By Philip J. Heijmans and Karthikeyan Sundaram
(Bloomberg) — China and Singapore are looking to establish a reciprocal visa-free arrangement that will allow citizens from both nations to visit the other for up to 30 days without the need for a travel permit, Singapore’s government announced on Thursday.
Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Chinese Vice-Premier Ding Xuexiang agreed on the measure during a meeting in Tianjin that yielded two dozen agreements from food security cooperation to upgrading an existing bilateral free trade pact.
Chinese passport holders are currently required a visa to enter the Southeast Asian city-state while Singaporeans can go to China for up to 15 days without one. Both sides aim to implement the arrangement in early 2024.
“The two countries’ competent authorities are having close communication on this,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “This will be great news for the two peoples, and we hope the arrangement will be implemented at an early date.”
Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry separately said the city-state “will secure greater market access” to China’s services sector with the upgrade of the bilateral free trade pact.
Beijing has also committed not to impose foreign equity limits for Singapore investors in 22 sectors including construction, retailing and wholesale, architectural and urban planning services, the trade ministry said.
Wong’s trip to China also included talks with Premier Li Qiang and economic czar Vice Premier He Lifeng. The agreements Thursday come as Singapore Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen met his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation, Singapore’s government said in a separate statement.
China has moved to shore up investor confidence and unleash a flurry of market access concessions since Chinese leader Xi Jinping met President Joe Biden in the US last month. Steps have included approving a long-delayed Mastercard Inc. joint venture, and announcing visa-free access to China for six countries.
Wong is visiting the city-state’s largest trade partner until Friday. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year designated Wong as his successor, with the power transition expected before the next election that must be held by November 2025. Lee signaled the transition could come as early as next year.
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