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Singapore and Vietnam commemorate their 40th year of bilateral ties with the visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Hanoi on Wednesday.
SINGAPORE: Singapore and Vietnam commemorate their 40th year of bilateral ties with the visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Hanoi on Wednesday.
During the visit, Mr Lee will call on General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong and President Truong Tan Sang. Mr Lee will also have meetings with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung.
The visit will also see two key events -- the elevation of ties between the two countries to "strategic partnership", and the launch of the fifth Vietnam-Singapore Industrial park that is worth nearly US$340 million by the two prime ministers.
Mr Lee will be accompanied by Mrs Lee; Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs; Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Senior Minister of State for National Development; Members of Parliament Mr Ang Wei Neng and Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng; and officials from the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, International Enterprise Singapore and JTC Corporation.
Ties between Singapore and Vietnam are excellent, said officials from both sides.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last visited Singapore in May, where he also spoke at the Defence Security Shangri La Dialogue.
Vietnam's ambassdor to Singapore, Tran Hai Hau, said that over the last 40 years, ties have grown in leaps and bounds in all fields -- including politics, trade, investment and people-to-people ties.
Some 14,000 Vietnamese have benefited from technical assistance and training under the Singapore Cooperation Programme since 1992.
Mr Tran explained that various factors have contributed to these close ties. He said: "Firstly, the mutual trust and close ties between leaders are the fundamental of the relationship. Frequent meetings and contacts between our top leaders have deepened and enhanced the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. Secondly, the economic complementary between the two countries has offered opportunities to boost bilateral economic relations.
"Thirdly, the similarities and common interests in a wide range of issues between Vietnam and Singapore have created favourable environment for bilateral cooperation. Both countries follow the open and friendly policies with emphasis on proactive international economic integration. We share common views on the objective of achieving an ASEAN Community by 2015 and consolidating ASEAN as the central driving force in the regional architecture."
Singapore is also Vietnam's second largest investor, with more than US$28 billion invested in some 1,200 projects as of June. Two-way trade has gone up to US$15.8 billion.
One symbol of the success of ties between both countries are the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs), with four developed already.
The success of the four Vietnam Singapore Industrial park projects has spurred Sembcorp to explore the possibility of a fifth park. This time, the fifth park will be in central Vietnam. So far, the four industrial parks have attracted investments from 22 countries totalling nearly US$6.4 billion. One key result of these investments is the employment of nearly 140,000 Vietnamese in these parks.
Kelvin Teo, CEO of Sembcorp Development, said: "As a foreigner we can't do everything alone -- we have to work closely with the central and local government. On this count, we are very happy because the four industrial parks are very pro-business. (The government) understands the business, we are very open to them and tell them the problems and they reacted very positively. Sometimes they even change the policies and take our feedback very positively."
The fifth park -- VSIP Quang Ngai -- will break ground on Friday. It will comprise a 600 hectare industrial park and another 520 hectare site zoned for commercial and residential purposes near downtown Quang Ngai city.
With VSIP Quang Ngai, the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park developments make up 6,000 hectares of development in the country -- making it the largest integrated township and industrial park development in Vietnam.
When asked what more can be done to strengthen Singapore-Vietnam ties, Vietnam's ambassador to Singapore Tran hai Hau said: "As the two nations are now heading toward a strategic partnership, it's our hope and belief that we can do even better by promoting regular exchanges between high-level leaders, government ministries and agencies, as well as people-to-people link.
"Secondly, deepening economic, trade and investment ties as the key area of bilateral cooperation. In order to further tap into development potentials, the need to further co-operate in policy-making to facilitate investment and business for firms from the two countries should be underscored."
During Mr Lee's absence, Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, will be the Acting Prime Minister.