Vietnam-Singapore: Trusted companions striding into the future

Article by Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (August 1, 1973-August 1, 2023) and 10 years of the Strategic Partnership (1993-2023) between Vietnam and Singapore.
Chủ tịch nước Võ Văn Thưởng gặp Tổng thống Singapore Halimah Yacob tại London, ngày 5/5/2023.
At the coronation ceremony of British King Charles III and Queen Camilla, on May 5, 2023 (local time), in London, President Vo Van Thuong met with Singapore President Halimah Yacob.

Fifty years ago, on 1 August 1973, Viet Nam and Singapore established diplomatic ties. Both countries are ASEAN members and locating in the dynamic Asia-Pacific, bearing geographical proximity and cultural similarities, sharing common interests, and together striving to respond to profound changes in the region and the world over the past 70 years. As such, the friendship and Strategic Partnership between Viet Nam and Singapore have been ever-flourishing, with added substance and effectiveness.

Back in the day, President Ho Chi Minh used to live and work in Singapore during his arduous journey for national salvation in the early 1930s. He was the first foreign leader to be honoured with a statue at Singapore’s Asian Civilizations Museum.

Following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, Singapore was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (now the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam). And most notably, 10 years ago, Singapore was also among the first ASEAN countries to elevate the bilateral relations with Viet Nam to Strategic Partnership.

The continuous cultivation efforts by generations

The Viet Nam-Singapore Strategic Partnership today owes largely to the continuous cultivation efforts by generations of leaders and people from

both countries. Regular visits by high-level leaders from both countries have long served as robust drivers for Viet Nam and Singapore in their endeavors to bolster political trust and deepen cooperation across the board. In particular, economic, trade, and investment ties constitute a key pillar and driving force in the Viet Nam-Singapore ties. With a three-fold increase in two-way trade turnover over the past 25 years, from just above 3 billion USD in 1997 to over 9 billion USD in 2022, Singapore is now Viet Nam’s 4th largest trading partner in ASEAN. Singapore currently has more than 3,200 projects with a total registered capital of 73.4 billion USD, and is ranked 2nd among countries and territories with FDI in Viet Nam. Singapore is also the largest foreign investor in Viet Nam among ASEAN member states.

Over the past three years, Singapore has consistently established itself as Viet Nam’s top foreign investor, and partaken in almost all economic sectors in this country. Following the launch of the first Viet Nam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) in Binh Duong Province in 1996, Viet Nam now is home to the most industrial parks built in collaboration with Singapore in the world, with 14 VSIPs across 10 provinces and cities. These industrial parks have surpassed 17 billion USD in terms of investment capital, encompassed around 900 projects, and provided jobs for nearly 300,000 people. These VSIPs have truly become ‘lighthouses’ guiding economic cooperation between the two countries.

They have been crucial in accelerating industrialization and modernization in Viet Nam, and in strengthening regional supply chains and economic connectivity. This assessment is echoed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s view that “the VSIPs not only bring benefits to both Viet Nam and Singapore, but also contribute meaningfully to the region at large”.

Ngày 18/5/2022, Chủ tịch Quốc hội Vương Đình Huệ và Chủ tịch Quốc hội Singapore Tan Chuan-Jin cùng thực hiện Lễ ký Thỏa thuận hợp tác giữa hai Quốc hội Việt Nam và Singapore.
On May 18, 2022, Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue and Speaker of the Singaporean Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin jointly performed the Signing Ceremony of the Cooperation Agreement between the National Assembly of Vietnam and Singapore.

Another distinctiveness lies in the fact that Singapore is the first country that Viet Nam established a Digital-Green Economic Partnership during the official visit to Singapore by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in February this year. This reaffirms the strong resolve and commitment of both countries towards promoting innovation, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and pursuing sustainable development. Such framework also provides ample opportunities for Viet Nam and Singapore to enhance economic cooperation in areas of untapped potential, such as digital and circular economy, innovation, clean energy, and climate action. These efforts will be beneficial for the two countries and for the region as a whole.

For Viet Nam and many countries worldwide, Singapore is a role model in terms of its aspiration to thrive, and its remarkable efforts to learn, to promote creativity, to make the most of its talents, and to build a disciplined society and an enabling government for growth. Singapore has provided Viet Nam with numerous ideas and development lessons, and partnered with Viet Nam in the process of reform and development. To date, more than 20,000 mid- and high-level officials and 30,000 educational administrators from Viet Nam have been the beneficiaries of numerous education and training cooperation programs between the two countries. In addition, there are over 9,000 Vietnamese students currently studying or doing research in Singapore. They constitute a high-quality workforce that serves as a key factor in Viet Nam’s robust development.

Collaboration in defense, security, and tourism, as well as cultural and people-to-people exchange have been increasingly strengthened. The two countries are working closely in conducting search and rescue operations and combating pirates, terrorism, and hi-tech and cyber crimes. At present, there are about 10,000 Vietnamese nationals residing, studying, and working in Singapore.

This community, together with Singaporeans currently residing and working in Viet Nam, serve as a bridge of ever-thriving friendship between the two peoples. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Viet Nam and Singapore provided each other with timely assistance in terms of vaccines, face masks and medical equipment. The two countries also strived to bolster international cooperation in response to COVID-19 in ASEAN and the region at large. There are currently around 100 direct flights per week between Viet Nam and Singapore, thereby making the number of tourist entries in both countries bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

The Strategic Partnership and mutual trust between Viet Nam and Singapore are also vividly reflected in multilateral cooperation. The two countries are like-minded on numerous regional and international issues, and have been working closely at multilateral forums and arrangements, such as the United Nations, APEC, ASEAN, and CPTPP. Both countries share the common aspiration for peace, stability, and prosperity in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and join hands with other ASEAN countries in building a united and strong ASEAN Community, with an ever-greater international profile.

Bringing the Strategic Partnership to a new height

Viet Nam and Singapore are both dynamic countries, sharing the common desire for robust growth and similar strategic interests. Viet Nam is actively accelerating industrialization and modernization, and the building of an independent and self-reliant economy in tandem with active, comprehensive, and substantive international integration. Viet Nam is striving to become a developing country with a modern industrial base and an upper-middle income by 2030, and a developed and high-income country by 2045. In the efforts to fulfil its ambition and vision for growth, Viet Nam always considers Singapore a close neighbor and reliable partner, and looks forward to its greater assistance and support for Viet Nam’s development.

The strong and extensive foundation for cooperation, having been reinforced over the past 50 years, can now provide fresh impetus for more comprehensive, substantive, and effective growth in the Viet Nam - Singapore Strategic Partnership. This will contribute to peace, stability, cooperation, and development in Southeast Asia and the world at large.

To translate such excellent opportunities and potential into reality, it is crucial to constantly foster bilateral cooperation arrangements, so as to enhance strategic trust. The two countries should also continue to bolster cooperation in defense, security, and diplomacy, for such endeavors are important contributors to the development of each country, and to peace, stability, cooperation, and growth of the region and beyond.

Bộ trưởng Bộ Ngoại giao Bùi Thanh Sơn hội đàm với Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan, ngày 21/6/2021.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son held talks with Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, on June 21, 2021.

Regarding economic cooperation, the two countries should deepen economic connectivity, and effectively harness the Digital-Green Economic Partnership. It is also important to improve the Viet Nam-Singapore Connectivity Framework Agreement, and make the most of regional economic connectivity and the FTAs to which both countries are parties, such as the CPTPP and ASEAN’s FTAs with its partners. At the same time, Viet Nam and Singapore should develop the VSIPs in ways that utilize advanced, green, and smart technologies. In addition, it is necessary to deepen cooperation in defense, security, education, training, healthcare, tourism, culture, environmental issues, and climate action. Focus should be given to improving quality and effectiveness, and enhancing complementarity among the two countries’ advantages.

Multilaterally, the two countries should continue to work together and support each other in fostering the ASEAN Community, and at regional and global forums. Viet Nam and Singapore should also uphold multilateralism and international law, and together strive to safeguard peace, independence, democracy, cooperation, sustainable development, and social progress.

Given the demand for development of each country in a world of relentless change, the Viet Nam-Singapore Strategic Partnership is of greater importance for both countries. Viet Nam remains determined to join Singapore in bolstering the neighboring ties and Strategic Partnership between the two countries, with added depth and effectiveness. Such endeavors will help fulfill the aspirations and interests of the two peoples, and contribute to peace, stability, cooperation, and development in the region and the world.

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