Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam Ivo Sieber: Tet ‘a magical time’ of Vietnamese

Talked with The World & Viet Nam Report, Ambassador of Switzerland to Viet Nam Ivo Sieber had shed light on the bilateral relations and his impression of Tet in Viet Nam.
(01.21) Đại sứ Thụy Sỹ tại Việt Nam Ivo Sieber. (Nguồn: Đại sứ quán Thụy Sỹ tại Việt Nam)
Ambassador of Switzerland to Viet Nam Ivo Sieber. (Source: The Embassy of Switzerland in Viet Nam)

Could you share some impressions on developments of Viet Nam – Switzerland bilateral relations in 2021 as both countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties? What are your expectations of bilateral cooperation in 2022?

The past year offered multiple opportunities to strengthen diplomatic ties and enhance the dynamic cooperation between our two countries despite the COVID-19 related complexities. I feel fortunate and I am proud that we were able jointly to accomplish key milestones during our Swiss-Vietnamese jubilee year.

The two high-level visits, which took place both in Switzerland and Viet Nam - the visit of Swiss Vice-President Ignazio Cassis to Ha Noi in early August followed by the visit of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Berne in late November 2021 – were both successful and very valuable. They enabled decision-makers from both our countries to deepen our friendship and the excellent relations we share. At the same time these visits allowed to bring forward key issues of mutual interests such as our economic relations or the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement.

Among many activities, Vice-President Cassis during his visit to Ha Noi officially launched the new 4-year phase of our economic cooperation program with Viet Nam.

In October, the Vietnamese Embassy in Berne organized the “Vietnam Days” in Switzerland which I was honored to participate in. On our side, we organized several events, such as the launch of our commemorative year in March, co-produced the mini opera of “A Soldier’s Tale” written by Swiss author Ferdinand Ramuz or illuminated the Landmark81 building in Ho Chi Minh City with our anniversary logo on the occasion of the Swiss National Day.

In August 2021, at the height of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Viet Nam, Switzerland supported the Vietnamese people with humanitarian assistance worth VND 126 billion to meet the most urgent needs and as a sign of solidarity in the common fight against the pandemic.

In November, I participated in the inauguration and hand-over to the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam (DAV) of the “Geneva Conference Room”. Personally, I am very attached to this conference room, which will stay as a reminder of our diplomatic anniversary. Even more importantly, it will serve as a vibrant part of the DAV, offering a platform to meet and exchange ideas for its students, academics and visiting dignitaries. I feel thankful to the DAV for the great collaboration and strongly believe the so-called “Geneva spirit” aimed at fostering constructive problem-solving and peaceful inclusive discussions, has now found its best possible home here in Viet Nam.

“I feel fortunate and I am proud that we were able jointly to accomplish key milestones during our Swiss-Vietnamese jubilee year.”

Ambassador of Switzerland to Viet Nam Ivo Sieber

We took advantage of this special year to the best extent possible: We not only looked back at our rich common story, but also projected into the future by trying to see where we can enter new paths and how we can support each other better in addressing today’s key challenges, from maintaining peace in the world to effectively responding to pandemic- and climate change-related challenges.

For 2022, I expect our relations to further intensify especially in the economic field. Trade and investment are the biggest drivers of our cooperation and will assume added importance and hopefully dynamism for the post-Covid recovery.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Viet Nam commonly benefitted from a surplus in our annual trade. In 2020, the balance in Viet Nam’s favor amounted to over USD 2 billion (VND 50 trillion). With more than 100 Swiss companies present and some 20,000 jobs created in Viet Nam, Swiss direct investments currently amount to over USD 2 billion (VND 50 trillion).

However, room exists for far more. As a reference: within ASEAN, Switzerland ranks as the 9th most important foreign investor, while in Viet Nam my country is so far positioned at 19th place. The early conclusion of a progressive free trade agreement (FTA) between Viet Nam and the “European Free Trade Association EFTA” (comprising Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) would be a boost to investment flows.

Moreover, it would bolster the potential for increased bilateral economic cooperation, offering new export opportunities for businesses in Viet Nam and among the EFTA countries. An institutionalized framework, predictable laws and independent judicial mechanisms are key considerations for Swiss investors venturing abroad.

Other areas of cooperation that Switzerland and Viet Nam will focus on include development, education, research, science and innovation. Based on a three-decade old joint experience, the Swiss Government continues its development cooperation partnership with Viet Nam. The current 4-year cooperation strategy by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO focuses on promoting market-oriented and reliable economic framework conditions and enhancing the private sector’s competitiveness and market access.

From 2021 onwards, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Viet Nam’s National Foundation for Science and Technology Development (NAFOSTED) for the first time jointly support 10 teams of Swiss and Vietnamese researchers carrying out projects in a vast range of disciplines. There is interest from the Swiss side to expand our cooperation in the field or research and education even more.

Last but not least, Switzerland aspires to become a non-permanent member in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2023-24 with the elections being held in June of this year. After Viet Nam’s successful recent Security Council membership, this also opens up possibilities for more cooperation towards strengthening multilateralism and the respect of international law. These are vital principles for our two countries’ prosperity.

(01.21) Đại sứ Thụy Sỹ tại Việt Nam Ivo Sieber và Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao Việt Nam Bùi Thanh Sơn bắt tay trước Phòng Hội thảo Geneva tại Học viện Ngoại giao. (Nguồn: Đại sứ quán Thụy Sỹ tại Việt Nam)
Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son shook hands with Ambassador of Switzerland to Viet Nam Ivo Sieber in front of the Geneva Conference Room at the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam. (Source: The Switzerland Embassy in Viet Nam)

This is going to be your third Tet in Viet Nam. Is there anything you would like to explore? Is there anything you would like to say to the Vietnamese people?

Of course! Tet is such a magical time in Viet Nam where families and friends get together, remember their ancestors and their traditions and celebrate the spirit of hope and new beginnings. I personally enjoy this wonderful atmosphere, the tangible excitement leading up to the Tet holiday, the delightful colors, scents and tastes associated with it, and the possibility to wind down and have extensive quality time with family and friends.

I will spend this year’s Tet in Ha Noi and savor the city’s serene yet festive ambience. I will most certainly walk and bicycle around Hoan Kiem lake, the old town and along the Red River shores. I will also visit some temples to fully get into the spirit and start the New Year inspired and invigorated.

I sincerely hope and wish that the Year of the Tiger will bring the best of health, great happiness, prosperity and resounding success to Viet Nam and all its people!

Chúc mừng năm mới!

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Minh Quan