Singapore, Myanmar to start talks on investment treaty

PM Lee Hsien Loong presenting Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi with a photo of his father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, meeting Ms Suu Kyi's mother Khin Kyi in 1965.
PM Lee Hsien Loong presenting Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi with a photo of his father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, meeting Ms Suu Kyi's mother Khin Kyi in 1965.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Ms Suu Kyi speaking at the dinner hosted by PM Lee at the Istana last night. She said her country is happy to learn from Singapore ways to control corruption and impart skill training to young workers. She added that she believes her country can over
Ms Suu Kyi speaking at the dinner hosted by PM Lee at the Istana last night. She said her country is happy to learn from Singapore ways to control corruption and impart skill training to young workers. She added that she believes her country can overcome challenges with the help of friends.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted a dinner for Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday (Nov 30).
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hosted a dinner for Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday (Nov 30).ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Nov 30).
Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Nov 30).ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pays a courtesy call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Nov 30, 2016, during her official visit to Singapore.
Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi pays a courtesy call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Nov 30, 2016, during her official visit to Singapore.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore and Myanmar will begin talks on a bilateral investment treaty and update an agreement on avoidance of double taxation in a sign of growing economic ties between the two countries.

The moves will send a positive signal to investors and boost economic growth, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday at a dinner which he hosted for Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

It marks progress since both agreements were floated in the first half of the year, when Mr Lee visited Myanmar in June.

These deals will give potential investors a greater sense of assurance, security and certainty about the regulations in Myanmar, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a visit in May.

Air connectivity between Singapore and Myanmar will also be enhanced, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Mr Lee and Ms Suu Kyi's closed-door meeting in the afternoon.

 

Singapore's carriers have been looking to introduce multi-city flights within Myanmar.

At the official dinner at the Istana last night, both leaders spoke about how the countries could work together to help Myanmar grow its economy.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is on an official visit here until tomorrow, said her country is happy to learn from Singapore ways to control corruption and impart skill training to young workers.

Myanmar welcomes Singapore's businessmen, she added. "We believe that from these businessmen, our businessmen can learn not just ways of making money, but how to make money without corruption."

Earlier in the day, Ms Suu Kyi encouraged local businessmen to invest in Myanmar at IE Singapore's Global Conversations dialogue at the Shangri-La Hotel.

At the Istana, she told political leaders from both countries that Myanmar wants to become a more developed market economy that is more innovative, competitive and business-friendly.

While acknowledging that her country faces many challenges, she said she believes they can be overcome with the help of friends.

In his speech, Mr Lee said Singapore has been a longstanding and steadfast friend of Myanmar and is confident in Myanmar's long-term success. The two countries mark 50 years of diplomatic ties this year.

This confidence can be seen in their strong economic ties and growing trade and investment into Myanmar, he added.

Singapore businesses have clinched contracts in Myanmar's public transport and power sectors.

These include a consortium that will build and run the Hanthawaddy International Airport located outside the former capital Yangon, and a power plant in Mandalay developed by Sembcorp Industries.

Singapore is Myanmar's second-largest investor after China, with a cumulative investment of US$15.6 billion (S$22.2 billion) at the end of October.

Myanmar has a population of more than 50 million.

Singapore was also Myanmar's third-largest trading partner, after China and Thailand, last year with total trade at $3.57 billion.

Mr Lee said the links between the two countries' people are strong and growing, citing how visa requirements for each other's citizens were being lifted today.

Singapore is happy to have trained 13,000 Myanmar officials under a cooperation scheme as human resources are a key driver of economic growth, said Mr Lee.

During his visit to Myanmar in June, he also launched the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute in Yangon, which trains youth to be skilled workers.

Singapore also shared its experience of building and running hawker centres, Mr Lee noted.

Myanmar is looking at upgrading its wet markets and building a hawker centre in Yangon, and Ms Suu Kyi will have breakfast at a hawker centre tomorrow.

Such cooperation benefits both countries, said Ms Suu Kyi.

"Stability in Myanmar means stability in Singapore. It means peace and stability not just for our own countries but for the region as a whole," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore, Myanmar to start talks on investment treaty'. Print Edition | Subscribe