The following is the full text of the interview.
Reporter: This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 10th anniversary of strategic partnership between Singapore and Vietnam. How do you evaluate the Singapore-Vietnam relations in the past half century, especially in the last decade? What should the two countries do to further our bilateral cooperation and to advance the development of each country?
Vivian Balakrishnan: The ties between Singapore and Vietnam have grown from strength to strength since we established diplomatic relations 50 years ago. We are longstanding friends and close partners that enjoy wide-ranging cooperation in many areas, both bilaterally and at multilateral fora. I am heartened that the bilateral relationship has continued to expand and evolve to tackle new challenges over the past decade. Our linkages are particularly strong in trade and investment. The 12 Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) across Northern, Central, and Southern Vietnam have attracted 17 billion USD in investments and created over 300,000 jobs. The VSIP is an enduring icon of our bilateral partnership which is built on the close friendship and consultations between the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and former Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, who had asked Mr Lee to advise Vietnam on its economic opening in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Even as we strengthen cooperation in traditional areas such as trade and investment, there remain many opportunities to work together in new growth areas like the digital economy, renewable energy, carbon credits, green financing, cybersecurity, and sustainable infrastructure. I would encourage interested parties to explore collaboration in these areas, to establish mutually beneficial partnerships that advance the interests of both countries.
Reporter: What is the significance of the upcoming visit to Singapore by Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh? What do you vision about the prospect of Vietnam – Singapore cooperation in the coming decade?
Vivian Balakrishnan: We warmly welcome Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who is making his first official visit to Singapore. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's visit has an added significance as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Vietnam and the 10th anniversary of the Vietnam – Singapore strategic partnership this year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has also accepted Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's invitation to visit Vietnam. We are confident that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will have a fruitful and productive visit to Singapore.
Looking ahead, I would like to highlight two areas in which there is much scope for closer collaboration between Singapore and Vietnam. First, we need to accelerate our cooperation in the digital economy. This is a priority for both Singapore and Vietnam, and encompasses many new areas such as cybersecurity, cross-border data flows, smart cities, innovation, artificial intelligence, and digital payments. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of digital trade and e-commerce in ensuring supply chain resilience and business continuity. During the series of high-level exchanges last year, leaders on both sides also agreed on the importance of accelerating cooperation in digital transformation. Second, sustainable development. Like COVID-19, climate change is a global issue that can only be tackled through the collective effort of governments and people worldwide. Singapore is keen to work with Vietnam in renewable energy, carbon credits, and sustainable infrastructure with the ambitious goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Reporter: In their bilateral meeting on the occasion of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in Cambodia in November 2022, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong agreed to direct the ministries and relevant agencies of the two countries to study a possible framework of a digital economy – green economy partnership between the two countries. How do you assess the prospects for bilateral cooperation in these fields?
Vivian Balakrishnan: As mentioned earlier, there is great potential for both our countries to work together in these two fields. I recall that during my last visit to Vietnam in June 2021, both sides had agreed to establish a digital economy working group to identify useful areas of cooperation. We have since put in place the foundations for working together. First, in February 2022 the Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information concluded an MOU on digital economy. This was followed up in October 2022, an MOU on cybersecurity, cybercrime, data flows and personal data protection cooperation was signed between the Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information and the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security. I am certain that these collaborations will produce concrete outcomes, given our common interest in harnessing the potential of the digital economy to improve our people's lives.
I understand that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh himself plays an active role as Chair of the National Steering Committees for both Digitalization and Climate Change, and that the target is for Vietnam's digital economy to contribute to 20% of GDP by 2025. Vietnam is keen to build up an e-government, e-society, and digital population. Similarly, Singapore's Smart Nation strategy aims to build a digital economy, digital government and digital society, with every industry, business and government agency driving whole-of-nation digitalization. As for the green economy, both Singapore and Vietnam have set the same target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Both countries are also keen to work together to harness renewable energy for a more sustainable future. Vietnam enjoys an abundance of wind and sunlight, which it could harness to generate renewable energy for both domestic consumption and export to other countries. Within the region, there is already the Lao PDR – Thailand – Malaysia – Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS PIP), and there is much scope for countries in the region to work together to realize an ASEAN power grid. There are many areas of complementarity between Singapore and Vietnam in the fields of digital economy and green economy, and much more that our countries can do together.
We look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to Singapore. This will be a key platform for both countries to reaffirm our excellent ties, take stock of our cooperation and discuss ways to advance our strategic partnership as we work together to create a more resilient and green future as well as a peaceful and prosperous Southeast Asia.
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