This year marks five decades of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Singapore and 10 years of their strategic partnership. It is most appropriate therefore that the two countries have agreed to explore the possibility of upgrading bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in the future. That step was taken during a visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Vietnam this week, during which he met his Vietnamese counterpart, Mr Pham Minh Chinh. An indication of the possibilities of a comprehensive partnership was provided by a slew of agreements signed during the visit. The two nations have inked new deals on sustainable infrastructure, skills development and the exchange of innovation talent. Energy connectivity, sustainability, and digital solutions and innovation are new and emerging areas that could bring Vietnam and Singapore even closer. Three new memorandums of understanding – signed in the areas of the green economy, innovation and skills development – attest to the potential of even greater cooperation.
There is a strong economic, political and cultural basis for closer ties. On the economic front, Singapore was Vietnam’s second-largest foreign investor as at last December, while Vietnam was Singapore’s 11th-largest trading partner. Four new Vietnam-Singapore industrial parks have been announced, taking the total number across Vietnam to 17, and 10 more are in the pipeline. Also, Singapore is keen on expanding air links with Vietnam. Politically, both countries are strong believers in Asean as South-east Asia’s central mechanism for meeting regional challenges and engaging with external powers. Mr Chinh paid Singapore a compliment by acknowledging that, since his country joined Asean, Singapore has remained Vietnam’s “most important partner” accompanying the country on its journey of development and international integration. At the cultural level, the Republic was Vietnam’s fifth-largest tourist source market in 2022, and the Vietnamese community in Singapore has grown substantially.
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