Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his visiting Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang have witnessed the exchange of 11 memorandums of understanding, including an anticipated upgrade of the free trade agreement (FTA) between Singapore and China.

Photo: Lianhezaobao

Before the MOU signing ceremony, delegates from both sides met for around an hour.

The upgraded deal is expected to improve market access for various Singapore goods and services into China. According to Straits Times, it allows more petrochemical exports from Singapore to qualify for preferential treatment when imported into China.

Petrochemical products are among Singapore’s top exports to China, accounting for some 25% of Singapore’s total exports to China last year.

The upgrade also includes customs procedures and trade facilitation, enhancements in investment protection, trade remedial measures,  as well as commitments in new areas such as e-commerce, competition and the environment.

The FTA was first signed in 2009, making it China’s first comprehensive bilateral trade pact with an Asian country.  Negotiations for the upgrade started right after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Singapore in 2015.

The expanded FTA will come into force after both sides have ratified the protocol.