Singapore, Myanmar to start talks on investment treaty

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Singapore businesses have clinched contracts in Myanmar’s power sector

The Straits Times | 1 December 2016

Singapore, Myanmar to start talks on investment treaty

Singapore and Myanmar will begin talks on a bilateral investment treaty and update an agreement on avoidance of double taxation in a sign of growing economic ties between the two countries.

The moves will send a positive signal to investors and boost economic growth, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday at a dinner which he hosted for Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

It marks progress since both agreements were floated in the first half of the year, when Mr Lee visited Myanmar in June.

These deals will give potential investors a greater sense of assurance, security and certainty about the regulations in Myanmar, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a visit in May.

Air connectivity between Singapore and Myanmar will also be enhanced, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Mr Lee and Ms Suu Kyi’s closed-door meeting in the afternoon.

Singapore’s carriers have been looking to introduce multi-city flights within Myanmar.

At the official dinner at the Istana last night, both leaders spoke about how the countries could work together to help Myanmar grow its economy.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is on an official visit here until tomorrow, said her country is happy to learn from Singapore ways to control corruption and impart skill training to young workers.

Myanmar welcomes Singapore’s businessmen, she added. "We believe that from these businessmen, our businessmen can learn not just ways of making money, but how to make money without corruption."

Earlier in the day, Ms Suu Kyi encouraged local businessmen to invest in Myanmar at IE Singapore’s Global Conversations dialogue at the Shangri-La Hotel.

At the Istana, she told political leaders from both countries that Myanmar wants to become a more developed market economy that is more innovative, competitive and business-friendly.

While acknowledging that her country faces many challenges, she said she believes they can be overcome with the help of friends.

In his speech, Mr Lee said Singapore has been a longstanding and steadfast friend of Myanmar and is confident in Myanmar’s long-term success. The two countries mark 50 years of diplomatic ties this year.

This confidence can be seen in their strong economic ties and growing trade and investment into Myanmar, he added.

Singapore businesses have clinched contracts in Myanmar’s public transport and power sectors.

These include a consortium that will build and run the Hanthawaddy International Airport located outside the former capital Yangon, and a power plant in Mandalay developed by Sembcorp Industries.

Singapore is Myanmar’s second-largest investor after China, with a cumulative investment of US$15.6 billion (S$22.2 billion) at the end of October.

Myanmar has a population of more than 50 million.

Singapore was also Myanmar’s third-largest trading partner, after China and Thailand, last year with total trade at $3.57 billion.

Mr Lee said the links between the two countries’ people are strong and growing, citing how visa requirements for each other’s citizens were being lifted today.

Singapore is happy to have trained 13,000 Myanmar officials under a cooperation scheme as human resources are a key driver of economic growth, said Mr Lee.

During his visit to Myanmar in June, he also launched the Singapore-Myanmar Vocational Training Institute in Yangon, which trains youth to be skilled workers.

Singapore also shared its experience of building and running hawker centres, Mr Lee noted.

Myanmar is looking at upgrading its wet markets and building a hawker centre in Yangon, and Ms Suu Kyi will have breakfast at a hawker centre tomorrow.

Such cooperation benefits both countries, said Ms Suu Kyi.

"Stability in Myanmar means stability in Singapore. It means peace and stability not just for our own countries but for the region as a whole," she added.

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