectivity and mutual recognition of health certificates.

Lee was speaking at the ASEAN-China summit attended by ASEAN leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as he explained how the 10-member regional bloc could cooperate with Beijing in post-pandemic recovery efforts.

China still maintains some of the world’s toughest quarantine measures, requiring travelers to undergo up to a month’s quarantine as well as multiple tests before being allowed entry.

He recently increased the measures for travelers from Singapore, calling for an additional nucleic acid test three days before the flight.

Singapore, meanwhile, has differentiated measures for countries based on their Covid-19 risk profile. Travelers from China need only take a polymerase chain reaction test upon arrival.

Lee said Singapore welcomes an ASEAN-China joint statement on cooperation in support of a comprehensive recovery framework, which oversees a sustainable regional recovery from the pandemic.

The framework includes 185 initiatives, covering strategies for health, safety, economic integration and digital transformation.

The prime minister also suggested that the ASEAN-China free trade agreement be strengthened and the ASEAN-China air transport agreement improved.

Noting that China was an early ratifier of the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership with Singapore, Lee reiterated calls made earlier Tuesday for the remaining participating countries to do so.

The mega trade pact was concluded last year, but must be ratified by at least six of the 10 ASEAN members and three of the five external partners who have signed it – Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

“At the same time, we must not lose sight of global challenges such as climate change and sustainable development,” added Lee.

He praised the collaborative efforts of ASEAN and China in these areas and the designation of 2021 as the ASEAN-China Year of Sustainable Development, but also stressed the need to look further to build a better future for their people. .

In the area of ​​public health, China has also been swift and consistent in its support for ASEAN’s response to Covid-19, including contributing to a common fund that has helped the group procure essential vaccines for locals, Lee said.

An ASEAN-China public health cooperation initiative will also facilitate information exchange and build capacity to deal with upcoming public health emergencies, such as a future pandemic, he added.

Lee noted that this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the ASEAN-China dialogue relationship, with the partnership growing steadily over the years. In 2020, ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner for the first time.

“Such achievements have been made possible by ASEAN and China actively contributing and investing in an ASEAN-led regional architecture that is rules-based, open, inclusive and promotes free trade,” he said. he declares.

“This has provided a stable and conducive environment for both ASEAN and China to develop and prosper together peacefully. “

Lee said Singapore agreed in principle with China’s proposal to improve relations with ASEAN into a “comprehensive strategic partnership” which would involve even deeper multi-level cooperation in several areas.

Singapore also agrees that officials from both sides should continue discussions, Lee said, adding that he looked forward to a special ASEAN-China summit in November with President Xi Jinping and other ASEAN leaders.

This story was first published in The times of the straits.

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