Photo Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information
Economy, Investment and Trade
Singapore and Shanghai look to boost bilateral cooperation
(24 May 2019) Singapore’s newly-minted Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat made a week-long official visit to China beginning May 22 where he met senior Chinese officials and witnessed the signing of several agreements to strengthen bilateral economic and diplomatic cooperation. This included a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, where the leaders discussed existing collaborations such as the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative and China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, as well as new areas of potential cooperation such as the development of the Greater Bay Area and Yangtze River Delta region. Furthermore, Heng co-chaired the first Singapore-Shanghai Comprehensive Cooperation Council (SSCCC) meeting — its eighth provincial-level business council in China — with Shanghai mayor Ying Yong, where they witnessed the signing of five collaboration agreements. Six key areas for cooperation were also outlined during the meeting, i.e., the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), financial connectivity, technology and innovation, ease of doing business, urban governance and people-to-people exchanges.
Malaysia to leverage BRI to enter new halal markets
(22 May 2019) Malaysia will leverage China’s BRI to expand its halal offerings to 10 new markets along the Belt and Road, said Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) vice head Hanisofian Alias during an event organised by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). According to him, the countries identified were Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The move was part of HDC’s internationalisation plan which includes expanding to new markets and promoting thought leadership that positions Malaysia as “a reference centre for the world’s halal industry.” Besides leveraging the BRI to expand to new markets, HDC also intends to export more halal food products to China itself as it looks to tap into its population of 26 million Muslims.
China steel company relocates to Cambodia
(24 May 2019) Chinese state-owned iron and steel company China Baowu Steel Group announced that it will relocate two blast furnaces from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region to Cambodia, making it the company’s first overseas production plant. The move comes as the Cambodian construction sector’s appetite for steel continues to grow rapidly — the country imported 717,572 tonnes of steel from Vietnam in the first seven months of 2018, accounting for almost 40% of Vietnamese steel exports during the period. According to a Reuters source, the blast furnaces were selected as they were “outdated” equipment in China, but were still considered to be “quite advanced” in Cambodia. While the prospect of boosting local steel production was well received by local players, a foreign analyst quoted by the media noted that the country faces great challenges in setting up steel mills as it lacked basic transportation and utility infrastructure, and had a “noncommittal” investment environment.
China to build rice storage facilities in Cambodia to boost rice exports by 500,000 tonnes
(26 May 2019) China’s Henan Yuguang International Economic & Technical Cooperation (HYIETC) announced plans to build new rice storage facilities to boost Cambodia’s rice exports by as much as 500,000 tonnes. According to HYIETC chairman Bi Guangmin, the facilities will include a warehouse and a silo that can store up to one million tonnes of rice. China is currently Cambodia’s top rice export destination, with the Chinese import quota set at 400,000 tonnes. Furthermore, Cambodian exports of milled rice to China saw a 59% year-on-year increase in the first quarter of 2019, reaching 75,214 metric tonnes.
China’s Alipay to facilitate Chinese tourist travels in Thailand
(27 May 2019) The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) signed a letter of intent with Chinese mobile payment company Ant Financial Services Group for the creation of additional digital services through its Alipay platform to facilitate Chinese tourists visiting Thailand. According to Alipay general manager Zhang Kong, this will involve a new mobile application that allows Chinese tourists to enjoy services in Thailand without using cash. He added that the new service will likely be launched in September. TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the new collaboration follows two others forged earlier in the month, where TAT and Alipay agreed to roll out two systems. A total of 10.5 million Chinese tourists arrived in Thailand in 2018, with Thailand topping the tourist destinations for Chinese nationals.