Singapore ’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore and Vietnam will elevate their relations to a Strategic Partnership during his upcoming official visit to Vietnam .

“I am happy that we will be elevating our relations to a Strategic Partnership during my visit,” the PM told Vietnam News Agency’s Singapore-based reporter in an interview before his visit to Vietnam from Sept. 11-13.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Reporter: Could you please tell us the main issues that both leaders of Singapore and Vietnam will be discussing during your visit?

Prime Minister: I am visiting Vietnam to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Singapore and Vietnam enjoy an excellent relationship. Our economic ties are prospering, trade and investment flows are growing, and people-to-people ties are flourishing. We cooperate closely in ASEAN as well as in other regional and international fora.

It is timely to take our bilateral cooperation to the next level. I am happy that we will be elevating our relations to a Strategic Partnership during my visit. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and I will also officiate the ground-breaking ceremony of the 5th Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park in Quang Ngai province in Central Vietnam . I also look forward to exchanging views with Prime Minister Dung and other Vietnamese leaders on regional developments and other issues of mutual concern.

Reporter: During your visit to Vietnam , both countries will be announcing the Strategic Partnership. Could you kindly speak about the connotations and significance of this agreement?

Prime Minister: The Strategic Partnership is a framework to guide bilateral relations. It reflects our excellent friendship, and our shared commitment to expand cooperation into new areas such as finance, aviation, and the environment. The Strategic Partnership will inject fresh impetus to our relationship, and pave the way for even stronger relations between Singapore and Vietnam .

Reporter: In your view, what should Singapore and Vietnam do to constantly consolidate and develop bilateral relations and to contribute to the realisation of the ASEAN Community by 2015?

Prime Minister: Singapore and Vietnam should continue to explore new partnerships which meet our countries’ evolving needs. We have done so with the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIP), which have progressed from industrial townships to integrated developments where people can “work, live and play”. We should also continue to strengthen our people-to-people ties, which are at the heart of every bilateral relationship. I look forward to more regular exchanges at all levels – between our leaders, businesses, and peoples. This will help Singapore and Vietnam deepen our cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, trust and benefit.

Singapore-Vietnam relations fit within the larger context of our cooperation within ASEAN. As fellow ASEAN Member States , Singapore and Vietnam share an interest in a cohesive and integrated ASEAN. We are therefore participating actively in the ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the RCEP is a possible pathway to our vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, one that will bring tremendous benefit to our businesses and people.-VNA