ISSN 2330-717X

President Phuc Wants To Solidify Vietnam’s Strategic Ties With Singapore – OpEd

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Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc is currently visiting Singapore, the richest country in Southeast Asia, to boost strategic ties with the city-state.

President Phuc, who assumed his post on April 5, 2021, has arrived in Singapore on Feb. 24 (Thursday) at the invitation of Singaporean President Halimah Yacob. 

He is accompanied by First Lady Tran Nguyet Thu, several ministers, senior officials, and a business delegation.

In fact, Phuc was supposed to visit Singapore in the first week of December 2021, but it was postponed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Singapore.

In April 2018, Phuc visited Singapore in his capacity as the Prime Minister of Vietnam.

According to the Singaporean Foreign Ministry, it would be the first state visit by a foreign leader to Singapore since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020.

During his three-day historic state visit, Phuc will be meeting Singaporean President Halimah, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, and other dignitaries to review the progress of the entire gamut of bilateral relations. 

During his visit, several bilateral agreements will be signed by both countries.

“President Phuc and Prime Minister Lee will jointly witness the signing of bilateral agreements that will further strengthen the multifaceted cooperation between Singapore and Vietnam,” the Singaporean Foreign Ministry said in a press statement.

On Feb. 25, Phuc will deliver his keynote address at the Singapore-Vietnam Business Dialogue, which is jointly organized by the Singapore Business Federation and Embassy of Vietnam in Singapore.

Both countries established their diplomatic relations on Aug. 1, 1973.

Overview of strategic ties

The relations between Vietnam and Singapore have been growing by leaps and bounds since 1973. Singapore is the old and trusted friend of Vietnam.

Both have similar views on several political, security and environmental issues, and support each other in various international forums.

Overall, it is a problem-free relationship.

Both countries signed the Singapore-Vietnam Connectivity Framework Agreement (SVCFA) on Jan. 23, 2006, creating a legal basis and favorable conditions for the two sides to boost bilateral friendly relations and multifaceted cooperation. 

The SVCFA covers education and training, finance and investments, information technology and telecommunications, commerce and services, and transportation. 

Ever since the implementation of the SVCFA, a conducive environment with various investment opportunities in Vietnamfor Singaporean business has been incubated.  

The proud symbol of their cooperation is the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs). They have been working closely in the education and training, finance, investments, information technology and telecommunications, trade and services, and transportation sectors as part of the Connectivity under the Connectivity Framework Agreement, which came into effect in 2006.

To further enhance their friendship, both signed the historic Strategic Partnership Agreement in September 2013. 

Next year will be a very important year for both countries.

“The year 2023 will mark the 50thanniversary of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between Singapore and Vietnam. I hope that the two countries can build a solid foundation to promote bilateral relations,” Singaporean Ambassador to Vietnam Jaya Ratnam said recently in Hanoi.

During Phuc’s visit, according to Jaya Ratnam, some investment projects with integration of infrastructure, innovation, human resources development and sustainable development will be considered.

Both countries will review the progress of negotiations for the ambitious Digital Trade Agreement.

Vietnam has become the top recipient country under the Singapore Cooperation Program (SCP). Thousands of Vietnamese officials were trained by Singapore under the SCP.

Economic ties

With its $385.92 billion GDP and $420.51 billion forex reserves, Singapore is an important economic partner of Vietnam. 

Since 1973, both countries have signed several frameworks for a variety of sectors to strengthen bilateral friendship and multifaceted cooperation. 

Vietnam became a member of ASEAN in 1995. Since then, Vietnam and Singapore have enhanced their friendship and expanded cooperation to many areas, especially in trade and investment.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the total trade value between the two countries still reached US$8.3 billion in 2021, an increase of 23.3 per cent compared to 2020. 

Last year, more than one-third (exactly 34.4 percent) of the $19.74 billion foreign direct investment that entered Vietnam came from Singapore alone. In 2021, Singapore invested $10.7 billion in Vietnam.

As of February 2022, Singapore has 2,860 valid projects in Vietnam, with a total registered capital of $66 billion.

From the perspective of tourism, Singapore is an attractive market for Vietnam. In 2019,308,969 Singaporean tourists visited Vietnam.

South China Sea

Vietnam is the second biggest claimant in the South China Sea (SCS) disputes after China, while Singapore is not a claimant even though both are ASEAN members. Singapore, as an ASEAN member, has a lot of sympathy for Vietnam and other Southeast Asian claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and even with Indonesia, which is not a claimant but a victim of China’s expansionism.     

Singapore wants a rules-based security order in Southeast Asia and the SCS and a legally binding Code of Conduct to prevent military conflicts.

Both countries, like many other ASEAN member states, do not like China’s illegal claims in the SCS and its bullying of Southeast Asian countries. Both want the international community to condemn China’s illegal actions and aggressive tactics in the SCS.

During their talks, Phuc and Lee  may emphasize the importance of self-restraint, non-militarization, respect for sovereignty, sovereign rights and the jurisdiction of coastal states, the rule of law in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and avoid actions that may escalate tensions.

They may also call for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and speed up negotiations regarding the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is effective, substantive, and consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

Conclusion

Phuc’s visit is a new milestone in the history of both countries’ bilateral relations. Vietnam badly needs the support of Singapore in trade, tourism and investments. 

Singapore is more interested in rising Vietnam, which offers numerous business opportunities for Singaporean companies in various sectors, namely manufacturing, consumer services, hospitality, food processing, infrastructure, real estate, high-tech manufacturing. 

With a population of about 100 million people and a dynamic market profile (low-cost labor, rapid-growing economy, and strategic location among other strengths),Vietnam is an appealing target for Singapore partners to establish businesses.

Vietnam needs a strong supporter like Singapore in its conflict with China. The aggressive behaviour of China in the SCS and growing tensions between China and the US are threatening the peace and security in the region. 

Phuc’s historic visit will surely solidify the existing strategic relations and design a new direction to take these ties to new heights.

Veeramalla Anjaiah

Veeramalla Anjaiah is a Jakarta-based senior journalist and the author of the book “Azerbaijan Seen from Indonesia

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