Germany-Vietnam relations are strong and cover a wide range of issues. The Hanoi Times talks with Dr. Guido Hildner, Ambassador of Germany to Vietnam, to have a further understanding of the Strategic Partnership.
In 2021 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between Germany and Vietnam, and in 2020 the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations. During these years, relations between our countries have continuously developed and intensified. They cover a wide range of areas from politics to business and development to culture, education and science. Germany and Vietnam share many common interests and complement each other. How important cooperation is and how well it works can be seen in the current global challenges, which cannot be mastered by states alone, but only together. Examples are the fight against the Covid19 pandemic, climate protection and the commitment to the rules-based international order. Germany and Vietnam work closely together in these areas.
Relations between countries are not only determined by governments, but to a large extent by people. These give liveliness, permanence and depth to relationships. The Vietnamese community in Germany forms an important bridge between our countries. The community is well integrated and welcome in Germany. And it is growing. Germany offers attractive education and employment opportunities. Around 7,500 Vietnamese are currently studying in Germany. There are a number of scholarship programs. Germany has opened up to foreign skilled workers. This also results in interesting job opportunities for professionally qualified Vietnamese.
Of course, I am very happy that Germany has a good reputation in Vietnam. In all my meetings in the country, I encounter a warm welcome and generous hospitality. Incidentally, this also applies in the opposite direction. Vietnam is very popular in Germany. Germans look at Vietnam with a lot of recognition and sympathy and have great respect for the achievements of the Vietnamese. This mutual affection is a solid foundation of our friendship. This is how the friendship was able to survive the pandemic unscathed. We are all looking forward to the pandemic being over and face-to-face encounters being possible again.
Germany is represented by a large number of actors in Vietnam. The institutions you mentioned are just a few. There are more. These institutions make our partnership concrete, implement projects, and bring people together. They make a significant contribution to the substance, diversity and vitality of our relationship.
The Goethe Institute has two locations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is the central German cultural institute with a wide range of German language courses and an attractive cultural program. The “Deutsches Haus” (German House) is Germany's most prominent address in Ho Chi Minh City. It houses numerous German institutions, in particular German companies, including their associations. It is the seat of the Office of the Delegate of German Industry and Trade and of the German Business Association. The Vietnamese-German University in Binh Duong Province is an innovative lighthouse project that offers a range of attractive courses based on the German curriculum. In April 2021, the government agreement came into force, which puts the work of the university on a solid and sustainable basis.
Other institutions include the German Academic Exchange Service with a presence in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which plays a key role in cooperation in the fields of science and academic education. There are more than 170 cooperation projects between German and Vietnamese universities. In addition, there is the Central Office for Schools Abroad, which promotes German language teaching at Vietnamese schools. There is also a German school: the International German School Ho Chi Minh City (IGS). It is open to children of all nationalities and is an IB World School.
Finally, very important actors are the GIZ (“Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit” = Society for International Cooperation) and the KfW-Bank (“Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau” = Reconstruction Loan Corporation), which implement the extensive projects in the field of development cooperation. This also includes the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR). The political foundations should also be mentioned. Five of the six German political foundations have representative offices in Vietnam, which carry out various programs with different Vietnamese partners. These are: Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, Hanns-Seidel-Foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation. The political foundations reflect the diversity of political positions represented in the German Parliament. Their work complements the cooperation between the governments, e.g. within the framework of the rule of law dialogue. For many years, our governments have conducted this dialogue in which various questions concerning the rule of law including human rights are addressed. In addition, the German federal states are also very interested in Vietnam. Three of them have permanent representations here in the country: Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Since September 2021, Germany has donated more than 10 million vaccine doses to Vietnam. The last donation was made at the turn of the year in the amount of 4 million doses BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Germany has campaigned for a joint and solidarity-based response to Covid19, especially in a multilateral framework. Following the principle “No one is safe until everyone is safe”, Germany co-founded the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) coordination mechanism. As the second largest donor to ACT-A, Germany has made EUR2.2 billion available to date. Most of the support goes to the international vaccine platform COVAX, with part also being used for diagnostics and medicines against the disease. Vietnam also benefits from this.
In addition, Germany has donated high-tech medical equipment to Vietnam. In November 2021 alone, for example, I was able to hand over a shipment of over 75 ventilators, 15 monitors and 20,000 pulse oximeters worth about VND21 billion (EUR825,000).
What makes me particularly happy is that in Germany not only the federal government, but also other actors such as the federal states or private initiatives are involved in supporting Vietnam. Thanks to their commitment, further medical material could be delivered to Vietnam. These range from Covid test kits to special refrigerators.
The German-Vietnamese cooperation does not stop with these donations. Germany also supports Vietnam with specific COVID-related development projects within the framework of German Development Cooperation. This includes for instance the establishment of a pandemic prevention center. In May 2021, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) set up in Vietnam one of four new global centers for health and pandemic preparedness. This is intended to prevent and treat infectious diseases. Research staff is also to be recruited through a PhD program in experimental medicine, internships and scholarships. Clinical and non-clinical staff are trained through training workshops and specialist advanced training seminars.
The frigate “Bayern” visited Nha Rong port in Ho Chi Minh City from January 6 to January 9, 2022. This was the first visit of a German Navy ship to Vietnam. It was part of a seven-month training and presence cruise in the Indo-Pacific. The other stations of the journey were Pakistan, Australia, Guam, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka and India. Vietnam was chosen to be part of this trip because of our Strategic Partnership and because of a corresponding Vietnamese invitation. The visit demonstrates the high importance Germany attaches to the partnership with Vietnam.
With the broad-based voyage of the “Bayern” through the Indo-Pacific, Germany is responding to the growing importance of the region. The voyage is a concrete implementation of the German Indo-Pacific Policy Guidelines of 2020. One of the goals is to strengthen the international rules-based order. The maritime domain is regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. By sailing of the “Bayern”, Germany is underlining the universal validity of this convention and the importance of freedom of navigation. The passage through the South China Sea is a central part of the voyage.
In September 2020, the Federal Government has adopted its Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific, which substantiate and comprehensively express Germany’s commitment to the region. They are inclusive and comprehensive. Inclusive means that they are an offer to all countries in the region, and comprehensive means that they encompass all important fields of action. Seven policy areas are specifically named: strengthening multilateralism; tackling climate change and protecting the environment; strengthening peace, security and stability; promoting human rights and the rule of law; strengthening rules-based, fair and sustainable free trade; rules-based networking and the digital transformation of regions and markets; and bringing people together through culture, education and science.
Germany offers Vietnam cooperation in all of these areas. We would like to continue and intensify many of our previous projects and activities. This ranges from the rule of law dialogue between the governments to personal encounters and exchanges between people in both countries. A good focal area for future joint action is, for example, strengthening multilateralism and the international rules-based order. Another one is coping with climate change and managing energy transition.
An essential basis for peace and stability in the world is the cooperation of the states in the multilateral framework. This applies to the universal level. Here we think, for example, of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. And it also applies to the regional level. The European Union and ASEAN are among the important regional organizations. European integration is the most successful peace project on the European continent. This was recognized when the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. ASEAN is an indispensable anchor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region. This is currently evident in the Myanmar crisis, for example. ASEAN plays a central role here and bears great responsibility.
We want to support and strengthen ASEAN. The upgrading of the relationship between the EU and ASEAN to a strategic partnership expresses this and enables intensified cooperation. As a next goal, we are working towards a free trade agreement between the EU and ASEAN, which would bring prosperity gains to both regions. Germany and Vietnam are important members in their respective organizations and can make helpful contributions to ensure that the EU and ASEAN work together. This is shown by the fact that the strategic partnership was established during the Vietnamese ASEAN chairmanship and the German EU presidency.
There is no doubt that the partnership between Germany and Vietnam will continue to develop and intensify in the future. Take the economic sector for example. Last week I took part in the groundbreaking ceremony for a new manufacturing plant of the German company Tesa in Haiphong. This is an investment of around 55 million euros. Other prospective investors are waiting for the end of the pandemic-related travel restrictions to test their ideas on the ground. Over the last 25 years, more and more German companies have been investing in and trading with Vietnam. Among those companies are big brand names as well as many small and mid-size enterprises. About 350 German companies have built up an active presence in Vietnam, many of them with first class production sites. I am confident that this trend will continue.
This also applies to Trade. Trade was able to develop even during the pandemic. Bilateral trade between Germany and Vietnam in 2021 expanded by more than 13% compared to 2020 and even topped the figures of 2019 before COVID. Trade in goods between our two countries reached an overall volume last year of US$11.3 billion, goods worth $7.3 billion moving from Vietnam to Germany and goods worth $4 billion being traded from Germany to Vietnam. Certainly, the entry into force of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Vietnam on August 1, 2020 had a positive effect.
Another area is development policy. Germany and Vietnam have been working together in this field for many years. In the new German development policy strategy, Vietnam was classified as a global partner country. This further reinforces the importance of cooperation. The previous three thematic priorities of environmental protection, energy/climate and vocational training have proven to be the right choice and will be continued. Bilateral government negotiations on development cooperation took place in July 2021. Agreement was reached on the three core topics “Responsibility for our planet - climate and energy”, “Protection of our livelihoods - environment and natural resources” and “Training and sustainable growth for good jobs”. There are also projects on the initiative topics “Health/ Pandemic/ ONE HEALTH” and “Peace and Social Cooperation”. To this end, Germany is providing Vietnam with additional funds of over 140 million euros over the next two years.
We also want to strengthen cooperation in the cultural sector. As an example, I would like to mention Germany's longstanding commitment to the preservation of cultural monuments in Hue, which we intend to continue in the years to come.
Let me highlight two issues that I expect will be particularly important to our future relations. These are climate change and international peace and security.
Climate change poses enormous challenges for mankind. Vietnam set itself ambitious goals at the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Germany expressly welcomes this and is ready to support Vietnam in achieving these goals. The energy issue plays a key role. The expansion of renewable energies and the improvement of energy efficiency are crucially important.
The international rules-based order is the foundation of peace, security, development and prosperity for all of us. And yet it is questioned and challenged. Germany and Vietnam share the commitment to this order and are both working to maintain and strengthen it, for example with regard to multilateralism, the respect of international law, freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes. They were the initiators of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was founded in New York in July 2021 and which now has over 100 member states.
Thank you so much!