The two countries are also looking at increasing cooperation in evolving areas like digital, sustainability and environmental protection. Laos and Singapore will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations in 2024.
The two countries signed four memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on Wednesday at the Istana, the office of the Singapore President.
Laos Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing of the MOUs. This two-day trip was PM Phankham’s first official visit to Singapore after he was invited by PM Lee.
The four MOUs signed included the MOU on the Establishment of Bilateral Consultations between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs; the MOU on Technical Cooperation in Environmental Protection, Climate Change, and Water Resource Management between the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment of Singapore, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Laos; MOU on Energy Cooperation between the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore and the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Laos; and MOU on Digital Cooperation between the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore and the Ministry of Technology and Communications of Laos.
The MOU on energy cooperation looked at renewable energy deployment in Laos, the development of regional power grids and grid interconnections for cross-border electricity trade, as well as the development of systems and procedures to measure, report and verify renewable energy.
It was signed by Dr Daovong Phonekeo, Laos Minister of Energy and Mines and Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry.
The MOU follows the successful start of the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project in June. This will be Singapore’s first time importing renewable energy, and it will be getting 100MW of electricity from Laos via Thailand and Malaysia using existing interconnections between the nations.
Speaking on the importance of using renewable sources of energy Dr. Tan says, “It will enhance cross-border electricity trading in the region, and enable countries in the region to decarbonise and meet domestic energy needs, while creating jobs and economic growth for the source countries. It is also a step towards realizing the broader Asean Power Grid vision.”
Another MOU, signed by Laos Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Bounkham Vorachit and Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, strengthens cooperation in environmental management and protection, water resources and climate change. This will help in the exchange of knowledge and expertise, and create green growth opportunities for businesses.
An MOU on digital cooperation signed by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information in Singapore and Dr Santisouk Simmalavong, Laos Deputy Minister for Technology and Communications will cover areas such as data, digital government, cyber security, emerging technology, digital infrastructure and scams.
PM Phankham also met Singapore President Halimah Yacob who agreed there were many opportunities for them to deepen collaboration, including human resource development as well as promoting business and tourism links between the two nations. She also expressed Singapore’s continued support for Laos’ development and capacity building.
PM Lee also spoke about implementing a Singapore-Laos Enhanced Cooperation Package, which will include capacity-building programs geared towards supporting Laos’ Asean chairmanship in 2024. He observed that there are other areas like urban planning and logistics where both countries can collaborate.
“As fellow small states, we share an interest in maintaining regional peace and stability, and upholding an open and inclusive, rules-based multilateral system,” said PM Lee.
Laos students have also been welcome by Singapore to study under its Asean scholarships. Focusing on human capital development and people-to-people exchanges, Singapore has also hosted more than 15,000 officials from Laos through the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which marks its 30th anniversary in 2022.
At the event, PM Phankham said he and PM Lee have agreed unanimously on the future directions of bilateral cooperation, which will cover a wide range of areas and will be beneficial to both the countries.
He opined that high-ranking delegation visits and people-to-people interaction should happen on a regular basis to promote trade, investment and tourism, between Laos and Singapore.