President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) receives Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan in Hanoi on June 21, 2021 (Photo: VNA)
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan has granted an
interview to the Vietnam News Agency ahead of a State visit by Vietnamese
President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Singapore, slated for February 24-26.
Evaluating the achievements in the bilateral relationship, Minister Balakrishnan
said Singapore-Vietnam ties have grown from
strength to strength since they first established diplomatic relations in 1973.
“Today, we enjoy wide-ranging cooperation in many areas, built on a foundation
of mutual friendship and learning. There are three main reasons for this: the
high level of trust at the political level, our long-standing win-win partnerships, and our strong people-to- people ties,” he said.
He went on: “One, our leaders have built up
a high level of political trust and understanding over generations.
“We have frequent bilateral interactions, and meet each other often at regional and multilateral fora. Despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,we have found ways to keep up the momentum of our engagements. Following
the 13th Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Congress, Prime Minister
(PM) Lee Hsien Loong telephoned President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and PM Pham Minh Chinh to congratulate them on their new appointments. The two PMs also met in person in Jakarta on the sidelines of the
ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in April 2021.
“In June 2021, I was honoured to
be the first Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam since the 13th Party
Congress, as well as the first Singapore minister to visit Vietnam since the
COVID-19 pandemic began. I had fruitful conversations with Vietnam’s leaders,
including my counterpart Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, with whom I have
interacted regularly since. Keeping up parliament-to- parliament relations, President
of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue met Speaker of the Singapore Parliament
Tan Chuan-Jin via videoconference in July 2021. Meanwhile, on the trade and
investment front, Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung and
Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng co-chaired the 15th Connectivity Ministerial Meeting in November
“Singapore and Vietnam share a
common strategic outlook. First, as ASEAN Member States, Singapore and
Vietnam are firmly committed to regional peace and stability as well as ASEAN
centrality. Our interests are better served when ASEAN is strong, independent,
and united, and when we cooperate to achieve prosperity and development as a region.In this regard, Singapore appreciates the constructive role that Vietnam has played since joining
ASEAN in 1995. This was evident during Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020
which established important mechanisms to help our region cope with the
COVID-19 crisis collectively. Second, we are firm supporters of a
rules-based international order and international law. It is important for both small and medium-sized states to ensure that the “rules of the game” of the international system are adhered to, and that the principle of
“might is right” does not prevail.
“Third, we are strongly committed to free trade. Singapore and Vietnam
are both members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for
Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership (RCEP). We are also the only two ASEAN countries with a free trade
agreement (FTA) with the European Union.
“Two, given our shared interests, our bilateral agenda is full and
positive. I would like to highlight two areas in particular: our economic
links, and our long-standing cooperation in human resource development.
“Economic cooperation has been the
cornerstone of our bilateral relationship. Singapore companies see Vietnam as
an attractive investment destination. Vietnam
has experienced rapid growth and development since it embarked on its Doi Moi programme in 1986. Vietnam has
consistently enjoyed high GDP growth rates. With its young and hardworking
population of nearly 100 million, Vietnam is well-placed to become a major
engine for growth and economic integration in the region. Vietnam was one of
the few countries in the world last year to achieve positive economic growth
amidst the pandemic. This showcases the resilience of Vietnam’s economy,which is expected to be one of the region’s
fastest-growing economies in 2022
“Singapore companies are eager to participate in Vietnam’s growth story. Despite the pandemic, they see
opportunities to diversify and expand their presence in Vietnam. Singapore has
been the leading source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Vietnam for two
years running. With cumulative investment of 62.55 billion USD in over 2,600
projects in 45 out of 63 provinces in
Vietnam, Singapore is also the top ASEAN investor in Vietnam, and third
overall, after Japan and South Korea. We rank consistently as one of Vietnam’s largest trading partners.
“The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial
Parks (VSIPs) are iconic projects in our bilateral relationship. In the 25 years since the first VSIP was established, VSIP’s footprint has grown to ten Industrial Parks in seven
localities. Collectively, they have attracted 14 billion USD in investments and
created over 270,000 jobs in Vietnam. VSIP is also working to stay relevant, by
integrating innovation and sustainable development to accommodate industries of
the future. As Vietnam develops into a middle-income country, our companies
continue to look for new opportunities in sectors like e-commerce, logistics,
education, food and lifestyle services, and urban solutions.
“Singapore and Vietnam are also longstanding partners in human resource
development. We share a common belief that this is the key to our sustainable
development and progress. Vietnam remains the top partner of the Singapore
Cooperation Programme (SCP) with more than 20,000 Vietnamese officials having
participated in our courses since 2002. In 2021, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnam-Singapore Cooperation Centre. I
am especially proud that amid the disruptions posed by the pandemic, our
training programmes never wavered. Over the past two years, we have upgraded
the Centre to pivot to delivering courses virtually and conducted 36 online
courses for over 600 officials.
“Three, there is strong grassroots support for the relationship and
frequent interaction between our peoples. Over the years, our people have
forged lasting links through educational exchanges and tourism.
“Many Vietnamese are interested in studying in Singapore. Singapore hosts many Vietnamese
students who have done well in our schools and universities, some of whom have
won scholarships. Singapore educational institutions are likewise keen to have
study visits and exchange programmes with their Vietnamese counterparts to
deepen the knowledge and mutual understanding that our people have for each
“Tourism has also strengthened
our people-to-people links. Vietnam is one of the favourite destinations for
Singaporeans. The interest is mutual, as surveys conducted by the Singapore
Tourism Board in 2021 showed that Singapore was among the top destinations that
the Vietnamese most wanted to visit once travel restrictions were lifted.”
upcoming visit by President Phuc, the FM said Singapore warmly welcome President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Singapore. “This is the first
State visit that Singapore is hosting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is an opportunity to reaffirm our strong bilateral ties, take stock of our
cooperation and discuss ways to advance our relationship as we work together
towards a post-pandemic recovery,”
He said: “Singapore looks forward to keeping our partnership forward-looking by
expanding into emerging areas, and partnering Vietnam in the next chapter of its development.
“In 2023, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations, and the 10th anniversary of
our Strategic Partnership.
“Looking ahead, I want to
highlight two areas in particular. First, we need to accelerate our
cooperation in the digital economy. This is a priority for both Singapore and Vietnam, and encompasses many new areas such as cybersecurity,
smart cities, innovation, artificial intelligence, and digital payments.
COVID-19 has highlighted the crucial role of digital trade and e-commerce in
ensuring supply chain resilience and business continuity. During my visit to
Vietnam last year, we agreed to establish a Digital Economy Working Group to identify useful areas of cooperation. I am
confident that the Working Group will serve as a launchpad for many concrete
collaborations between our governments, businesses, and other institutions. Second,
sustainable development. Like COVID-19, climate change is a global issue that
can only be tackled through the collective efforts of governments and people
worldwide. Singapore is keen to work with Vietnam as it increases investments
in sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy, with the ambitious goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Asked about the mutual support between
the two countries in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singaporean FM said the
pandemic has fostered stronger bonds among the two peoples. “The Singaporean
community in Vietnam stepped up to contribute to Vietnam’s efforts to fight its
fourth COVID-19 wave last year. On the government-to-government level, we
supported each other with critical medical supplies and equipment at key
junctures in our fight against the pandemic. We also supported the return of
our nationals living in each other’s countries, and ensured their access to
vaccines and healthcare. As both sides learn to live with COVID-19, we hope to
take the next step by resuming safe travel between our countries.
“During my visit to Vietnam in
June 2021, we agreed to establish a bilateral working group on COVID-19 public
health and border measures to facilitate knowledge sharing on COVID-19
management and the eventual resumption of business and personal travel between
our countries. Singapore is honoured to be in the first group of countries with
which Vietnam resumed international commercial flights this year. Similarly, we
welcome Vietnam’s plans to remove travel restrictions by mid-March this year,”