Four more Chinese provinces have officially joined the new land and sea trade corridor that connects western China to South-east Asia, bringing the total number onboard to eight.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Chongqing party boss Chen Min’er on Monday (Jan 7) witnessed the signing of a pact involving the first four signatories – Chongqing, Guangxi, Guizhou and Gansu – and the latest additions of Qinghai, Yunnan, Ningxia and Xinjiang at a hotel in downtown Chongqing.

The new trade route is a network of railway links from western China to the port of Qinzhou in southern Guangxi, which further connects to South-east Asia by sea.

It extends from the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI), the third joint project between China and Singapore that aims to spur the growth of China’s less-developed western region through better transport, financing and data connectivity.

In a meeting before the signing on Monday, Mr. Chen told Mr. Chan that by renaming the trade route from Southern Transport Corridor to CCI New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, both countries have elevated the project to a higher level that could include more dimensions of cooperation.

“Within this initiative, Chongqing acts as the hub on the Chinese side, linking all the western provinces together,” said Mr. Chen.

“From four to eight, this means we have already helped drive development in the western region,” he added.

And he hopes that Singapore, with its international connectivity, can help link the rest of South-east Asia with Chongqing, paving the way for a seamless linkage between the land and sea parts of the Belt & Road Initiative.

During the meeting, Mr. Chan and Mr. Chen also discussed the use of innovative measures and software development in the implementation of key projects under the CCI.

They explored ways to use the new trade route to “catalyses both conventional and modern dimensions of connectivity such as data, technology, talent and finance”, Mr. Chan said in a Facebook post after the meeting.

This will result in greater integration of South-east Asia and western China, he added.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Chan attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the Multi-Modal Distribution and Connectivity Centre, a physical hub to plan, develop, manage and optimise multimodal operations across road, rail, river and air.

Mr. Chan arrived in Chongqing on Monday for a two-day visit. He is accompanied by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Health and Transport Lam Pin Min and senior government officials.