Vietnam, Germany tighten strategic partnership

14:35 | 23/06/2017 MUTRAP Corner

(VEN) - Vietnam Economic News’ My Phung spoke with Andreas Siegel, German Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, about achievements in multifaceted cooperation between Vietnam and Germany on the threshold of G20 Summit, which is to take place this coming July in Germany hosting a Vietnamese representative.  

Andreas Siegel, German Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City

Could you highlight major achievements in cooperation between Germany and Vietnam over the past more than four decades of diplomatic relations and six years of strategic partnership?

Germany and Vietnam have developed very strong ties over the past few decades: Many Vietnamese live in Germany; there are approximately 100,000 German-speakers in Vietnam. Since 2011, we have been engaged in a strategic partnership with a concrete agenda to implement common projects, in particular so-called “lighthouse projects”, among them: Deutsches Haus (German House), establishment of a bilateral Chamber of Commerce, the International German School in Ho Chi Minh City (IGS), the Vietnamese-German University (VGU), Metro line 2 (first tender exercise is under way).

There is also a long-standing German-Vietnamese development cooperation with an overall volume of more than US$2 billion since 1990, the current two-year program 2015-17 having an overall volume of 220 million EUR (almost US$240 million). The agreed priorities are vocational training, environment/coastal protection, and energy (energy efficiency/renewable energies).

How important is the economic relation between the two countries?

The economic and commercial ties are very significant and have steadily grown over the past few years. Germany is the strongest European trading partner of Vietnam. More than 300 German companies are operating in Vietnam, 220 of which are members of the German Business Association (GBA). Apart from the Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, there are also other institutional actors which promote our economic and commercial relations. These are the Delegation of the German Industry and Commerce in Vietnam (GIC/AHK) and the agency “German Trade and Invest (GTAI)”. The German and Vietnamese governments agreed to establish a binational Chamber of Commerce. I hope that the ongoing negotiations can be finalized before the forthcoming visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Germany in July 2017. With further trade liberalization, we expect further growth of our bilateral trade relations, in particular through the EU-Vietnam Free Trade agreement, due to be ratified in 2018.

Education and vocational training are one of major pillars of bilateral cooperation. Could you tell about impressive results the two countries have achieved?

For our mutual benefit, we are active in consolidating German as a (second) foreign language in Vietnamese schools. Successful students can later apply for a scholarship (from the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD) to study in Germany. In 2016, we had more than 600 Vietnamese and around 300 German participants in academic exchange programs. In education, there are two “lighthouse projects”: one is the International German School Ho Chi Minh City - IGS, in District 2, the other one is the Vietnamese-German University - VGU, in Binh Duong (currently 1,200 students), both with German teaching staff and steadily increasing numbers of students.

Concerning German as a foreign language, a breakthrough agreement was concluded in 2013 which officially established German as a foreign language at Vietnamese schools. Since 2016 an agreed curriculum guarantees that high teaching standards are implemented throughout the country.

Currently, there are about 3,000 students learning German at secondary schools with professional German support.

Another priority area of cooperation is vocational training: Since 2014 Germany has supported the program “Reform of vocational training in Vietnam”, taking advantage of the century-long experience of the successful dual vocational model in Germany. As a pilot project, the Delegation of German Industry and Trade/Chamber of Commerce, the professional training center “Lilama II” and the German technology company Bosch recently completed the first cycle of a German-certified technical industrial apprenticeship program, opening up numerous attractive job opportunities for their highly skilled graduates. Still, there is even more progress needed in promoting dual vocational training in order to satisfy the increasing needs and demands of Vietnamese industry in the next few years.

Governmental negotiations on development cooperation on May 17-18 in Berlin, Germany

What do you think about job opportunities for Vietnamese nurses to attend a training course in Germany? How can the program attract more Vietnamese students/nurses?

Demographic change and an ageing population in Germany have triggered the idea of attracting young, motivated and skilled health workers and nurses from Vietnam to fill gaps in this sector of the German labour market.

This is a complementary model: for Vietnamese citizens to receive good professional training and for Germany to supply the sector with a qualified workforce. This cooperation between the German Federal Economics Ministry and the Department of Overseas Labour (DOLAB) has been in place since 2013. Annually, about 100 candidates are chosen to undertake a 13-month language training course in Vietnam as a pre-requisite for a 2-3 year (paid) professional training course in Germany. In addition to the official cooperation, there are also a number of private organizations which operate in this sector.

Some of them charge illegal placement fees and do not sufficiently communicate the key professional and linguistic requirements. It is highly recommended to seek advice from official authorities (Embassy, Consulate General, MOLISA, DOLAB) to avoid deceptions and as a result, disappointment. The key issue and precondition for a successful application for this programme is a preparatory high-level German language training (so-called “B2-level”) and professional qualifications in order to be able to communicate sufficiently with the patients and to acquire specific skills necessary for the German health system. More information is available on the websites of the German Embassy and the Consulate General.

Cultural exchange is a good link for people of the two countries to understand more about each other. In your opinion, how can this connection be further promoted?

Decades ago, many Vietnamese went to study in Germany. Many returnees from Germany live and work in Vietnam and help to foster mutual understanding. As an example: During the visit of the former Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and new President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Consulate General organized a cultural evening at the Saigon Opera where German-Vietnamese artists combined elements of the two cultures as well as aspects of tradition and modernity.

This lively intercultural exchange was also recently demonstrated during the “Deutschlandfest” which was held on 22 April at the Saigon Zoo and where German songs were performed in a Vietnamese setting or with traditional Vietnamese instruments. Another example was last year’s workshop of the Berlin-based street–art group “Tape That”.

We also intend to strengthen cooperation with alumni of different academic or professional exchange programs and to take advantage of incoming delegations to promote our bilateral relationship in all fields. One upcoming highlight will be the official opening of the German House which is set to become a hub and focal point of German institutions, companies, and bilateral projects and initiatives.

My Phung