Opening Remarks by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Dialogue Session “50 Years of Vietnam-Singapore Relations: Achievements and Prospects” at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics on 17 November 2023. SM Teo was on an official visit to Hanoi, Vietnam from 15 to 17 November 2023.
Your Excellency Professor Nguyen Xuan Thang
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for your warm welcome. I am delighted to witness the launch of the Potential Leaders’ Programme. This is a joint venture between the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, supported by the Temasek Foundation.
I am pleased to be back in Vietnam. My first official visit to Vietnam was on this very day 30 years ago – 17 November 1993. I had the honour of accompanying Mr Lee Kuan Yew – then Senior Minister – on his first official visit to Vietnam. Mr Lee met then General Secretary Do Muoi, and then Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. Singapore commemorated the one hundredth year of Mr Lee’s birth in 2023, as did Vietnam for Mr Kiet’s one hundredth birth year last year. The foundation laid by them continues to guide the strong relations between our two countries.
Since then I have visited Vietnam many times, and met many Vietnamese delegations who have visited Singapore. I have witnessed first-hand your country’s remarkable economic transformation and growth. This is a testament to the drive, energy, and determination of the Vietnamese people to succeed. On this visit, my purpose is to further strengthen our relationship. To deepen it, and to broaden it into new areas. This is especially important to reaffirm our relationship as the world undergoes great changes.
Singapore will continue to work with Vietnam for the growth and development of our two countries and our peoples and our region. Over the past 30 years, I have worked closely with my Vietnamese colleagues to strengthen bilateral cooperation across many areas, from defence and public security, economic and infrastructure development, to education and people development, and now in new areas of the digital and green economies and climate change.
This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 10th anniversary of our Strategic Partnership. In an increasingly uncertain world, Singapore sees Vietnam as a reliable friend and partner. During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit in August 2023, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh proposed that both sides work towards upgrading our relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Singapore welcomes this proposal and both sides are working towards this.
During this visit, I had the opportunity to follow up on the Prime Ministers’ discussions with Vietnamese leaders. Over the past two days, we had productive meetings on how to strengthen our bilateral relations and explore new areas of cooperation. Let me highlight three areas in which we hope to take relations forward in the coming years.
First, we should expand our economic cooperation into emerging areas like the digital and green economies. We already have very strong trade and investment links. Singapore has consistently been one of Vietnam’s top sources of foreign investment. Bilateral trade grew 16% year-on-year to reach US$23 billion in 2022.
The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) are an enduring icon of our economic partnership. Since the first VSIP was established in Binh Duong in 1996, we have built VSIPs across northern, central, and southern Vietnam. I was delighted to be present to mark the 20th anniversary of the Binh Duong I VSIP in 2016. Four VSIPs were granted investment licenses in August, taking us to a total of 17 VSIPs. They have attracted over US$18 billion in investments from more than 900 tenant companies and created over 300,000 jobs in Vietnam. The new VSIPs have an emphasis on sustainability and innovation. For instance, a large-scale solar farm provides green energy at Binh Duong III VSIP.
We are now exploring opportunities together, to collaborate in new areas of future growth. We concluded the Green-Digital Economic Partnership during Prime Minister Chinh’s visit to Singapore in February this year. This provides both sides a framework for important projects in carbon credits, renewable energy, and the digital economy.
We have already made significant progress. During the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) last month, our Energy Market Authority awarded Conditional Approval to a joint venture between SembCorp and PetroVietnam Technical Services Corporation to import 1.2 gigawatts of low carbon energy from Vietnam to Singapore. The energy will be delivered from an offshore wind farm in southern Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau province. This project with Vietnam is one of the first to receive a Conditional Approval from Singapore. Just like the VSIPs, I hope that this new Vietnam Singapore Energy Project (VSEP) will become another enduring icon of our bilateral partnership. VSEP will strengthen ties between our countries, and position us as pathfinders for a future ASEAN Power Grid.
Second, we must build on our strong people-to-people ties. Many Singaporeans and Vietnamese travel between our two countries to work, study, do business, or as tourists. Singapore was Vietnam’s fifth-largest source of tourism last year. The Vietnamese community in Singapore has grown to 25,000 – a more than tenfold increase over the past two decades. Their ability, resilience, and work ethic of our Vietnamese friends have made them valuable contributors to our society. We signed an Innovation Talent Exchange agreement during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit in August. This will enable Singaporean and Vietnamese professionals in innovation-linked industries to gain work experience in each other’s countries.
We also have a longstanding partnership in human resource development. Vietnam is the top partner of the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), our flagship programme for technical assistance. Over 21,000 Vietnamese officials have attended SCP courses. During my last visit to Hanoi in 2019, I had the honour of opening the Vietnam-Singapore Cooperation Centre (VSCC). I am pleased to hear that 500 Vietnamese officials attend programmes run by the Centre every year. Singapore is keen to continue sharing experiences with Vietnamese officials, provinces, and municipalities for mutual growth and development.
Third, we must continue to build strong political trust and institutional links. Our bilateral ties have been sustained by generations of leaders who have grown familiar with each other through frequent interactions. Since 2010, Singapore has hosted regular study visits by senior officials from the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) to share experiences on governance and exchange views on Southeast Asia and the world. This year, we hosted the 17th and 18th Study Visits. I am glad that we renewed our Memorandum of Understanding on Study Visits during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit in August. We have also engaged many senior Party leaders over the years. Last November, I met Permanent Member of the Party Central Committee Secretariat Truong Thi Mai in Singapore.
This brings me to today’s launch of the Potential Leaders’ Programme (PLP). The Potential Leaders’ Programme will be another channel to strengthen links between our younger leaders and exchange views on governance. Our next generation of leaders must grapple with the common challenges of social transformation such as an ageing population, climate change, digital transformation, and great power contestation. I hope the Programme will facilitate a constructive exchange of ideas that will benefit both sides. We look forward to welcoming the Party cadres who will visit Singapore under the Programme. You will play an important role in strengthening bridges between Singapore and Vietnam for many more years to come.
As we look ahead beyond the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relations, I firmly believe that our friendship will grow from strength to strength. Let us work together to build another 50 years of even closer cooperation. Thank you very much.
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