HANOI: The fifth and newest Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) got the go-ahead yesterday, in a move that marked burgeoning ties between the two countries.
As President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang looked on, the US$337.82 million (S$422 million) project, a joint venture led by Singapore's Sembcorp Development and Vietnam's Becamex IDC Corporation, received its investment certificate.
The ceremony at the ornate Presidential Palace in Hanoi was one of several that Dr Tan attended on the first day of his state visit to Vietnam.
It also closed a circle that had started when Mr Sang visited Singapore seven months ago and witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the feasibility of a fifth VSIP in central Vietnam.
With the investment certificate, the newest industrial park, to be located in Quang Ngai province, can start laying the foundations and building plants. It aims to draw at least 200 companies from the food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods and electronics assembly industries when it opens in 10 to 15 years.
Dr Tan is on a five-day state visit to Vietnam, his first since assuming office on Sept 1 last year.
Yesterday, he packed his schedule with a series of calls on Vietnamese leaders, including Mr Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
He and Mr Sang also witnessed the awarding of in-principle approval to Sembcorp to explore the development of a thermal power plant, also in Quang Ngai province.
The agreements underscore Vietnam's increasing importance as an investment destination for Singapore businesses, a point that both presidents made in their meeting as well as at a state banquet.
Dr Tan said at the dinner: 'These projects symbolise our excellent partnership based on trust and mutual interests and benefits, and are testament to Singapore's confidence in Vietnam's future.'
At their meeting, the two presidents chatted for an hour as they affirmed the strong and growing ties between their countries and explored ways to expand cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and education.
Later, President Tan and PM Dung spoke about their commitment to Asean's goal of establishing an Economic Community by 2015, which aims to create a single market in the region.
Singapore and Vietnam share close ties both within Asean and as bilateral partners. Bilateral trade has risen four-fold over the last decade to hit US$11.8 billion last year, and Singapore is one of the top foreign investors in Vietnam, with cumulative investments of US$24 billion to date.
Key investments include four VSIPs that have attracted 465 companies and employed about 110,000 workers.
Dr Tan, who is accompanied by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, their wives and about 30 officials, arrived in the bustling Vietnamese capital at noon yesterday.
At the airport, a red carpet flanked by 26 presidential guards was rolled out to receive him, while outside, Singapore and Vietnam flags fluttered on poles lining the streets.
At the evening banquet held to honour his guest, President Sang hailed the growing cooperation and friendship between Singapore and Vietnam.
He said he 'highly valued' Dr Tan's choice of Vietnam for his first state visit. Mr Sang had himself chosen Singapore for his own first state visit last year.
'I firmly believe that the success of this visit will contribute to the strengthening of the already good friendship and comprehensive cooperation between our two countries,' he said.
Agreeing, Dr Tan said Singapore looked forward to exploring more opportunities for further collaborations. He noted that bilateral relations had grown to become 'more multi-faceted' and expanded into new areas such as defence, education and training.
'As we celebrate our upcoming 40th anniversary of our bilateral relations next year, I am confident that our ties will continue to grow from strength to strength,' he said.
Today, Dr Tan will visit some of Hanoi's major heritage sites and meet Communist Party of Vietnam general-secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, before departing for Ho Chi Minh City.
His trip ends on Friday.