ASTANA, Kazakhstan - Singapore and Kazakhstan inked four agreements on Monday, including one that will give Singapore companies greater access to Kazakhstan’s service sectors and protect investors’ interests.
President Halimah Yacob and Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev jointly witnessed the signing of the services and investment agreement and three other deals at Akorda Palace, Kazakhstan's presidential office.
The legally binding agreement offers mutual benefits for businesses from both countries, which in turn will generate opportunities in a range of sectors, said Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on Monday.
It will allow Singapore companies seamless access into more than 15 services sectors in Kazakhstan such as specialised medical services, dental, interior design, urban planning and engineering, said MTI.
The agreement will also protect Singapore investors and companies in Kazakhstan from discriminatory treatment and illegal expropriation, among other things.
President Halimah, who is on a state visit to Kazakhstan, was received by President Tokayev at Akorda Palace. During a delegation meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed the warm and longstanding relations between both countries and agreed there was scope to expand collaboration in many areas including trade and investment, energy and logistics, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement.
Singapore will help train officials from five Central Asian countries in areas such as public administration, urban development and trade negotiations, under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked by MFA and Kazakhstan's Agency for International Development.
The MOU establishes the framework for a joint pilot programme for officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, said MFA.
On the economic front, Enterprise Singapore signed a cooperation agreement with the Astana International Financial Centre to help Singapore companies establish a presence in Kazakhstan, and also identify key private and public projects they can invest in.
EnterpriseSG also signed an MOU with the Joint-Stock Company Center for Trade Policy Development (QazTrade) to provide support for activities such as trade missions and study visits. The aim is to help Singapore companies in the urban solutions, logistics, consumer goods and infrastructure services sectors to explore business opportunities in Kazakhstan, said EnterpriseSG.
Located between Europe and Asia at the heart of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is Singapore's largest trading partner in Central Asia. In 2022, bilateral trade in goods totalled S$412.3 million, said EnterpriseSG.
There are currently more than 30 Singapore companies with a physical presence in Kazakhstan.
Enterprise Singapore deputy chief executive for global markets Tan Soon Kim said the governments of the two largest economies in Central Asia -- Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan -- are welcoming of foreign investments and cross-border partnerships in areas such as urban infrastructure, education, tech and innovation. President Halimah will visit Uzbekistan from Tuesday evening to Friday.
"Singapore companies can offer innovative products and services to meet the growing consumer demand in both markets and also consider partnerships that strengthen transport and logistics connectivity as well as urban solutions and infrastructure in the region," said Tan.
Prior to the signings, President Halimah laid a wreath at the Monument of the Motherland Defenders and was accorded a state welcome ceremony at Akorda Palace.
President Tokayev hosted a state luncheon in her honour, and President Halimah will be hosted to dinner by Kazakhstan Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov.
President Halimah was also presented with the Order of Dostyk (Friendship) of the First Class, a token of friendship that was also presented to Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 2012. In a Facebook post, she said it is a testament to the strong friendship between both countries.
She also welcomed the plans by Air Astana to launch direct flights to Singapore in future, which would facilitate more business and tourist traffic.
At a business forum held at The St Regis Astana, Madam Halimah highlighted the services and investment agreement, which is a key component of the free trade agreement between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union.
"Together with the upcoming ratification of the Bilateral Investment Treaty which was signed in 2018, I am confident that these agreements will strengthen economic ties between Singapore and Kazakhstan," she said.
In an increasingly complex and challenging global environment, Singapore continues to seek and be open to new partners and businesses, she said, adding there is scope to expand the economic partnership between the two countries.
She noted that Singapore companies have successfully ventured into Kazakhstan in a variety of sectors including master planning, logistics, digital connectivity, e-governance, and capacity building.
During the trip, close to 20 MOUs will be inked between Singapore companies, such as PSA International, Surbana Jurong and Wilmar International, and their Kazakh partners to further opportunities within the Kazakh market, she said.
Around 20 representatives from Singapore-based companies attended the forum. THE STRAITS TIMES
Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.