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2021 also marks the 30th anniversary of ongoing Swiss-Vietnamese cooperation in support of Vietnam’s socio-economic development towards a modern and thriving country.

50 Years of Swiss-Vietnamese Bilateral Relations in 2021
Formal diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Vietnam were established in 1971. Ever since, the friendly ties between the two countries have grown and expanded across a wide spectrum. Already in the second half of the 19th century, Swiss trading companies were active in the region, and Swiss consular agencies were temporarily established in Haiphong and Saigon, close to maritime ports. In 1954, Switzerland as neutral country hosted the Geneva Conference.
In 1973, the first Swiss Embassy in Ha Noi started work in a small office in the Metropole Hotel. Initial cooperation was dominated by Swiss development and humanitarian aid. 2021 also marks the 30th anniversary of ongoing Swiss-Vietnamese cooperation in support of Vietnam’s socio-economic development towards a modern and thriving country.
• 30 years of Swiss support to sustainable human development in Vietnam
The Swiss Government has so far disbursed - via its different agencies in charge of development and economic cooperation as well as humanitarian aid - over CHF 600 million (nearly VND 15 trillion) to support Vietnam’s development. The initial focus of Swiss development cooperation in Vietnam until 2016 was very much on reducing poverty - via support to rural development, local governance, citizen’s participation and access to justice. 
Since then, the focus has shifted to the promotion of reliable and coherent business conditions in Vietnam and the support of Vietnamese small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs)’ capacities to comply with international standards and do business internationally. Steady transversal issues have been and remain inclusivity and sustainability. Swiss humanitarian support is also an ongoing feature, with assistance last offered to flood victims of Central Vietnam after the storms and cyclones in autumn of 2020.
• Cooperation for a strong multilateral system and peaceful world
Swiss engagement in mediation and peace-building has been a longstanding feature of the country’s foreign policy, supported by international Geneva as city of peace and host of several UN organizations. Both countries are active UN members and share a keen interest in the respect of international law. Both countries are also ready to work together in international mediation and peace-building, where- and whenever conditions for such interventions are favourable. Vietnam’s experience as current non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (2021-22) is particularly interesting for Switzerland, which is a candidate to such a seat in 2023-24.
• Economic cooperation
In both countries, the private sector is the key driver in advancing economic prosperity. Since Vietnam’s Doi Moi opening, trade between the two countries has steadily grown. Swiss exports to Vietnam mainly consist of chemical and pharmaceutical products, followed by machinery and precision instruments. Vietnamese exports to Switzerland are dominated by precious metal exports and electronics, as well as footwear and textiles. 
More importantly, investments have also started to flow, mainly from Switzerland to Vietnam: currently, the stock of Swiss direct investments in Vietnam is CHF 1.6 billion (over VND 40 trillion). It is estimated that these investments have created some 20’000 jobs in different sectors, such as construction, food processing, pharmaceutical, logistics and IT. Switzerland remains one of the world’s largest economies with sizable and high-quality investment capital. For example, Switzerland is the 7th most important foreign investor in the USA. In Vietnam, it is among the important European ones. 
There is potential for expansion taking into account Vietnam’s growth trajectory. Over 100 Swiss companies are currently present in Vietnam. Among them, there are important multinational corporations, such as ABB,Nestlé, Novartis, Roche, Schindler, Swiss Re and others.Since 2012, negotiations are ongoing for a Free Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member. Both sides share the hope for an early conclusion of a progressive and modern agreement, giving a further boost to bilateral economic relations.
• Cooperation in education, science and innovation
Cooperation in the fields of education, science and innovation is one of the expanding areas. Several Swiss universities entertain relations with Vietnamese tertiary education institutions, incl. in popular areas such as hospitality management. Each year, young Vietnamese researchers who have completed a master’s degree or PhD compete for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. 
Since last year, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and its Vietnamese counterpart, The National Foundation for Science and Technology(NAFOSTED)newly support joint research projects undertaken by Swiss-Vietnamese teams. A first call, launched in last October, may fund up to 10 projects, co-supported by a Swiss financial contribution up to CHF 2.5 million (over VND 62 billion).

DIEP NGUYEN