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Feb 24, 2022 / 20:55

Vietnamese President visits Singapore, reassuring investors

Reassuring Singaporean investors and encouraging investments are part of Vietnam’s efforts to undertake the recovery plans.

Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s three-day visit to Singapore is considered a gesture to reaffirm Vietnam’s determination to recover the economy and facilitate foreign investors, including Singaporeans.

 Vietnam's President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his wife Tran Nguyet Thu arrive at Changi Airport, Singapore on Feb 24. Photos: VNA

The reassurance is an important message sent to the ASEAN member state, which was the biggest investor in Vietnam in 2020 and the first half of 2021.

President Phuc’s state visit is the first by a head of state to Singapore since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020.

Vietnamese Ambassador to Singapore Mai Phuoc Dung said the visit is a boost to post-Covid-19 recovery and bilateral relations.

The three-day visit starting on Feb 24 will focus on seeking Singapore’s investment in the digital economy, digital transformation, training high-skilled manpower, lifting the bilateral economic ties to a higher level amid the enforcement of a series of free trade agreements namely the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that the two countries are signatories. In addition, Vietnam and Singapore are the only two ASEAN members signing free trade agreements with the EU.

It can be said that economic ties are the key to Vietnam-Singapore relations.

In terms of investment, Singapore has, as of February 2022, pledged to pour US$66 billion in more than 2,860 projects in Vietnam, ranking the largest ASEAN and the second biggest global investor of Vietnam. In 2021, Singapore outperformed all foreign investors by injecting nearly $11 billion in Vietnam, accounting for 34.4% of Vietnam’s total investment.

Singaporean investors have been running businesses in 18 out of 21 sectors in Vietnam, mostly in process manufacturing, real estate, producing and distributing power, gas, water, and air conditioners.

Of the sectors, Singaporeans developed 13 industrial parks totaling 7,517 ha across Vietnam as of end-2021, luring foreign projects worth $18 billion and creating jobs for nearly 300,000 people.

So far, Singaporean investors have been present in 51 out of 63 cities and provinces across Vietnam, mainly in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Binh Duong, Bac Ninh, Quang Nam, and Long An.

Regarding trade, the bilateral value rose 23.3% on year to $8.3 billion in 2021.

In turn, Vietnam has 118 projects costing an investment of $498 million in Singapore, covering science-technology, wholesales and retails, automobile maintenance, manufacturing, and real estate.

In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Singapore ranked the sixth-largest market providing visitors to Vietnam.

 Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan welcomes Vietnam's President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his wife at the airport.

Mutual trust and friendship

Ambassador Mai Phuoc Dung said the 49-year-old multisectoral relationship has been built on the basis of mutual understanding and friendship. Since the late 1980s when Vietnam undertook Doi moi (renovation), late Vietnamese PM Vo Van Kiet wanted to learn Singapore’s development lessons.

In his visit to Singapore in 1991, Kiet expected late Singaporean PM Lee Kuan Yew to advise the Government of Vietnam in terms of economic development. In response, the Singaporean PM made several visits to Vietnam to counsel on macroeconomic strategies.

Singapore sent experts to Vietnam to take field trips and make recommendations as well as set up an SGD10-million fund to train Vietnam’s officials. The timely assistance at the outset of the Renovation matters a lot to the development of Vietnam.

The ambassador said the two nations shared the same strategic stances on important international issues, including rule of law, peace, security, and the ASEAN’s Centrality in the regional issues.

People-to-people links are another factor strengthening bilateral relations. Currently, about 15,000 Vietnamese citizens live, study, and work in Singapore, spanning IT, education, construction, and hospitality. Many of them married Singaporeans, bringing the relationship closer.

Vietnamese cuisine has contributed to the diversity of Singaporean cooking.

With Vietnam’s decision to resume tourism in the new normal from mid-March, chances for Singaporean investors and visitors would be open, contributing to the recovery plans that both countries are striving for, the ambassador said.

Sharing the same view, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Vietnam and Singapore are long-standing partners in developing manpower. Vietnam is the leading partner of the Singapore Cooperation Program (SCP) [providing training and technical assistance on macroeconomic and financial management] with the participation of more than 20,000 Vietnamese officials since 2002.

In 2021, the two sides celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam-Singapore Cooperation Center. It has ensured the continuity of training programs for Vietnamese officials in the face of Covid-19.

Obviously, fruitful relations have been largely built through education and tourism. Indeed, Vietnam is one of the favorite destinations of Singaporeans while Singapore ranks among the top places for Vietnamese tourists once the restrictions are lifted.

Regarding the visit by the Vietnamese president, Vivian Balakrishnan said two main fields of the upcoming cooperation would be the digital economy and sustainable development. In reality, this is the priority of both countries with a focus on cybersecurity, smart city, renovation, AI, and digital payment, the diplomat said, adding that the two countries in 2021 agreed to set up a joint group on this sector.

The Vietnamese President’s visit is believed to be an important milestone to reinforce the relationship which will be commemorated for the 50th time in 2023.

 Vietnam's President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.