S’pore and S. Korea in landmark deal

Major companies in third-country joint ventures
SINGAPORE and South Korea will launch joint ventures in third countries in a landmark deal between two of its major conglomerates that will strengthen ties between the two nations.

The joint ventures, to undertake projects in Singapore, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines, include the building of a “Jurong-type” industrial city in Suzhou.

The agreement between Singapore’s Keppel Corporation and South Korea’s Samsung Group was backed by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and visiting South Korean Premier Lee Yung Dug in talks yesterday.

A Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in response to press queries that the two leaders had agreed to build a “bridge” to enable companies from the two nations to network and establish joint ventures in third countries in the region.

Mr Goh had urged Singapore businessmen during his visit to Seoul in November to explore opportunities to invest in SouthKorea and to collaborate with businessmen there in third-country projects. This theme was raised again by Mr Goh in his speech at the official dinner held in honour of Mr Lee at the Four Seasons Hotel last night.

“I hope both Korean and Singapore business leaders will put in greater effort to explore business partnerships in the region,” he said.

Keppel Corporation’s managing director Loh Wing Siew said yesterday Keppel and Samsung had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Wednesday to undertake projects here and in the region.

Among the projects identified for collaboration are the $30 billion Singapore-Suzhou Township development in China. The township represents a bilateral effort between Singapore and China to develop a 70 sq km integrated township in Suzhou that includes industrial, commercial, residential and recreational facilities.

Mr Loh said that Samsung was keen to join the Keppel-led Singapore Consortium in Suzhou, which has 19 members in the project.

“With their involvement, they are sure to bring in other investors as well,” he said.

Samsung, which has interests in electronics, heavy industries, chemicals and financial services, is keen to set up a production base to manufacture semiconductors, electrical appliances and parts in the area.

A senior Seoul official, who is part of the 12-member delegation to Singapore accompanying Prime Minister Lee on a three-day official visit here, said the Suzhou project “will be a starting point of joint ventures in other areas”.

The official told reporters that there were plans to develop a commercial and hous ing centre in Beijing.

Apart from China, Mr Loh said the two groups wanted to construct a high-rise building to house Samsung’s overseas headquarters here as well as production bases in Vietnam and the Philippines.

A Keppel spokesman said details of the proposed projects in Indonesia and Myanmar would be disclosed later.

Besides joint ventures in third countries, the two leaders also proposed toexpand the framework of the Singapore-South Korea Third Country Programme. It would cover the training of private sector personnel to support economic activities in third countries.

A South Korean official said that Singapore agreed to a Seoul proposal to set up a committee for telecommunications cooperation.

The MFA spokesman, describing talks between the two leaders as “extensive and fruitful”, said Mr Lee briefed Mr Goh on the latest developments in the Korean Peninsula and the North Korean nuclear issue. Mr Goh expressed Singapore’s support for the peaceful reunification of the two Koreas.

In his speech at the dinner last night, Mr Lee said the two countries “should strive together to develop the Asia-Pacific region into the centre of dynamism of the world”.

The 68-year-old South Korean Premier, who was earlier given a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, arrived on Wednesday.

During his stay here, he also called on President Ong Teng Cheong. He will meet Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew today before leaving for Bangladesh for the final leg of his eight-day Asian tour, which included a ground-breaking trip to Vietnam.

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