SINGAPORE – The Republic will explore ways to facilitate essential business and official travel to Sichuan province in south-western China, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Manpower Tan See Leng said on Tuesday (Sept 29).

Dr Tan said at the 21st Singapore-Sichuan Trade and Investment Committee Meeting, where he was a co-chair, that there is strong interest in resuming travel between Singapore and Sichuan.

“We hope to revive passenger traffic and increase direct air services between Singapore and Chengdu,” Dr Tan said, referring to an earlier conversation he had with Sichuan Governor Yin Li, the co-chair of the meeting.

Chengdu, about 20 times the size of Singapore, is Sichuan’s provincial capital and a major transport hub in the region.

Fast lanes between Singapore and six Chinese provinces and cities were set up in June to facilitate essential business and official travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reinstating travel between Singapore and Chengdu will hopefully “help to kick-start business exchanges as both of our economies recover from the pandemic”, said Dr Tan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Trade between Sichuan, one of China’s largest provinces, and Singapore reached US$1.25 billion (S$1.71 billion) between January and August this year, a jump of more than 20 per cent compared with a year ago.

The Republic is also Sichuan’s largest foreign investor so far, with cumulative investments of some US$7.55 billion across 665 projects ranging from infrastructure to innovation.

Dr Tan said that while the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted businesses and their operations, Singapore companies continue to remain committed to Sichuan.

Examples include CapitaLand and United Overseas Bank, as well as the Singapore-Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park, he added.

About 35 Sichuan companies, such as aerospace company Haite, conglomerate New Hope Group and hotpot chain Xiaolongkan, have also set up shop in the Republic.

Dr Tan said: “These trade and investment flows demonstrate the resilience of our economic linkages and signal the potential for deeper collaboration.”

More small and medium-sized enterprises in Singapore are also interested in expanding to Sichuan, he said.

Two Singapore restaurant groups, Putien and Founder Bak Kut Teh, will also be opening their first outlets in western China, with Chengdu as their first stop, he added.

Said Dr Tan: “As Singapore progressively resumes economic activities, we will reinstate our connectivity with key partners around the world. There is strong interest from both the Singapore and Sichuan business communities to resume travel.”