Vietnam’s PM Pham Minh Chinh To Visit Singapore And Brunei Darussalam To Boost Bilateral Ties – OpEd
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will visit Singapore and Brunei Darussalam from February 8–11 to boost his country’s relations with the two fellow member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The visits will be made by Chinh at the invitations of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.
Chinh’s Singapore visit, which will be from Feb.8-10, comes at an important time in the history of both countries’ relations.
Singapore is the richest country in Southeast Asia with a population 5.97 million and a GDP of 425.73 billion. It provides a great opportunity for both countries’ leaders to discuss measures to strengthen political trust, friendship, and cooperation in all fields in a more practical and effective manner.
Singapore is also the largest foreign investor from ASEAN in Vietnam and the second largest foreign investor out of 145 countries. Contributing $6.46 billion out of $27.72 billion of total foreign direct investment, it was the biggest foreign investor in Vietnam in 2022. Its cumulative investments in Vietnam have reached US$72.46 billion, and it can further help Vietnam in its economic development.
With its 99.59 million population and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $418.79 billion, Vietnam, too, is a dynamic country. Its economy grew by 8.02 percent in 2022, and it posted a trade surplus of $12.4 billion in the same year. Its exports were worth $371.3 billion, while imports reached $358.9 billion last year.
Vietnam’s trade with Singapore was $20 billion in 2021, an 18.7 percent increase from 2020. To boost relations with Singapore, Vietnam’s former president Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Singapore from Feb. 24–26, 2022. During this visit, both countries signed five bilateral cooperation agreements in the fields of defense, economy and trade, intellectual property and business cooperation, digital economy, and people-to-people exchanges.
Singaporean President Halimah Yacob visited Vietnam in October 2022 to boost bilateral ties.
Vietnam-Singapore ties have grown immensely since the countries established their diplomatic ties on Aug. 1, 1973. There is a high level of trust at the political level as well as long-standing mutually beneficial partnerships and strong people-to-people ties between the two countries.
Vietnam and Singapore are firmly committed to regional peace and stability as well as ASEAN centrality. Both countries are also strong supporters of a rules-based international order and international law. They are both members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP). In addition, they are the only two ASEAN countries with a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU).
During Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Vietnam in September 2013, both Singapore and Vietnam signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement.
“Our economic ties are robust, with bilateral trade growing steadily over the last decade. Our strong economic cooperation is symbolised by the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs). The first VSIP in Binh Duong celebrates its 24th anniversary in 2020. The Connectivity Framework Agreement, in force since 23 January 2006, provides the overarching framework for bilateral economic cooperation across six sectors (education and training, finance, investments, information technology and telecommunications, trade and services, and transportation),” the Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website www.mfa.gov.sg.
Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, which was established 27 years ago, now has 10 industrial parks in seven localities, collectively attracting $14 billion in investments and creating over 270,000 jobs in Vietnam.
This August will mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations for both countries. It will also be the 10th anniversary of their Strategic Partnership, which was established to deepen political, economic, security, and defence cooperation as well as to promote regional and international cohesion.
The Strategic Partnership has been developing substantively in all fields. During the last 10 years, political and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries has become stronger and more fruitful. Their economic ties are now a bright spot in the region.
Brunei Darussalam-Vietnam ties
With a population of 0.44 million and a GDP of $18.41 billion, Brunei Darussalam is another important country of ASEAN.
Chinh will visit Brunei on Feb.11 to boost bilateral ties between the two countries. Vietnam and Brunei established diplomatic relations on Feb. 29, 1992. Relations between the two have always been friendly in the political field.
Given its small size, bilateral trade is very small. However, with its oil wealth, Brunei has become the 12th biggest foreign investor in Vietnam, with $48.5 billion of foreign direct investment. In 2021, bilateral trade surpassed the $500 million mark. Both countries had set this target for 2025, but it was achieved four years early.
There is also cooperation between the navies of both countries in maintaining peace, stability, and maritime security in the region. Both Brunei and Vietnam are claimant countries in the disputed South China Sea (SCS).
Vietnam and Brunei have made new strides in their relationship since the establishment of a comprehensive partnership during the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah’s State visit to Vietnam in March 2019.
Both countries signed several cooperation agreements on maritime and trade, visa waivers as well as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tourism cooperation, cooperation in sports and youth affairs, and on the use of a hotline to share information about illegal, unreported, and undocumented (IUU) fishing between the Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Brunei Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism.
During his visit to Brunei, Chinh will discuss ways to boost bilateral relations. He will also discuss with Brunei leaders the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and negotiations for an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Chinh, who has the motto “Solidarity, Discipline – Mettle, Flexibility – Innovation, Creativity – Timeliness, Effectiveness” for 2023, has been making important efforts by visiting two ASEAN member countries to take existing relations to new heights. He may also discuss with Singapore’s leader Lee to raise the Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during his visit to Singapore.
Veeramalla Anjaiah is a senior journalist from Jakarta and also the author of the book “Azerbaijan Seen from Indonesia”.