Vietnam – Singapore relations have grown strongly: Ambassador
|Vietnam – Singapore relations have grown strongly: Singapore Ambassador
Vietnam and Singapore are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, and 10th anniversary of Strategic Partnership. What are the highlights of the bilateral ties and prospects for the coming years?
2023 marks several important milestones for our relations. It has been 50 years since Singapore and Vietnam established diplomatic relations, and 10 years since we established our Strategic Partnership. Our bilateral relations have grown tremendously over these years. Let me highlight three areas where we have made tremendous strides.
First, our leaders built strong trust with one another. In 1991, the late Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet asked Mr Lee Kuan Yew to advise Vietnam on opening up its economy. This marked the beginning of a close personal relationship between successive generations of our leaders. Even today, we continue to reap the benefits of that foundation.
Second, we prioritised economic development. One of the most important projects is the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP). In 1994, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed the idea to Prime Minister Kiet. Vietnam had been experiencing rapid growth since the Doi Moi Reforms in 1986, and the VSIP leveraged the complementarity of our countries to drive economic growth.
Third, we worked together to build a prosperous and peaceful Southeast Asia under ASEAN. ASEAN welcomed Vietnam’s accession in 1995, and Vietnam has made critical and important contributions to our regional peace and stability. Regionally, Singapore and Vietnam share similar outlooks on many issues and a commitment to the importance of multilateralism and international law. We are committed to upholding ASEAN Centrality and unity to preserve the international rules-based order. ASEAN is our common pillar of regional partnership and it gives us credibility when we engage external partners as well.
Fast-forward to today, and you can see how our relationship has grown and continues to grow very rapidly. Our leaders meet regularly and enjoy excellent rapport. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made a successful Official Visit to Singapore in February this year, and we look forward to reciprocating with a visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Vietnam very soon. We exchanged State Visits in 2022, and President Halimah Yacob also had a very good introductory meeting with President Vo Van Thuong recently in London.
|Vietnam – Singapore relations have grown strongly: Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh holds talks with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his official visit to Singapore in February 2023. (Photo: VNA)
More broadly, we have developed various longstanding, and unique institutionalised frameworks for cooperation. The Singapore-Vietnam Connectivity Framework Agreement (CFA) which was launched in 2006 provides a platform where our economic ministries, and their associated agencies, coordinate positions, give direction and monitor progress on strengthening our cooperation further. In keeping with our broadening bilateral agenda, the CFA has expanded to include discussions on innovation, energy, and digitalisation.
Similarly, we have also close ties with the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), with regular interactions at all levels as we seek to learn from each other’s experiences and identify fresh areas where we can work with each other for mutual benefit.
Despite global downturns, Singapore continued to be the leading source of FDI in Vietnam by pouring 3 billion USD into the country during January – June. How would you assess the country’s business climate, what would you suggest the Vietnamese Government do to elevate the country’s competitive edge?
Economic cooperation has been the cornerstone of our bilateral relationship. Vietnam has consistently been one of Asia’s top performers. Singaporean businesses are confident in Vietnam’s long-term economic prospects. Hence since 2020, Singapore has been one of Vietnam’s top sources of foreign investment. This is a vote of confidence in Vietnam’s future. As of December 2022, Singapore was Vietnam’s second-largest foreign investor with a cumulative investment of 70.8 billion USD.
Top Singapore investment sectors in Vietnam are transportation & storage, manufacturing, real estate activities, accommodation, food services, financial & insurance services and wholesale & retail trade. In 2022, our bilateral trade grew by just over 16% year-on-year to reach 31.3 billion SGD (23.5 billion USD).
Overall, I am confident that our economic ties will grow from strength to strength, especially as we identify new priorities for growth under our Green and Digital Economic Partnership.
How do you evaluate the potentials for both nations to boost trade ties to the next level?
Looking ahead, there are many opportunities to work together in new growth areas. These include the digital economy, renewable energy, carbon credits, cybersecurity, and sustainable infrastructure.
Hence, when Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited Singapore in February 2023, both countries agreed to embark on the Green-Digital Economic Partnership (GDEP). This Partnership is an umbrella framework, which upgrades our bilateral relationship by focusing on energy, sustainability, infrastructure, digital economy and innovation, as well as connectivity. This will not only support the green and digital aspirations of both our countries, but also allow our cooperation to serve as a pathfinder in ASEAN as well.
|Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on the occasion of 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of their Strategic partnership. (Photo: WVR/Quang Hoa)
In this regard, there are three areas where Singapore and Vietnam are looking to work hand-in-hand to seize the opportunities of the next decade and deepen our cooperation.
First, innovation. Singapore and Vietnam are among the top three start-up eco-systems in Southeast Asia. With our common goal of driving economic growth through technology and innovation, there is scope for Singapore and Vietnam to tap on each other’s innovation eco-systems for partnerships, funding and talent.
Second, energy connectivity. Singapore and Vietnam share a common vision of achieving net zero by 2050. The scaling up of renewable energy and development of regional power grids will not only support our individual decarbonisation efforts, but also promote greater infrastructural connectivity to help advance the region’s sustainable energy goals.
Third, sustainability. We urgently need to accelerate climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Carbon markets can play a critical role in supporting countries’ decarbonisation, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors. In October 2022, Singapore and Vietnam signed an MOU to collaborate on carbon credits, aligned with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This puts both Singapore and Vietnam in excellent positions to capture the opportunities generated by carbon markets. We look forward to jointly implementing carbon credit generating projects in the coming years ahead. Our projects can help spur a more vibrant carbon market in the region.
While economic cooperation is a pillar in the Vietnam – Singapore relationship, cultural collaboration between the two sides has not been tapped to the fullest extent. What are your recommendations for both nations to promote cultural exchange?
Our partnership goes well beyond the dollars and cents of trade and investment. The most important pillar is our people-to-people relationship.
Post-COVID, Singaporeans and Vietnamese have resumed tourism, education, and cultural interactions. Vietnam has always been, and continues to be, a popular destination among our students for exchange programmes and study visits. Similarly, Singapore has always welcomed Vietnamese students into our country and educational institutions, where they have contributed much energy, passion, and talent.
|Vietnam – Singapore relations have grown strongly: A corner of Vietnam – Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) II in Binh Duong province as VSIPs are a cornerstone of Singapore’s economic engagement with Vietnam. (Photo: VSIP)
Vietnam is also our top partner for the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP). More than 21,000 Vietnamese officials have attended SCP courses, and Singapore will continue to share our experiences with Vietnamese officials, provinces, and municipalities to support Vietnam’s development.
One area where we are pressing ahead is to increase opportunities for our youth to engage each other. Our latest initiative will be the inaugural Singapore-Vietnam Youth Leaders Exchange Programme (SVYLEP) 2023 scheduled to take place in August 2023.
As we look forward, the future for Singapore-Vietnam relations is bright and full of promise. It is for this reason that we have chosen to conclude our 50/10 celebrations with an event called Spotlight Singapore in Vietnam (SSV), which will bring more than 200 youths, artists, and young entrepreneurs from Singapore to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to participate in a series of cultural, sports and business events from October 19 to 25 this year. It is through such networks of friendship that we will continue to sustain and grow our relations in the coming decades.