Singapore and Vietnam are taking bilateral cooperation to the next level, with the signing of two agreements to develop two major projects in Vietnam. The projects are expected to spur job growth, foreign direct investment and manpower training in Vietnam.
The signing of the agreements at the Istana on Monday was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung after their talks. The projects are to develop a new 700-hectare Singapore-Vietnam industrial park in Bac Ninh Province, north of Vietnam, along with a 1,200-hectare township in the Hai Phong, Vietnam's third largest city.
Singapore's SembCorp Industries is undertaking the projects together with Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park and Township Development Joint Stock Company, or in short, the VSIP Joint Stock Company. Low Sin Leng, SembCorp Parks Holdings' executive chairman, said: "We want to move together with our customers. I think northern Vietnam is a very good opportunity for us to expand there (in Vietnam).
"Northern Vietnam has the attraction of being near to Hanoi, which is the capital of Vietnam. It's also near to China, which is another advantage that some big customers are seriously considering."
SembCorp says it is bullish about prospects in Vietnam and may consider stepping up its presence in the southern and central areas. Meanwhile, the new Bac Ninh project is already attracting strong interest. Ten companies are signing a letter of intent to commit over US$183 million worth of investment in the project in less than two months after its launch.
The new investments are in addition to the VSIP Joint Stock Company's investment capital of US$103.7 million announced last month. The first phase of infrastructural development for the Bac Ninh project will begin in January 2008.
The joint venture company for the project believes it will be a win-win partnership, bringing in not just capital investment but a transfer of skills and technology too.
"We believe that because in the south we have been successful with the technical training school - which is funded by the Singapore government, the Vietnam government and VSIP - in the north, we are trying to explore a similar kind of cooperation with the technical school to train the Vietnamese workforce," said Huynh Quang Hai, executive director of the joint venture company.
With the latest project in Bac Ninh, the VSIP has established three industrial park and township projects in Vietnam, totalling over 1,500 hectares and valued at some US$2 billion.
The three parks are also expected to create 75,000 jobs for the Vietnamese. Besides meeting PM Lee, Vietnamese PM Dung also called separately on President S R Nathan, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. In the evening, PM Lee hosted his Vietnamese counterpart to a dinner at the Istana.
As this is Mr Dung's first visit to Singapore as prime minister, Mr Lee said this underscores the strong friendship between the two countries. PM Lee added that Singapore and Vietnam have good cooperation in various fields. There are now more cultural exchanges and educational interactions also look set to grow. This follows the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Education Cooperation. Mr Lee also gave an update on the Connectivity Agreement, which will be broadened.
Currently, the framework covers six broad sectors - finance, education, transport, IT, investment, and trade & services. "I am therefore happy that both sides have agreed to broaden the Connectivity Agreement to cover two new sectors - port and logistics, and urban infrastructure - where there is significant potential for our private sectors to work together, and leverage on each other's strengths," said PM Lee.
"Prime Minister Dung also suggested establishing a Joint Steering Committee, led by our Ministers, to oversee and provide high-level political support for our cooperation projects. I fully support this idea, and am encouraged by his commitment to accelerate the approval of our investments in Vietnam," he added. - CNA/ir
Channel NewsAsia, 13 August