By in Singapore/The Straits Times/27 September 2011
Singapore – A new venture between Singapore and Vietnam for a fifth industrial park could be on the cards.
Tomorrow, both sides will sign a memorandum of understanding to carry out a feasibility study of the project in Vietnam.
This was disclosed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam last night at a State Banquet for visiting Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, when he highlighted the growing bilateral ties and Singapore’s confidence in Vietnam’s future.
Singapore runs four industrial parks in Vietnam under a joint venture called the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, a tie-up between Vietnam’s Becamex IDC and Sembcorp Industrial Parks.
The first was in Binh Duong province in the south, and President Tan recalled his visit there not long after the start of its construction in 1996. Three more parks have since sprung up, in Binh Duong, Bac Ninh and Hai Phong.
“These flagship projects symbolise our excellent partnership and Singapore’s confidence in the future of Vietnam,” said Dr Tan.
He added that he was “very pleased” the MOU for a possible new park will be signed during President Sang’s visit.
The signing of the MOU will round off a three-day visit by the Vietnamese President, who arrived here yesterday on his first overseas trip since his election in July.
It is also the first visit of a foreign head of state that Singapore’s President is hosting since taking office on Sept 1.
President Tan, who was deputy prime minister and defence minister when he visited Vietnam in 1996, said he was delighted that bilateral ties have since “strengthened manifold”.
He praised Mr Sang’s “crucial role” in advancing ties over the years, citing his support for Singapore investments in Vietnam when he was party secretary of Ho Chi Minh City.
At the dinner, attended by ministers and senior officials from both countries, the two leaders noted their close economic cooperation grounded in a 2005 agreement.
The agreement provides a framework for closer cooperation in six areas, including information technology, investment and transport.
Dr Tan highlighted the good progress made in the six areas, noting that it has led officials to seek new sectors of cooperation. These include urban development, human resource development, cruise tourism and more links by sea and air.
Mr Sang called the flourishing ties a “treasure” to be cherished, and said both countries should work together to take relations to the next level.
Dr Tan agreed, noting that collaboration has expanded to many areas, including defence and education.
A bilateral defence cooperation agreement was signed in 2009, and more than 12,000 Vietnamese government officials have been trained here, he said.
Singapore and Vietnam also work closely at the regional level, said both presidents.
Noting Vietnam’s “successful and effective” chairmanship of Asean last year, Dr Tan said both countries are united in the goal of achieving an Asean community by 2015 and eventually forming a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific.
But with Singapore being Vietnam’s third-largest foreign investor, economic collaboration remains paramount to both countries.
In an e-mail interview with The Straits Times, Mr Sang said there is still “much untapped potential” for greater economic cooperation between them.
Besides expanding the 2005 agreement and building more industrial parks, he identified two possible areas for greater cooperation.
One is for the continued increase in the flow of Singapore investments to Vietnam.
President Sang, during his visit, will meet major Singapore companies operating in Vietnam and attend a business forum tonight to “learn the thoughts, aspirations and cooperation proposals of Singaporean companies”.
He said: “I wanted to take this opportunity to confirm that the State and Government of Vietnam always welcomes and creates favourable conditions for Singaporean businessmen to do business and invest in Vietnam.”
The second area for cooperation he identified is the promotion of tourism between the two countries.
These topics dominated the talks he held separately with President Tan and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew yesterday, after a welcome ceremony at the Istana in the afternoon.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said both Mr Sang and Mr Lee “encouraged greater engagement between the private sectors” to further strengthen economic cooperation.
In his interview with The Straits Times, Mr Sang also spoke of his party’s 10-year plan to turn Vietnam into an industrial country by 2020, with political stability, a democratic and advanced society, territorial integrity and greater international standing.
To achieve its plan, he said the Communist Party of Vietnam will focus on building a modern, socialist-oriented market economy, modern infrastructure and developing a high-quality workforce.
In his dinner speech, he expressed his country’s gratitude to Singapore for supporting Vietnam in many fields, and said he believed that both sides will maintain good relations with each other.