SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that Singapore and China can work together to make the economies of both countries more resilient.
He was speaking in an interview with China correspondents based in Singapore ahead of his official trip to China.
Mr Lee has since arrived in Chengdu on the first leg of a six—day visit to China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Mr Lee spoke of Europe’s deep—seated woes and America’s weak recovery. He said Asia is now "the brightest spot in the global economy".
Hence, Asian economies should work together to make up for the absence of demand in Western countries, said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee pointed to how Singapore and China can work together to develop capabilities and upgrade each other’s economies for the long term.
But he also noted how this pattern will change as China progresses to a more highly skilled economy.
He said other countries, including Singapore too, will have to develop new skills to complement new players.
Mr Lee said: "I think Singapore is moving forward, because we also do not want to remain where we are indefinitely.
"We have to have better standards of living, higher skills, more productive workers, more competitive economy.
"So I see ourselves developing more capabilities and we hope that these will also be capabilities which will have a market in China and which will complement what China is doing.
"There will always be room for different economies to do different things; it is a very big world."
Mr Lee also talked about the South China Sea maritime dispute between China and some ASEAN economies.
He said that while Singapore is not a claimant state, the country has an interest in ASEAN being strong, cohesive and effective in solving issues to maintain peace in the region.
There is also interest in freedom of navigation since Singapore is heavily dependent on international trade.
Mr Lee pointed out that it is important that disputes are settled in line with international laws, particularly that of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He explained that Singapore is a small country and if arguments are settled by force, it would create a "very disorderly international environment" which would prove to be "bad for all countries".
Mr Lee also responded to a question on how far Singapore needs to go before achieving its aim of being an offshore international centre for Renminbi (RMB), the Chinese currency.
Mr Lee said there is still some distance to go.
So far, it is understood that Singapore will be an RMB centre and one of the Chinese banks will be designated an RMB clearing bank. As to which is the bank, Mr Lee said it is up to China to decide.
On a lighter note, Mr Lee said he is looking forward to the two Chinese pandas — Jia Jia and Kai Kai — which are expected to arrive in Singapore from Chengdu next week.
He said the pandas’ arrival is a sign of friendship between Singapore and China. Mr Lee hopes that while two pandas will come, maybe three will go home.
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