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01 Mar 2012

Speech by Mr Tay Kim Poh (DS/D, MND) at Tianjin Eco-City Investment Promotion Seminar

Mr Teo Eng Cheong
CEO, IE Singapore,
Mr Ho Tong Yen
CEO, Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Investment and Development Co. Ltd
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

1. I am happy to join you at this seminar titled “New Incentives and Opportunities for Singapore companies” in Tianjin Eco-city.

2. In late-2007, Singapore and China jointly launched the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project. The project serves to demonstrate the commitment of both countries to sustainable development and to bring bilateral relations to a new level. Our vision for Tianjin Eco-city is to build “a thriving eco-city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient – a model for sustainable development”. We hope that what we are developing in the Eco-city will provide useful pointers to other Chinese cities and cities around the world as they try to balance economic development with environmental protection.

3. This morning, I will like to share with you some reasons why we think the Tianjin Eco-city provides an excellent platform for our Singapore companies to explore and pursue business opportunities. I will broadly group these reasons under the acronym “ABC”: “A” - Attractive location; “B” - a Bilateral Cooperation project; and “C” - Coming of age. Let me elaborate.

Attractive location

4. “A” – Attractive location. When leaders of Singapore and China agreed to collaborate to build the eco-city back in 2007, sites in four cities were offered for our consideration. These were in Baotou (Inner Mongolia), Tangshan (Hebei province), Tianjin municipality and Urumqi (Xinjiang). We eventually selected the current site in Tianjin. Why?

5. Its attractive location was one key consideration. Tianjin Eco-City is about 2½ hours drive from Beijing and about 1 hour from Tianjin city. Today, Tianjin City is already linked by high-speed rail to Beijing and the train journey takes only ½ hour. The high-speed rail system will be extended to the Eco-city in the coming years. The Eco-city is also located next to Tianjin port, the largest port and maritime gateway in Northern China. Thus, the Eco-city is well-served and well-connected by sea to the rest of the world, by land to Beijing and other parts of Tianjin, and by air via the Beijing and Tianjin airports.

6. The Eco-city is located within the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA), one of the fastest growing regions in China. TBNA, at the heart of the Bohai Rim, has been earmarked as the third major growth engine in China after the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta areas. It has consistently registered annual economic growth rates exceeding 20% in recent years. In fact, its GDP overtook Shanghai Pudong last year. Many fortune 500 companies can be found in TBNA today. Examples include Motorola, Airbus, Unilever and Rockefeller.

7. As an integral part of TBNA, Tianjin Eco-city is tapping into and contributing to TBNA’s growth. The Eco-city is uniquely positioned as a model for sustainable development and a hub for eco-living and eco-businesses. Complementary developments in TBNA are rapidly coming up – including the Yujiapu financial district and Beitang, which aspires to be a major hub for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibition). Singapore companies could use the Eco-city as a springboard to tap into the enormous business potential of TBNA. The Eco-city will serve as a benchmark in sustainable development for the rest of TBNA, in areas ranging from the development of green buildings, water conservation, environmental protection, recycling of resources and the nurturing of green industries.

Bilateral Cooperation Project

8. “B” – a bilateral cooperation project: Tianjin Eco-city is the 2nd and only other flagship bilateral cooperation project between the Governments of Singapore and China, after Suzhou Industrial Park. As a flagship bilateral cooperation project, it enjoys the full attention and support of both the Singapore and Chinese Governments at the highest level. Our Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan co-chair the Eco-city Joint Steering Council that meets regularly to take stock of the project’s progress and provides guidance on its future development. While there are also other cooperation projects with China, these are primarily driven by the private sector and do not enjoy the same level of engagement as the Tianjin Eco-city.

9. The Chinese Government has been giving special support to the Eco-city project in view of its unique status as a G-to-G project. For example, it is the only city in China which enjoys the Foreign Exchange Incentive Scheme. Under this scheme, foreign companies registered in the Eco-city can convert their funds into RMB deposits at a time of their choice, instead of being able to do so only upon confirmation of payment based on supported documents. This helps to mitigate their business risk arising from fluctuations in the exchange rate. The PRC Ministry of Culture and the Tianjin Municipal Government have also set up the state-of-the-art National Animation Park in the Eco-city to catalyze its economic development. I will leave it to Mr Huang Yonghao of the Tianjin Eco-city Administrative Committee to elaborate on the support and incentives offered by the Chinese Government to companies operating in the Eco-city.

10. The Singapore Government is similarly committed to the success of the Eco-city project. We have set up a dedicated project office in the Ministry of National Development since 2007 to drive the project and ensure its smooth progress. We have adopted a Whole-of-Government approach towards the project, with relevant government agencies that can contribute to the project all playing their part. To illustrate, the Urban Redevelopment Authority is closely involved in the formulation of the Eco-city’s Master Plan, the Housing and Development Board is involved in the formulation of the public housing policy framework in the Eco-city, the Public Utilities Board has helped to formulate the Eco-city’s Integrated Water Management Guidelines, while the Building and Construction Authority has helped to formulate the Eco-city’s Green Building Evaluation Standards.

11. IE Singapore is also actively helping Singapore companies to explore and tap business opportunities in the Eco-city. Mr Teo Eng Cheong, CEO of IE Singapore, will touch on the various assistance available for Singapore companies later.

12. The master-developer for the Tianjin Eco-city is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Investment and Development Co. Ltd. (SSTEC), a joint-venture company formed by Keppel Corporation and Tianjin TEDA Investment Holdings Co. Ltd. Working together with MND, IE Singapore and ECAC, SSTEC has been actively attracting investors and companies to develop the Eco-city. So far, Tianjin Eco-city has attracted some RMB 50 billion worth of registered capital investment for the Eco-city. Mr Ho Tong Yen, CEO of SSTEC, will be speaking on how they hope to actively partner your company and facilitate your business plans in the Eco-city.

Coming of age

13. Let me move on to “C”, coming of age. After four years of rapid development, the Tianjin Eco-city project is gradually coming of age. Just four years ago, the entire 30 sq km area comprised barren land, salt farms and polluted water bodies. Today, if you were to visit the Eco-city, you will find in the 8 sq km start-up area energy-efficient commercial and residential buildings, lush landscaped parks and solar-panel street lights lining the well-paved roads. Much of the start-up area including the eco-business park, as well as the eco-industrial park will be progressively completed in the next 1 to 2 years.

14. To-date, more than 600 companies have registered to set up offices in the Eco-city, while more than 4,000 homes have been sold. The National Animation Park has started operations since last year. Some of you may have come across recent media reports that the Eco-city has recently welcomed its first residents. With residents and companies now beginning to move into Eco-city, it has entered the next phase of its development. The needs of residents and companies in the Eco-city have to be met. This will provide new business opportunities for Singapore companies in various sectors, including the retail and services sectors.

15. To raise the awareness of the business opportunities in the Eco-city amongst Singapore companies, Minister-of-State Lee Yi Shyan plans to lead two trade missions to the Tianjin Eco-city this year, with the first mission scheduled at the end of this month. Some of you might therefore wish to join the trade missions to see for yourselves the business opportunities offered by the Eco-city.


16. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have shared with you the main reasons why you may find it worthwhile investing in the Eco-city – its attractive location, it being a flagship bilateral cooperation project and its gradual coming of age, with residents and companies beginning to move in. In the presentations that follow, the speakers will offer more insights and information why Tianjin Eco-city is a good investment destination for Singapore companies. I hope the seminar today will give you the necessary information to consider whether to invest in this fast-growing part of China and join us in our quest to develop a world-class eco-city. I wish all of you an enriching and productive time at this morning’s seminar.

Thank you.

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