PM Pham Minh Chinh’s official visits to Singapore, Brunei – milestones in bilateral ties: expert

(VOVWORLD) - Dr. Chheang Vannarith is a public policy analyst and government relations strategist. He has over a decade of experience as a geopolitical and geo-economic analyst, with a focus on Southeast Asia.  Mr. Vannarith is now Chairman of the Asian Vision Institute. He talks to VOV about Prime Minister’s official visits to Singapore and Brunei from February 8 to 11.
PM Pham Minh Chinh’s official visits to Singapore, Brunei – milestones in bilateral ties: expert  - ảnh 1Dr. Chheang Vannarith, Chairman of the Asian Vision Institute, talks to VOV about Prime Minister’s official visits to Singapore and Brunei from February 8 to 11, 2023.

Reporter: Mr. Vanarith, thank you for joining us today. So as you know that Vietnamese PM Pham Minh Chinh will pay an official visit to Singapore and Brunei from February 8 to Feb 11. The visits will be made at the invitation of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam Hajihassana Bolkiah. How would you evaluate the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Singapore and the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and Brunei?

Mr. Vanarith: Vietnam has taken very proactive foreign policy, especially in strengthening ties with neighboring countries and the members of ASEAN. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Vietnam-Singapore strategic partnership and also 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Singapore. The visit will mark another milestone in the bilateral relationship because Singapore is one of the top trading partners of Vietnam and one of the top investors in Vietnam.

So that can be further strengthened in terms of trade and investment flow between the two countries. Another key area is tourism. We can see increasing flow of tourists, Vietnamese tourists coming to Singapore and Singaporean tourists to Vietnam, and educational exchange and cultural exchange between the two countries. What we can say now is Vietnam and Singapore have reached a new height in terms of strategic partnership.

Perhaps, Singapore when it comes to the perspective of Vietnam, Vietnam is a very important strategic partner of Singapore from the mainland Southeast Asia, and the strategic role of Vietnam in the region is also very important, after the successful year or ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020, and Vietnam is also very active in promoting the regional integration project. A lot of convergence of interests here. When it comes to Vietnam, Brunei, relationship also another angle, but it's not as dynamic as  Singapore-Vietnam relationship when it comes to trade and investment, but anyway, in terms of energy cooperation for Brunei and Vietnam have a wide area of operations and of course as a member of ASEAN, Brunei and Vietnam can work closely together, either on the South China Sea agenda or other regional issues.

Reporter: What’s your opinion about the cooperation between Singapore and Vietnam in international and regional forums.

Mr. Vanarith: Yes, Singapore is a small state, Vietnam is a middle power. Even though Vietnam does not declare it’s a middle power, but geo-strategic or geo-economic state of Vietnam can be equal to a middle power status. And Singapore is a small state. But Singapore always, about its ways in terms of foreign policy and diplomacy, very active in promoting rule based international order to ensure that this kind of international law is respected by all countries. And Vietnam also shares this common worldview, how to strengthen rules-based international order and how we use the international law to resolve conflicts. Both countries have been very actively advocating this norm: rules-based international order. No one in this region wish to see the confrontation between the US and China and Singapore are very consistent and Vietnam also share the view that we seek to see a healthy and stable competition between the US and China and Southeast Asian countries are not interested in taking sides. So those are some of the key messages that both countries will issue to send a message to the region and the world so that we can maintain peace and stability, either under the ASEAN or the UN framework.

Reporter: This year, Vietnam and Singapore wins celebrate the 10th anniversary of the two countries’ strategic partnership. And how would you see the prospects of bilateral cooperation in all fields in the years to come?

Mr. Vanarith: I think the economic field will gain new momentum. Because Vietnam now is a strategic and geo-economic significance with the FTA with the European Union and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and also CPTPP. This kind of regional trade arrangements and the bilateral FTAs. Vietnam is very well connected with the world and the region. Singapore, by investing in Vietnam, with relatively cheap labor, and with the skill level, I think Singapore can gain access to Vietnamese markets, and also the markets in the region and the world, because Vietnam have signed a lot of free trade agreements and have joined multilateral free trade agreements. From Singapore’s perspective, Vietnam is the most attractive destination for investment.

Stability, for sure, political stability in Vietnam, and of course, labor, skilled labor, relatively good, hard infrastructure also, road, logistics, seaports, and the production costs in Vietnam is very competitive. So that’s a very attractive designation for Singaporean investors.

Another key area that we could foresee is the convergence of strategic narrative and strategic interest on international issues. And of course, last but not least, people to people ties, I think both countries can deepen educational and cultural exchanges. And Singapore is a place to train many Vietnamese leaders.

Reporter: I think there are still more potentials for bilateral ties to grow, especially in new industries such as digital and green economy. What do you think?

Mr. Vanarith: I think one area that both countries need to work on is maritime security. How to maintain good order at sea, how to strengthen rules-based maritime order. I think maritime cooperation is something can be expanded between the two countries. Singapore has a lot of knowledge in terms of maritime domain awareness, technology and human resources, and experts So I think both countries work together more on maritime security cooperation.

Singapore in 2018 introduced Smart City Networks, of course, comes along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this kind of digital technology and green technology. These are potential areas of cooperation because Singapore has more advanced thermal technology and digital economy and of course, the green technology and cyber security.

I mean, knowledge capacity, Singapore is one of the most advanced, so both countries can work together in capacity building on digital economy, smart city network, green economy and cybersecurity. And of course, Vietnam also have something to offer as well, because Vietnam is very fast in terms of digital transformation. It is one of the fastest digital economy in Southeast Asia, and a lot of SOEs the Vietnamese entrepreneurs are very tech savy and very entrepreneurial in terms of technology startup, so I think both countries can learn from each other and perhaps they will further connect the startups, startup communities, especially the tech startups between the two countries.

Thank you very much, Dr. Chheang Vannarith.