Your Excellency, Le Minh Khai, Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Your Excellency, Nguyen Chi Dung, Minister of Planning and Investment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Mr Lim Ming Yan, Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation
Mr Tony Chew, Former Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning. Xin Chào.
2. I am deeply honoured to be here today as Guest of Honour for the 7th Singapore Regional Business Forum (SRBF). This is the first edition of the SRBF outside of Singapore, marking its first step to be truly regional.
3. I would first like to thank the Vietnam government for your strong support in making this event possible. I would also like to congratulate the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and partners in putting together such a commendable and successful forum, with strong turnout from Singapore, Vietnamese and regional government and business representatives today. I note that there are 420 companies and organisations in attendance today, both virtually and physically, with around 500 participants physically present.
Southeast Asia as a Growth Region
4. We gather at a time where the global economic outlook remains uncertain. There are pressures from challenges ranging from supply chain disruptions, inflation to climate change. Globalisation as we have known, is also changing, with an increasing trend towards protectionism.
5. Businesses are also adapting and innovating in the face of new business needs, to not only be digitalised, but also sustainable. It is hence timely that today’s forum centers the discussions on how we, as a region, can further enhance our collaboration for sustainable growth by harnessing opportunities arising from trends in technology, sustainability and the future of work.
6. Despite headwinds and challenges, Southeast Asia remains a bright spot in the global economy, with a young and vibrant consumer market of over 650 million people. In 2022 alone, ASEAN’s combined GDP was estimated at US$3.66 trillion; it is projected to grow 4.6% in 2023 and 4.8% in 2024.
7. Digital economy and green economy are two emerging areas which present vast opportunities for Southeast Asia.
o Southeast Asia’s digital economy is projected to reach US$1 trillion by 2030. A digitally savvy middle class with increasing purchasing power offers a growing market for retailers and e-commerce companies. Digitalisation is also transforming industries, giving rise to start-ups in logistics, finance, cleantech and agritech. Southeast Asian countries are strengthening digital economy cooperation through regional agreements such as the ASEAN E-Commerce Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the proposed ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA), where negotiations will be launched later this year.
o Similarly, there is significant growth potential in green economic growth in Southeast Asia. An estimated US$1 trillion of green economic opportunities is expected to be generated by 2030. Governments within the region have demonstrated increasing commitment to address climate change. 8 out of 10 Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore and Vietnam, have committed to net zero targets. Companies have also begun adopting green economy initiatives to support decarbonisation efforts. Since 2020, cumulative investment in green economy in the region reached US$15 billion, with a focus on built environment and renewable energy.
8. However, the transition towards a digitally inter-operable and net zero region, will not be a straightforward one. It is therefore critical for governments and businesses to come together and co-create solutions for the future world.
Strong Singapore-Vietnam Relations
9. There is hence more that Singapore and Vietnam can do and achieve together, riding on the strong foundation built through decades of close partnerships at both the government and business levels.
10. Our economic relations with Vietnam are strong and substantive. This is evidenced by the trade and investment figures that have grown steadily over the past decade, riding on the stellar growth of Vietnam, and the vast opportunities presented by a young and vibrant market.
o Our bilateral trade has grown by 16.4% to reach S$31.3 billion in 2022;
o On the investment front, Singapore was Vietnam’s second-largest foreign investor with a cumulative investment of US$70.8 billion as of end 2022.
11. Beyond statistics and figures, Singapore companies have steadily expanded their investments in Vietnam, in provinces from North to South, and in diversified sectors. More importantly, many have found committed partners in Vietnam, and are happy to continue to play a useful role in Vietnam’s economy.
o One good example is the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP). First established in 1996, the VSIP is a joint venture between Singapore’s Sembcorp Industries and Vietnam’s Becamex. 27 years on, there are 14 VSIPs across 10 provinces in Vietnam, attracting US$18.4 billion worth of investment capital, and creating around 300,000 jobs. The VSIPs have contributed substantially to Vietnam’s manufacturing and export sectors, created jobs and upskilled talent.
o Another example is the partnership between Singapore’s YCH Group and Vietnam’s T&T Group, to develop a smart logistics connectivity infrastructure project, “Vietnam SuperPort” in Vinh Phuc Province. The Superport, with a cargo capacity of 850,000 TEUs, aims to transform cargo handling by air, sea, rail and road and uplift the manufacturing supply chain in Northern Vietnam.
The Next Bound
12. This year, we mark two special milestones in our bilateral relationship with Vietnam. First, we are celebrating fifty years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Vietnam. Second, it is also the tenth year since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership between both countries.
13. During PM Chinh’s visit to Singapore in February this year, Singapore and Vietnam signed the Green-Digital Economic Partnership MOU, which serves to deepen our cooperation in the two emerging areas.
14. Going into the next bound of our bilateral relations and economic partnership, I would like to propose three areas where Singapore and Vietnam can work hand-in-hand to seize the opportunities of the next decade and deepen our cooperation.
15. First, Innovation. Singapore and Vietnam are among the top three start-up eco-systems in Southeast Asia. With our common goal of driving further economic growth through technology and innovation, there is scope for Singapore and Vietnam to tap on each other’s innovation eco-systems for partners, funding and talent.
o Our collaboration in innovation has gained momentum through (i) BLOCK71 Saigon, a joint collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Vietnam’s Becamex IDC, which is home to more than 1,000 startups, incubators, and accelerators since 2011; and (ii) the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) node in Ho Chi Minh City, where Enterprise Singapore partnered Saigon Innovation Hub (SIHUB) and Quest Ventures to facilitate start-up exchanges between both countries.
o In December 2022, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and Vietnam’s National Innovation Centre (NIC) signed an Innovation Work Group MOU to connect innovation eco-systems between Singapore and Vietnam. I am happy to see that NIC is signing MOUs with several Singapore Institutes of Higher Learning and corporates like UOB and Keppel later to foster closer partnerships between both sides.
16. Second, Energy Connectivity. Singapore and Vietnam share a common vision towards achieving net zero by 2050.
o Not only will the scaling up of renewable energy and development of regional power grids support our decarbonisation efforts, it will also promote greater infrastructural connectivity to help advance the region’s sustainable energy goals. Like the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project (LTMS-PIP), which serves as an important pathfinder project to advance regional interconnectivity, collaborations between Vietnam and Singapore will contribute to the greater ASEAN Power Grid vision.
o The Energy Cooperation MOU signed in October 2022 between Singapore and Vietnam has paved the way for both sides to explore closer collaboration in areas such as renewable energy development, cross-border electricity trading, liquefied natural gas and electricity markets, low-carbon as well as energy efficiency solutions. This will open up more platforms and opportunities for businesses to form partnerships.
17. Third, Sustainability. We urgently need to accelerate climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Carbon markets can play a critical role in supporting countries to decarbonise, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors. In October 2022, Singapore and Vietnam signed an MOU to collaborate on carbon credits, aligned with Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This puts both Singapore and Vietnam in excellent positions to capture the opportunities generated by carbon markets. We look forward to jointly implementing carbon credit generating projects in the coming years ahead. Our projects can help spur a more vibrant carbon market in the region.
18. I have discussed with Minister Dung this visit to expand the scope of the Singapore-Vietnam Connectivity Ministerial Meeting, to cover the emerging topics of innovation, as well as the green and digital economies.
19. As we seek out new opportunities in these emerging fields, we will also continue to deepen our multi-faceted connectivity in Trade and Investment, Finance, Transport, Tourism and Education.
20. The many partnerships, existing and new, that we celebrate today, are testament to the close and mutually beneficial economic relations between Singapore and Vietnam. I hope that through the discussions today, more partnerships will be forged, and more opportunities of a future world would be seized together.
21. With that, I wish everyone good health and a fruitful forum.
22. Thank you. Xin Cảm Ơn
 Source: Gross Domestic Product of the ASEAN Countries from 2018 to 2028 April 2023 Report, Statista.
 Source: Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China, and India 2023, OECD.
 Source: Google, Temasek, and Bain and Company’s e-Conomy SEA 2022 report.
 Source: “Southeast Asia’s Green Economy 2022 Report” by Bain and Company, Temasek and Microsoft.
 Source: Southeast Asia Startup Ecosystem 2.0 Report by Golden Gate Ventures Firm (2021).