Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis in Vietnam: political talks focused on strengthening trade relations

Bern, 05.08.2021 - Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis met the vice president, prime minister, foreign minister and three other members of the Vietnamese government. In the talks, Mr Cassis called for a speedy conclusion to negotiations on the free trade agreement between EFTA and Vietnam. He also stressed the importance of Switzerland–Vietnam diplomatic relations which go back 50 years. Vietnam is Mr Cassis' last stop on a 6-day tour of South East Asia which also included visits to Thailand and Laos.

Mr Cassis paid a courtesy visit to the new Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and met Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son to review the good relations between Switzerland and Vietnam that have been built up over 50 years. . Trade matters also topped the agenda of talks between Mr Cassis and the Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, the Minister of Industry and Trade, and the Minister of Planning and Investment.

Supporting Vietnam in the fight against the pandemic
The Covid 19 pandemic is also hitting Vietnam hard. Federal Councillor Cassis announced at the meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart that Switzerland will send CHF 5 million in aid to Vietnam next week. The delivery of Swiss Humanitarian Aid is to include 13 tonnes of medical material, including respirators, as well as antigen tests and protective masks.

Objective: concluding negotiations on the free trade agreement
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Switzerland is a member, has been negotiating a free trade agreement with Vietnam since 2012. EFTA member states are seeking a comprehensive modern agreement and Mr Cassis affirmed Switzerland's willingness to work with Vietnam on concluding the negotiations.  "Having entered into free trade agreements with the EU and the UK, an agreement with EFTA would present an opportunity for Vietnam to cement its trade relations in Europe," he said. Provided market access is granted, Vietnam offers big potential to Swiss companies. Roughly a hundred Swiss companies are currently operating in Vietnam.

Swiss economic development cooperation
Switzerland has provided CHF 600 million in funding over the past 30 years and thus made a significant contribution to Vietnam's economic development. Vietnam was one of the SDC's priority countries for a number of years. SECO has actively supported development programmes in Vietnam since 2016 and recently reaffirmed its commitment to providing a further CHF million for the 2021–24 period. Vietnam has achieved significant advances in the past few years. "We wish to help Vietnam in its efforts towards sustainable development," noted Mr Cassis following his meeting with the Vietnamese ministers. 

Sharing experiences relating to the UN Security Council
Vietnam has been stepping up its multilateral engagement over a number of years and is serving for the second time as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020–21 period. In 2022 Switzerland is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council for the first time for the 2023–24 period under the banner 'A Plus For Peace'. Mr Cassis took the opportunity to discuss Switzerland's candidacy and Vietnam's recent experiences with Mr Bui Thanh Son.

Vietnam is Mr Cassis' last stop on a 6-day tour of South East Asia which also included visits to Thailand and Laos. Mr Cassis was accompanied on his trip by Céline Vara, who is a member of the Council of States and its Foreign Affairs Committee, and by Laurent Wehrli, who is a member of the National Council's Foreign Affairs Committee and of the board of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad.

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