ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Vietnam 'can look to S'pore for help on financial reform'
Vietnam can tap Singapore for help to reform and transform areas such as its financial sector, emeritus senior minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday at the start of his four-day official visit to the country.
In particular, it can look to Singapore for help to reform its banking sector and its international financial links for capital.
Goh made the suggestion to the country's prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung during a closed-door meeting at which he also proposed ways it can boost tourism and trade.
To raise tourist numbers, he called on Vietnam to ease the rules for commercial airlines to fly into Vietnam and beyond, known as fifth freedom rights in the industry.
As for increased trade, he urged Vietnam to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as an opportunity to advance its long-term competitiveness.
The TPP is a proposed free trade agreement that is being negotiated among 12 member economies that include the United States, Singapore and Vietnam.
The US-led pact, stricken by delays, promises benefits such as substantially reduced tariffs as well as intellectual property protection.
These suggestions from Goh, which Mr Dung agreed with, form the main thrust of his visit.
Its aim is to further the two nations' strategic partnership, which both entered into last year, to deepen cooperation in such areas as finance, security and international collaboration.
Earlier in the day, Goh visited the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP), in neighbouring Bac Ninh province, to check on its progress.
It was a sentimental visit for him, he said, as his last trip to Vietnam in 2007 saw him at the same park's ground-breaking ceremony.
Since then, some US$1.137 billion has been poured into the 700ha park, a joint venture between a Singapore consortium led by Sembcorp Development, and state-owned Vietnamese enterprise Becamex.
It is one of five VSIPs.
Sembcorp Development chief executive Kelvin Teo, co-chairman of the VSIP's board, told reporters that investor sentiment is slowly improving following anti-China protests earlier this year.
In May, three factories in the two VSIPs in Binh Duong province were set on fire, following protests in southern Vietnam over China's deployment of an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
"We do see some investors who have put on hold their investment, but overall, especially in the last two to three months, we've seen more and more (coming back)," said Teo.
"Let's not forget that Vietnam remains a very competitive place for manufacturers... and foreign investors."
Although the VSIP in Bac Ninh was not affected, security measures have been stepped up.
A plan to have an on-site police station, staffed with 30 local policemen, has been brought forward and is expected to be ready by March next year.
Speaking to Bac Ninh party secretary Tran Van Tuy at the VSIP, Goh said the continued support from the local government is essential for the park's success.
Goh also called on the Communist Party of Vietnam's general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong yesterday.
Accompanying Goh are officials as well as ministers of state Teo Ser Luck (trade and industry) and Lam Pin Min (health).
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