Vietnam, Switzerland boost trade, investment relations

10:15 | 28/02/2019 MUTRAP Corner

(VEN) - Vietnam Economic News’ Thanh Thanh recently spoke with Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland Pham Hai Bang about Vietnamese-Swiss trade, tourism and investment relations on the occasion of the Lunar year, the Year of the Pig.

vietnam switzerland boost trade investment relations
Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland Pham Hai Bang

Could you tell us about the Vietnamese-Swiss relationship?

The Vietnamese-Swiss relationship has been growing well in different fields. High-ranking leaders of the two countries have regularly held official or working visits. The two sides coordinate on international forums, especially those within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and Francophonie.

In 2017, during his visit to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met Doris Leuthard who was then Swiss President. (Doris Leuthard resigned her post as President in early 2018). During her visit to Hanoi in April 2018 as head of the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, the two countries signed an air transport agreement. Under the agreement, the Swiss airline Edelweiss Air launched direct flights between Zurich and Vietnam’s southern hub - Ho Chi Minh City in November 2018 to facilitate tourism, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries.

Switzerland supports Vietnam’s candidacy for the 2020-2021 tenure of the United Nations Security Council, while Vietnam supports Switzerland’s candidacy for the 2023-2024 tenure. Department heads of the two foreign ministries have implemented political and human rights reference mechanisms on an annual basis.

What are the major achievements in bilateral investment and trade?

Swiss businesses have invested almost US$2 billion through 138 projects in Vietnam, ranking Switzerland 18th among countries and territories investing in Vietnam. While leading Swiss corporations have invested in Vietnam, small to medium-sized Swiss companies are also highly interested in such investment.

Big Swiss agricultural names in Vietnam include Nestlé, Tetra Pak, Bucher and Syngenta. These innovation pioneers have contributed to branding and improving the image of many Vietnamese agricultural products in foreign markets. Major Swiss banks such as Credit Suisse and UBS are researching business opportunities in Vietnam, which could introduce new steps in service development in accordance with the two countries’ orientations.

Bilateral trade has grown 8-10 percent per annum in recent years to reach US$2.03 billion in 2017, and grew a further 7.5 percent in 2018. Vietnam has exported more than it imported in recent years.

Vietnam is one of the eight prioritized beneficiaries of Swiss development aid. Switzerland plans to provide Vietnam with US$92 million in official development assistance (ODA) from now to 2020 for sustainable development, environmental protection and administrative reform.

How do the direct flights between Vietnam and Switzerland impact bilateral tourism cooperation?

Vietnam attracted about 30,000 Swiss visitors per annum in recent years. Direct flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Zurich began in November 2018, and are expected to contribute greatly to tourism and trade development cooperation.

Swiss in particular, and Europeans in general, are finding Vietnam’s famous destinations increasingly accessible and attractive. Switzerland has been strongly promoting Vietnam’s major attractions including Hanoi - the capital, Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc Island, the old town of Hoi An, Da Nang, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, the ancient capital of Hue, and Ha Long Bay to help attract more European visitors to Vietnam.

vietnam switzerland boost trade investment relations
Alphorn, a traditional Swiss musical instrument at the ceremony to welcome the first direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Zurich in November 2018 at Zurich International Airport

Could you tell us about the Vietnamese community in Switzerland?

There are more than 15,000 Vietnamese residing in Switzerland, mostly in Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne, and Basel. Most Vietnamese have stable jobs and Swiss nationality. Many of them have their own businesses. Although they have seen their third generation growing in Switzerland, Vietnamese Swiss have tended to educate their children about their fatherland culture.

More than 5,000 Vietnamese in Switzerland do not have Swiss nationality, most of them students, doctoral and master’s degree course participants, university lecturers, and young people working for such international groups as YouTube and Google. About 700-800 Vietnamese go to study in Switzerland every year.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Switzerland holds community activities for Vietnamese Swiss annually, especially on the occasion of the traditional Lunar New Year.

Thanh Thanh