Singapore, Vietnam to work on digital, green economic partnership and explore Asean power grid

President Halimah Yacob (left) meets HCMC Party Committee Secretary Nguyen Van Nen at the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City on Oct 19, 2022. PHOTO: HALIMAH YACOB/FACEBOOK

HO CHI MINH CITY - A digital and green economic partnership between Vietnam and Singapore is on the cards, following President Halimah Yacob’s state visit to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City this week.

Speaking to the media on Thursday at the end of her five-day visit, Madam Halimah said Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh had suggested the idea during their meeting earlier in the week. She applauded the suggestion and said both sides would follow up on it.

Madam Halimah also expressed hope that the two countries would be able to develop an Asean power grid, citing Vietnam’s 3,260km-long coastline as having strong potential to produce solar and wind energy.

“It will certainly contribute towards our zero-emissions target because we will have more renewable energy for our use. Not just for our use, if there’s excess, then it goes through the Asean region and helps to strengthen Asean solidarity,” she said, noting that both Singapore and Vietnam have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

When asked about the timeline for these goals, Madam Halimah urged patience as feasibility reports and further discussions were needed.

”It’s not something that will happen overnight. It will take some time, but the push must be there,” she said, adding that strong policymaking and the will to achieve objectives are needed.

“For Asean, we must have something concrete to work on, and what is more neutral and concrete than having economic initiatives such as this, which can really improve the lives of the people,” she said, referring to the Asean power grid.

In June, Singapore began importing renewable energy from Laos via Thailand and Malaysia. The move marked the first multilateral cross-border electricity trade involving four Asean countries and the first renewable energy import into Singapore.

Singapore’s Energy Market Authority and Keppel, the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Laos and Electricite du Laos said then that the project was a step forward in the development of a broader Asean power grid.

Green initiatives and developments were a hot topic during the state visit, Madam Halimah’s first to Vietnam as president.

She witnessed the signing of four agreements, two of which dealt with trading renewable energy and carbon credits. On Wednesday, she toured a showcase of 10 Singapore companies that use innovative green products and technologies as part of their environmental, social and governance efforts.

Reflecting on her state visit, Madam Halimah said it was wonderful to meet the overseas Singaporeans living and working in Vietnam, and reiterated her call for them to get involved in the Forward Singapore exercise to shape and strengthen the Republic’s social compact.

The exercise will not be just for Singaporeans in Singapore, she said. “It’s also a conversation for Singaporeans all over the world because Singaporeans will continue to work, live, study and do business overseas,” she said. She added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or embassies could arrange video-call meetings for Singaporeans based overseas to give feedback.

“We want them to be part of the growth Singapore is experiencing,” she said.

On how Asean can remain united despite growing geopolitical tensions around the globe, the President said that in her discussions with Vietnam’s leaders, neither country wished to take sides.

The leaders also agreed to uphold the international rules-based system. , which she said is critical for both a developing country like Vietnam and a small nation like Singapore.

“At the end of the day, what we want to see is a safe, secure, stable, progressive Asean, where all the countries can prosper together and where the citizens can benefit to the maximum,” said Madam Halimah.

She returned to Singapore on Thursday.

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