Singapore and China have agreed to set up a 30-day mutual visa-free travel arrangement, as part of their efforts to enhance people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in the post-pandemic era.
The agreement was announced on Thursday (Dec 7) during the 19th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting – the highest-level annual bilateral forum between the two countries.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chaired the meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, said the visa-free arrangement will benefit both Singaporeans and Chinese citizens who wish to travel for business, tourism, family visits or transit purposes.
He added that the arrangement will also facilitate the implementation of the bilateral fast lane and the air travel bubble, which are currently under discussion.
Mr Wong said the visa-free arrangement is a “very significant” and “concrete” outcome of the JCBC meeting, which also covered various areas of cooperation such as trade, investment, finance, education, culture and innovation.
Why is a boost needed?
He noted that Singapore and China have upgraded their relationship to an All-Round High-Quality Future-Oriented Partnership earlier this year, and expressed confidence that the two countries will continue to deepen their strategic partnership and mutual trust.
Mr Han echoed Mr Wong’s remarks, saying that the visa-free arrangement will promote people-to-people connectivity and friendship between the two countries.
He also said that China and Singapore have maintained close communication and coordination on regional and international issues, and have jointly contributed to the stability and development of the region.
He added that China supports Singapore’s role as the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relations, and hopes to work with Singapore to advance the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.
The JCBC meeting was held in Tianjin, China, and was attended by senior officials from both sides, including Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing and National Development Minister Desmond Lee.
The meeting also witnessed the signing of six memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on cooperation in areas such as digital economy, green finance, intellectual property, education and culture.
The visa-free arrangement will take effect from Jan 1, 2024, and will apply to Singaporeans and Chinese citizens with ordinary passports. The arrangement will allow them to stay in each other’s country for up to 30 days without a visa, subject to the relevant laws and regulations of each country.