Foreign Minister of Singapore Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (Photo: Straitstimes.com)

Hanoi (VNA) – Foreign Minister of Singapore Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has stated that Singapore and Vietnam have potential to step up their cooperation.

He granted an interview to the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents based in Singapore ahead of President Tran Dai Quang’s official visit to the island country on August 29-30.

The interview runs as follows:

Q: The President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, His Excellency Tran Dai Quang will pay a visit to Singapore on August 29-30, 2016. As foreign minister, how would you comment on the meanings of this visit?

A: Singapore is honoured to welcome the State Visit of His Excellency Tran Dai Quang, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien to Singapore from 28 to 30 August 2016.That President Quang has chosen to visit Singapore early in his Presidential term is testament to the strength and importance of our bilateral relations.

Q: Vietnam and Singapore will celebrate the 43rd anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 3rd anniversary of a bilateral strategic partnership in 2016. How would you evaluate on bilateral ties between the two countries in the past years in various areas? What are the core areas that the two countries will concentrate on further strengthening bilateral co-operation in the coming time?

A: Singapore and Vietnam enjoy very warm ties and have regular high-level exchanges. We elevated our relations to a Strategic Partnership during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Vietnam in 2013 in commemoration of 40 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Three years on, this Strategic Partnership has further strengthened bilateral cooperation in key sectors such as trade and investment, finance, security and defence, aviation, education and training.

A notably robust area of cooperation is in trade and investment. Bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last decade, amounting to 21.6 billion USD with a 10.6 percent increase year-on-year in 2015. Singapore has consistently been one of the top investors in Vietnam, with flagship projects like the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) and the One Hub Saigon Business Park. As of April 2016, we were the 3rd largest foreign investor in Vietnam with a cumulative FDI of approximately 38.1 billion USD. The seven VSIPs across Vietnam is a significant joint venture between Singapore and Vietnam companies. They are symbols of our close bilateral cooperation. DPM Teo Chee Hean will be leading a delegation to commemorate the first VSIP’s 20th anniversary later this year. It has attracted about 9 billion USD of investments and provided employment for over 170,000 people. As Vietnam’s economy scales up the value chain, Singapore companies continue to be interested in the many opportunities in the country, including in high-tech innovation parks.

There is potential for both countries to enhance our cooperation, especially in the other areas of the Strategic Partnership. In the field of finance, Singapore banks are keen to obtain full banking licenses in Vietnam. This will allow them to offer more financial products and services in the Vietnamese market, and better support Singapore-based companies investing in Vietnam. More can be also done both bilaterally and regionally to combat terrorism, counter violent extremism and strengthen cyber-security cooperation.

While we have 142 flights weekly between Singapore and Vietnam, air carriers based in Singapore are interested in increasing regional connectivity through 5th freedom rights out of key Vietnamese cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Enhanced regional connectivity will also spur domestic activities in Vietnam through economic development sustained by the mobility of people as well as goods and service.

On human resource development, a substantial number of Vietnamese students have received scholarships to study in Singapore schools over the years. We have also been a steadfast partner of Vietnam’s development through the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), providing training to over 16,700 Vietnamese officials since its inception in 1992. Vietnamese Ministers and senior officials have also visited Singapore on various exchange programmes. We are happy to continue exchanging experiences and expertise with Vietnam when needed.

We look forward to further strengthen the close bilateral relations during this State Visit. I also take this opportunity to extend my warmest congratulations to Vietnam on the occasion of its 71st National Day on 2 September. Chúc mừng Quốc Khánh lần thứ 71!-VNA