On the occasion of the 1st of August, the National Day of Switzerland, it is my great pleasure to highlight the strength and diversity of the relations between Switzerland and Viet Nam.
|A beautiful relationship: Geneva, Switzerland, sits at the tip of crescent-shaped Lake Geneva and enjoys a view of the majestic peaks of the French Alps. — Photos courtesy Switzerland Embassy
Swiss national day is only just over a century old but the event it commemorates took place 721 years ago, and at the heart of the celebrations is a custom which doubtless goes back into the mists of time: the lighting of bonfires.
The day was chosen because 1st August 1291 was the date on which three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation, an act which later came to be regarded as the foundation of Switzerland.
The representatives of Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri met on the Rutli field, high above Lake Lucerne, to swear a bond of brotherhood, and agree to act jointly if their freedoms were threatened by outside aggressors.
The achievements between our two countries are manifold and exemplify the excellent bilateral relations which began 41 years ago. Switzerland established diplomatic relations with Viet Nam in October 1971, as the second western country after Sweden. It was during war time, but was motivated by the aim to promote dialogue and friendship.
The relations between the two countries have grown steadily since then: besides our economic ties we are fortunate to have thriving exchanges between our academic institutions.
On 19 September 2012 the 2nd Vietnamese - Swiss Forum on Higher Education will take place in Ho Chi Minh City, this time with the presence of Swiss companies operating in Viet Nam which are willing to explore public-private co-operation opportunities between universities and themselves.
Switzerland also maintains a political dialogue with Viet Nam which focuses on particular areas, and we can say that there has been a significant number of diplomatic visits of political or economic decision makers between the two countries in recent years.
Since the early 1990s, Switzerland has been actively supporting Viet Nam in its transition and development process through bilateral and multilateral co-operation, aimed at alleviation of poverty through sustainable economic growth.
With regard to economic co-operation and development, Viet Nam has been a priority country of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) of Switzerland since 2009.
SECO activities therefore comprise supporting stable macro-economic framework conditions, strengthening the financial sector infrastructure, enabling the business and trade environment, supporting small and medium sized enterprises and improving the basic infrastructure, for example in the field of waste water treatment.
Swiss Trading Houses were in fact established in Hai Phong and Sai Gon at the end of the 19th century. Today, more than 120 years later, the trade turnover between Switzerland and Viet Nam has reached US$1.4 billion, which was the figure for 2011.
Major products that Viet Nam imports from Switzerland are machines and pharmaceutical/chemical products. Viet Nam's major export products to Switzerland are gold and jewelry, agricultural products, shoes and textiles.
It goes without saying that the conclusion of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Viet Nam and EFTA (the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) will further enhance and deepen trade relations between Viet Nam and Switzerland.
These negotiations were officially launched on the 3rd of July 2012 in Ha Noi.
According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Swiss investments in Viet Nam amounted to almost $2 billion by the end of 2011.
This makes Switzerland the 4th largest European investor and the 19th largest foreign investor worldwide in Viet Nam.
Swiss companies are well-known for good quality investments and they usually successfully realise the investment projects for which they have been granted licences.
Despite the current difficult macroeconomic situation in Viet Nam and despite the less favourable business climate in recent times, Swiss companies are planning considerable further investments in the country. — VNS