TOAST SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED IN HONOUR OF PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM TRAN DAI QUANG ON 29 AUGUST 2016
Your Excellency President Tran Dai Quang
and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome President Quang, Madam Hien, and your distinguished delegation to Singapore. We are honoured that Your Excellency is making a State Visit to Singapore just a few months after assuming office. This attests to our warm and close relations.
Singapore and Vietnam share historical links which pre-date Singapore’s independence in 1965. In the 19th century, boats used to bring Indochinese produce from Vietnam to Singapore. Because of that, prior to the land reclamation around the Singapore River, there was an islet between the river banks called Pulau Saigon. Today, the vehicular bridge at Saiboo Street remains as a reminder of the pedestrian footbridge that once led to Pulau Saigon. It is also noteworthy that Vietnam’s founding father Ho Chi Minh visited Singapore in 1930 and 1933 to rally for Vietnam’s independence. The Ho Chi Minh marker at the Asian Civilisations Museum, which President Quang visited this morning, commemorates those significant visits.
Singapore and Vietnam established diplomatic relations in 1973. Our exchanges intensified following Vietnam’s decision to embark on Doi Moi. In 1992, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited Vietnam at the invitation of then-Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet to discuss Vietnam’s transformation to a free market economy. Through this and subsequent visits, Mr Lee had frank exchanges with Vietnam’s leaders and made many friends. In his memoirs, Mr Lee praised the Vietnamese leaders’ determination and fighting spirit. The resilience of the Vietnamese people and their ability to bounce back from adversity left Mr Lee with no doubt that the prospects for Vietnam’s future generations were bright.
Today, Vietnam has become one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies and a robust partner of Singapore. We have regular high-level exchanges and multi-faceted cooperation. Through the Connectivity Framework Agreement established in 2005, we have intensified cooperation in key sectors including trade, finance, education, telecommunications, and transportation. Three years ago, Singapore and Vietnam upgraded our relations to a Strategic Partnership on the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations.
Vibrant economic cooperation has been a mainstay of our relations. Singapore is Vietnam’s third largest investor, with a cumulative investment of US$38 billion in over 1,600 projects. These range from ports and logistics to healthcare and real estate. Bilateral trade has increased some 70 percent in the last five years to reach S$21.6 billion in 2015. Singapore imports a variety of goods from Vietnam, including some of its best-known products like coffee and dragon fruit.
Our strong economic ties are further exemplified by the seven Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIPs) across North, Central and South Vietnam. Today, the VSIPs have attracted US$9 billion of investments and employ over 170,000 people. I am glad that the VSIPs have done well and contributed to Vietnam’s economic development. Next month, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will visit Vietnam to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the VSIP programme.
Singapore and Vietnam believe in the benefits of increased trade connectivity.We are more economically integrated with the establishment in 2015 of the ASEAN Economic Community. The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, in which both Singapore and Vietnam have a stake, will open up more opportunities for trade in the Asia-Pacific.
Singapore and Vietnam also have increasing exchanges in the areas of tourism, education and culture. With 142 flights per week, Singapore received over 400,000 visitors from Vietnam in 2015, while some 200,000 Singaporeans visited Vietnam in that period. Over 16,700 Vietnamese officials have participated in the Singapore Cooperation Programme, more than any other country. Many Vietnamese alumni of our schools and universities actively maintain links with their alma maters. Last year, a Vietnamese troupe celebrated Singapore’s Golden Jubilee with us by participating in the Chingay Parade. I am confident that these growing bonds between the peoples of Singapore and Vietnam will continue to provide momentum to enhance our air connectivity and strengthen bilateral relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I now invite you to rise and join me in a toast:
- To the good health and continued success of His Excellency President Tran Dai Quang and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien;
- To the peace, progress and prosperity of the people of Vietnam; and
- To the enduring friendship between Singapore and Vietnam.