Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong left Hanoi on September 13 after successful conclusion of his three-day official visit to Vietnam.

During his stay, PM Lee held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung and paid visits to General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong and State President Truong Tan Sang, as well as meeting National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung.

During PM Lee’s visit, the two nations agreed to strengthen cooperation in a huge number of fields, including education-training, energy-oil and gas, agriculture, construction, transport, labour, finance, post and communications and information technology. The highlight of Mr Lee’s visit, however, was the agreement between the two prime ministers to elevate their countries’ relations to strategic partnership level.

The two prime ministers also reaffirmed to joint efforts with other ASEAN countries in building an ASEAN community in 2015.

As such, the Singaporean leader described his visit as “fruitful” when speaking to the media at the end of his trip, and hailed it as a celebration of 40 years of friendship.

Singapore ’s daily, The Business Times, quoted the PM as saying that “the Vietnam economy is growing steadily, their middle class is expanding, (and) their purchasing power is growing - all of which augur well for Singapore firms looking to tap Vietnam 's domestic market.”

He highlighted supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice Co-operative and shoe retailer Charles & Keith, which already have a presence in Vietnam along with Singapore hoteliers and logistics companies, and encouraged other corporations to follow suit and seize "the many opportunities here."

Mr. Lee said: “I think there are other areas where there will be needs. I talked about infrastructure needs, water and waste management, environmental management, (and) I think they are becoming more focused on environmental protection. These are all areas where there is good potential for private investors to come in and work with the (Vietnamese) government.”

While the PM acknowledged that Vietnam 's economy is facing difficulties in the banking sector and inefficiencies in state-owned enterprises, he said that the Vietnamese “want to move ahead” and are committed to carrying out structural reforms, especially as the country negotiates to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade deal involving players including the United States and Singapore .
“Why are we still interested in Vietnam ? I think because we have confidence in the economy (and) in the country. It's got a lot of energy and drive. You can sense it in the cities, even in the rural areas,” PM Lee commented to Singaporean reporters on September 13.-VNA