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Swiss offer trade expertise to Vietnam

Switzerland is hoping to help Vietnam construct a prosperous future. Seco

Swiss development aid to Vietnam is having a positive political and economic impact on the fast-growing southeast Asian country, according to government officials.

This content was published on August 29, 2003 - 20:05

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, underscored the importance of such cooperation during an annual development conference in Lausanne on Friday.

"Swiss investment can only bear fruit if our partner countries are ready to take on the challenges of development, change and transition," said Calmy-Rey during her speech at the conference.

"They must also share our vision for global stability, sustainable development, and human rights," she added.

Vietnam was the focal point of this year’s event, which was jointly organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).

A large delegation of Vietnamese officials, including the vice premier, Vu Khoan, attended the day-long conference, which attracted more than 1,500 participants.

“Vietnam is in the process of development but our country is still very poor,” Khoan told swissinfo. “That is why we need assistance from friendly countries like Switzerland.”

Renewed commitment

The SDC’s assistant director-general, Adrian Schläpfer, cited Vietnam’s success in reducing its poverty levels in half – from 58 per cent in 1992 to 29 per cent in 2001 – as a prime example of the kind of reforms that encourage foreign investment.

“Vietnam is one of our major partner countries and we wanted to affirm our commitment to the country during this event,” Schläpfer told swissinfo.

The policy environment in Vietnam is conducive to the kind of partnerships that we want… and we think we have things to offer, in the way of technical and intellectual know-how, that the Vietnamese are very receptive to,” he added.

Vietnam has been a priority country for Switzerland since 1995, with federal investment for development cooperation in the Mekong region totalling SFr18 million ($12.8 million) in 2003.

The bulk of that funding is directed towards developing urban governance and infrastructure, natural resource management and private sector development.

Global player

Helping Vietnam become better integrated into the world economy is also a top priority for Seco, which is lending its support to the country’s bid to become a member of the World Trade Organization.

According to Khoan, Swiss trade expertise has allowed Vietnam to make strides in opening up its export markets, as well as to become a more savvy player in the global economy.

“Switzerland has helped us integrate ourselves into the world economy and to know more about the international market and the rules of the game,” Khoan told swissinfo.

They are also helping us to prepare ourselves to join the WTO and we are very appreciative of this help,” he added.

During his visit to Switzerland, Khoan said he also hoped to attract more Swiss companies to start up operations in Vietnam.

He cited the food giant, Nestlé, and cement producer, Holcim, as examples of Swiss firms that have taken advantage of Vietnam’s “substantial human and natural resources”.

Global effort

Besides highlighting Vietnam’s successes and challenges, Friday’s conference also underscored Switzerland’s global commitment to development cooperation.

The Swiss government invests around SFr1.5 billion per year in combating poverty and promoting economic development in developing countries.

There are currently about 800 projects underway in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which are aimed at promoting themes such as HIV and Aids prevention, good governance, environmental protection and security.

“It is in the interest of all Swiss people to invest in development cooperation… And it is also in the interest of global security and well-being to support these types of projects,” said Calmy-Rey.

swissinfo, Anna Nelson, in Lausanne

Key facts

Vietnam is one of Switzerland's priority countries and will benefit from SFr18 million in federal assistance this year.
Private investment by Swiss companies and banks in Vietnam totalled SFr883 million in 2002.
The bulk of Swiss public financing in the Mekong region is directed towards projects involving the sustainable management of resources, global market integration and urban development.
Switzerland is the fourth-largest European investor in Vietnam after France, Britain and the Netherlands.

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