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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Singapore-Turkmenistan Business Forum

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Singapore-Turkmenistan Business Forum

His Excellency, Chary Gylyjov, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers;

His Excellency, Yagshygeldi Kakayev, Advisor of the President of Turkmenistan for Oil & Gas issues;

His Excellency, Resul Rejepov, Minister of Textile of Turkmenistan;

His Excellency, Amandurdy Ishanov, Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations of Turkmenistan;

Distinguished guests;

A very good afternoon.

Introduction

 

1. I am pleased to welcome you to the inaugural Singapore-Turkmenistan Business Forum. I am glad to welcome Deputy Chairman Chary Gylyjov and his delegation to Singapore, ahead of tomorrow’s State Visit by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow. I would also like to thank the Singapore Business Federation for organising this event.

 

2. Relations between Singapore and Turkmenistan have been growing, with recent exchanges at the political level. In September 2017, our Minister of State, Sam Tan, visited Turkmenistan for the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. At various occasions this year, we welcomed Turkmenistan’s delegations to Singapore. These include Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Berdiniyaz Myatiyev, Chairman of the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs Rahimberdi Jepbarov, and Deputy Minister of Justice Merettagan Taganov.


3. It is my hope that these political engagements can be bolstered by commercial interactions. Your presence today at this event is a good sign that there is interest in finding out more about the opportunities in each other’s markets. I hope this forum serves as a platform for participants to explore commercially meaningful partnerships with one another. 


Exploring opportunities in Turkmenistan

 

4. In 2018, the total bilateral trade in goods between Singapore and Turkmenistan came up to S$43.4 million. This is a small proportion of Singapore’s total trade globally. There is therefore potential to increase our trade flows between one another. The number one reason companies usually give for not venturing into a trade or investment relationship with another country is unfamiliarity with the market. Business forums like these are meant to provide more familiarity. In today’s forum, there will be presentations on the economic overview of Turkmenistan, the trade and investment policy of Turkmenistan, and the opportunities in the industrial and transport sectors of Turkmenistan. These will be helpful to shed light on where companies can explore mutually beneficial commercial cooperation. I encourage companies in Singapore to seriously consider the possibilities and opportunities. 

 

5. I am pleased to note that there are already collaborations taking place between companies and organisations in Singapore and Turkmenistan. Singapore companies are already exploring cooperation in the chemicals sector and the private education sector. These are areas in which Singapore companies have strong value propositions. In particular, I am heartened to note that Singapore company Indorama and Turkmenistan’s state-owned company Turkmenhimiya, have been in talks since early 2018. They have been exploring cooperation on an investment project and are planning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on their project later today. This is alongside the signing of several other MOUs, such as cooperation agreements between Turkmenistan’s State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs with the Association of Banks in Singapore and with DBS; Turkmenistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the Singapore Business Federation; and Turkmenistan’s State Institute of Economy with the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). 

 

6. To further support Singapore companies’ expansion overseas, Enterprise Singapore, which is our key agency tasked with this role, stands ready to support interested Singapore companies looking to do business or to invest in Turkmenistan.


Strengthening trade-enabling infrastructure 

 

7. At the government-to-government level, Turkmenistan and Singapore are working closely together to create conducive conditions for our businesses. We want to establish trade-enabling infrastructure to support our companies as they venture into each other’s markets. Of note, we have just concluded negotiations on an Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, or DTA. The DTA reduces withholding tax rates of dividends, interest, and royalties. This can enhance cross-border trade and investment between Singapore and Turkmenistan. I look forward to a swift ratification and entry into force of the DTA so that businesses can quickly enjoy the benefits. Such efforts to improve the regulatory environments of our markets to be as open, friendly, and conducive to businesses as possible, are essential to enhancing trade and investment flows, which will ultimately grow the economy. 


Springboarding from Singapore into Asia

  

8. I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage our Turkmen friends to look to Singapore as your partner in the Southeast Asian region. Singapore is situated at the heart of Southeast Asia and is well-connected to our neighbouring markets. Singapore can thus be a springboard into Southeast Asia – a region of growth with a diverse market of more than 600 million people, and a fast-growing urban middle class that is expected to reach 50% of the population by 2030.

 

9. Turkmen companies wishing to access the Southeast Asian market could base themselves in Singapore. Singapore offers a conducive business environment, a strong intellectual property protection regime, organisations with valuable insights to the region, a global trading and financial centre, and access to the rich talent pool in Southeast Asia. Singapore companies possess a robust network of business relationships in Southeast Asia, and are among the top three investors in Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. In this way, we hope we can also be valuable to Turkmenistan’s economic relations with Southeast Asia. 

 

Conclusion

 

10. In conclusion, allow me to once again thank you all for being here today, and to encourage participants to actively network and seek collaborations with one another. This is a suitable time to consider new opportunities. I look forward to a deepening of economic relations between Singapore and Turkmenistan. I wish everyone a fruitful Singapore-Turkmenistan Business Forum 2019. Thank you.

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