S'pore exploring investment treaty with Myanmar

Dr Balakrishnan and Ms Suu Kyi at a joint press conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, yesterday.
Dr Balakrishnan and Ms Suu Kyi at a joint press conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Singapore is exploring the possibility of negotiating a bilateral investment treaty with Myanmar, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday during an introductory visit to Naypyitaw.

Such a deal will give potential investors "a greater sense of assurance, of security, of policy and regularity certainty", he said, adding that it will also accelerate investment.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking at a joint press conference with Myanmar State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday morning.

"We... had a short discussion about the possibility of beginning negotiations for a bilateral investment treaty," he told reporters.

Myanmar has already signed bilateral investment treaties with several countries, including China and India.

Dr Balakrishnan's visit is part of a series of high-level exchanges to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations. Yesterday, both ministers discussed expanding cooperation on tourism, trade and investment, and improving air links.

Dr Balakrishnan later met Myanmar's armed forces commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, as well as former Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, who now chairs an advisory panel called the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Affairs.

As of March this year, Singapore is the second-largest investor in Myanmar, after China. Singapore is one of Myanmar's biggest trading partners and, in recent years, has paired with Naypyitaw to create a vocational training institute to produce skilled workers for the fledgling Asean economy.

"We have been believers in Myanmar's potential for a long time," said Dr Balakrishnan.

At the same news conference, Ms Suu Kyi said Myanmar had "a lot to learn from Singapore".

"We hope that we, as a multi-ethnic, multiracial, multi-religious society, will be able to benefit from the suggestions and from the practical experiences which have been responsible for Singapore's growth and development," she said.

Dr Balakrishnan last night hosted a dinner for the Myanmar government and parliamentarians, with Ms Suu Kyi as the guest of honour.

He told the guests that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit Myanmar in June, and officially launch the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute in Yangon.

The strong exchanges between both countries, he added at the dinner, are a vote of confidence in Myanmar, "and a commitment on our part to work closely with you to achieve the trajectory of progress and stability that the Myanmar people so richly deserve."

Ms Suu Kyi said: "These 50 years, our friendship has grown stronger.

"We have learnt to trust each other and I believe that in the future, we will be able to enhance all these achievements. We hope, we believe, that the friendship between our two nations will become firmer and more meaningful ."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore exploring investment treaty with Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe