Singapore, Thailand look to enhance economic cooperation on first official visit by Thai PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Thai PM Srettha also agreed on the need for close cooperation within Asean, especially on initiatives like a power integration project.

Joyce Lim

Joyce Lim

The Straits Times


Thai PM Srettha Thavisin (left) meeting PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Oct 12. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

October 13, 2023

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s and Thailand’s leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in the digital economy and renewable energy during an official visit by Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to the Republic on Thursday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Srettha also agreed on the need for close cooperation within Asean, especially on initiatives like a power integration project “which will serve as an important pathfinder to an Asean power grid”, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement.

Mr Srettha, 61, was on his first visit to Singapore since taking office in August, and was here for a day as part of a regional tour.

During an official lunch hosted by PM Lee at the Istana, both leaders lauded the historical friendship between the two countries, as symbolised by a bronze elephant statue from Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn, which still stands outside Singapore’s Old Parliament House.

PM Lee said the two countries now have close ties across many sectors, including the economy, defence and people-to-people relations.

Economic relations between the two countries are substantial, he said, with Singapore and Thailand ranking among each other’s top 10 largest trading partners in 2022.

Bilateral trade that year increased by nearly a quarter year on year to $42.1 billion, while Singapore was the second-highest source of foreign direct investment in Thailand in the first half of 2023.

PM Lee said there are many promising areas for economic cooperation that the two countries can pursue further.

The digital economy is one area, he said, citing a cross-border fast payment system between Singapore’s PayNow and Thailand’s PromptPay that enables users on both sides to transfer money using their mobile numbers.

Launched in April 2021, this linkage of payment systems is the first of its kind in the world.

Singapore also welcomes Thailand’s interest in joining the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, which will facilitate Thai businesses’ participation in the digital economy and create further growth opportunities, said PM Lee.

The agreement was set up by Singapore, Chile and New Zealand in 2020. It aims to foster trade by regulating issues related to the digital economy, including data flows, data protection and artificial intelligence.

Another promising area for future cooperation is the green economy, said PM Lee.

Both countries are part of the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project, under which Singapore started importing renewable energy from Laos through Thailand and Malaysia in June 2022.

“I look forward to building on this momentum to strengthen energy collaboration with Thailand, which will unlock Asean’s potential for cross-border renewable energy trade. Our two countries should also cooperate further in carbon trading, to benefit from green growth opportunities while contributing to the global climate agenda,” said PM Lee.

The Thai leader said that bilateral relations “should be future-oriented and embrace the full potential of new economic opportunities, such as digital and green economy, and sustainability”. “We will also work closely to deepen Asean economic integration and make Asean more effective,” said Mr Srettha.

Singapore and Thailand are both founding members of Asean.

Mr Srettha also received a ceremonial welcome at the Istana, and called on President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who welcomed “the strong and multifaceted relations between Singapore and Thailand”, and reaffirmed Singapore’s desire to work with Thailand for mutual benefit, said MFA.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Srettha the opportunities to grow our ties in new areas, especially in trade in renewable energy and high-integrity carbon credits, and in the digital economy,” Mr Tharman said on Facebook. “Financial cooperation too should grow… Plus we can cooperate more closely in combating cybercrimes.”

Mr Srettha also visited the headquarters of UOB, where he met the bank’s deputy chairman and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong. UOB Thailand is the largest Singapore bank, and the second-largest foreign bank, in Thailand.

Mr Srettha’s visit to the Republic concludes his five-day regional tour of Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

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