Singapore, Vietnam set to deepen ties in bid to recover together, emerge stronger from Covid-19

Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc inspecting the guard of honour with Singapore President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on Feb 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
President Halimah Yacob (in pink) speaking with Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and his wife Madam Tran Nguyet Thu, as they arrive for a state banquet at the Istana, on Feb 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
President Halimah Yacob sharing a toast with Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a state banquet at the Istana on Feb 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - As President Halimah Yacob hosted Vietnam's President Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Friday (Feb 25) in Singapore's first state visit since the onset of Covid-19, both leaders underscored the importance of closer cooperation for their countries to recover together and emerge stronger from the pandemic.

President Halimah noted that over the past two years, officials from both sides had worked closely to ensure supplies flowed, to assist each other's citizens, and to contribute medical supplies and equipment to each other.

They are also working to resume connectivity as they reopen their borders, and setting sights on new areas of collaboration to build back better from the pandemic, she said at a state banquet at the Istana in honour of President Phuc.

President Phuc, in turn, thanked Singapore for assisting his country's citizens living, working and studying in the Republic during the pandemic, and expressed hope to further join hands to recover and develop in a sustainable manner.

The visit comes as both countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations as well as the 10th anniversary of their strategic partnership.

Both heads of state welcomed the progress made in strengthening this partnership.

Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (left) calls on President Halimah Yacob during his visit to the Istana, on Feb 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mr Phuc and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also witnessed the exchange of several agreements - a renewed Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA), a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Economic and Trade Cooperation, an MOU on cooperation in the digital economy field, an MOU on cooperation between the Vietnam Fatherland Front and Singapore's People's Association, and an implementation workplan on intellectual property cooperation.

The DCA reaffirms the mutual commitment between both defence establishments to further enhance their relationship through close cooperation, and to contribute to the peace and stability of the region.

In conjunction with the visit, 28 business agreements were also inked between Vietnam's provinces and businesses, and their Singapore counterparts.

The Vietnam-Singapore Business Dialogue at Shangri-la Hotel on Feb 25, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

In a joint statement, both countries noted the strong development in bilateral trade and investment cooperation despite disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Singapore has been Vietnam's largest source of foreign investment since 2020. It is also Vietnam's second largest cumulative foreign investor and its largest Asean investor, with a total registered capital of US$66 billion (S$89 billion) as at January 2022.

The two sides acknowledged the 25th anniversary of the first of the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) and hoped to enhance cooperation and scale expansion towards green, high-tech and innovative parks.

They will also be expanding cooperation in new areas of mutual interest, such as the digital economy and green economy.

Both countries also noted the good progress made on Covid-19 public health and border measures, and committed to facilitate the safe and early resumption of regular commercial travel.

The leaders also agreed to strengthen people-to-people ties, including through the gradual resumption of tourism, and the expansion of education and research exchanges.

Both sides also exchanged views on key regional and international developments, emphasised the importance of Asean centrality and unity, and reiterated Asean's consistent position on the South China Sea.

They also expressed deep concern about the situation in Myanmar, including the lack of progress in the implementation of the Asean Five-Point Consensus.

President Phuc arrived on Thursday evening with his wife Madam Tran Nguyet Thu as well as several ministers, senior officials and a business delegation.

He received a ceremonial welcome at the Istana on Friday morning, before calling on President Halimah and meeting PM Lee.

President Phuc also met Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and MPs at Parliament House, and graced the Singapore-Vietnam Business Dialogue organised by the Singapore Business Federation and the Vietnam Embassy.

President Phuc will also meet Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and lay a wreath at the Ho Chi Minh commemorative marker near the Asian Civilisations Museum, which commemorates the visits of Vietnam's founding father to Singapore in 1930 and 1933 to rally support for his country's independence.

PM Lee said in a Facebook post that he and President Phuc reaffirmed their countries' strong bilateral ties and exchanged views on deepening cooperation during their meeting.

"Singapore and Vietnam have a close friendship based on our shared interests. During the pandemic, our friendship has strengthened," he wrote. "We have supported each other and will continue doing so as we learn to live with Covid-19."

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