S’pore, Myanmar sign pact to boost trade links

SINGAPORE and Myanmar yesterday agreed to boost economic and trade links at the start of a four-day visit by Yangon’s top military leaders and ministers.

The two countries sealed an economic cooperation agreement which involved the setting-up of a high-level committee to coordinate projects and activities.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said at a dinner hosted for General Than Shwe, chairman of Myanmar’s State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), that the agreement was an “important milestone” in bilateral relations.

“It will provide the framework for deepening and broadening our economic linkages,” he said.

Mr Goh, who visited Myanmar in March last year to discuss opening up its economy and encouraging foreign investment, said the Republic would help Myanmar integrate itself into the region and develop like the Asean countries.

He added that steps taken towards a market economy would enable Myanmar to join the train of emerging Asian economies.

“If the momentum is sustained by constructive political developments and stable conditions, there will be increased international confidence in your country’s investment climate,” he said.

“A stable, peaceful Myanmar which enjoys good economic growth and is well-integrated with the region will benefit the people of Myanmar and the region.”

He noted that economic cooperation continued to develop between both countries. Singapore’s trade with Myanmar reached US$570 million last year while investments were close to US$300 million.

The Republic ranks as one of the largest foreign investors in Myanmar with investments in tourism, hotel, manufacturing and finance and banking projects.

Mr Goh said that while Singapore’s private sector investments were concentrated on tourism, businessmen were also keen on diversifying into other key sectors like industry and infrastructure.

In his speech at the dinner, Gen Than Shwe, who is also Myanmar’s Prime Minister, said that through contacts at various levels, Yangon benefited from Singapore’s nation-building success and economic development.

He said his visit, at the invitation of Mr Goh, was “a significant symbol of a concrete step forward” in bilateral ties. He added that steps were being taken to invite foreign investment and encourage local entrepreneurship.

Gen Than Shwe, who is leading a 44-member delegation to Singapore, called on President Ong Teng Cheong and held talks with Mr Goh after a ceremonial welcome earlier in the day.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said there was an exchange of views on bilateral relations and regional issues.

The economic agreement was signed at the Istana in the afternoon by Deputy Prime Minister Brigadier-General (NS) Lee Hsien Loong and Myanmar’s National Planning and Economic Development Minister, BG David Abel.

A Ministry of Trade and Industry statement said the pact would facilitate cooperation, starting with the tourist industry and agro-business.

The pact would simplify trade procedures and promote cooperation in shipping and ancillary maritime services.

The high-level committee to be set up would be co-chaired on the Singapore side by Trade and Industry Minister Yeo Cheow Tong. Other members include the National Development Minister Lim Hng Kiang and Communications Minister Mah Bow Tan.

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