Ladies and Gentlemen, and dear friends,
Welcome everybody! Welcome to a little bit of Switzerland in Vietnam.
I am in Vietnam for the first time in my life, and just for a few hours. But I can already say that I like it very much. I feel that the people here are looking to the future. You can feel a sort of “smile to the future” here.
The consulate general that we open today is also a “smile to the future”. It is located in the tallest building of Ho Chi Minh City. It is tall like a Swiss mountain. But despite its height, it has to remain close to the people and their needs, down to earth.
The Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City reflects the development and the growing importance of the relations between our two countries. This “upgrade” within our diplomatic network is amply warranted given the significance of Ho Chi Minh City as one of the major economic hubs in Southeast Asia.
The history of the Swiss presence in Vietnam is already an old one. It goes back to the nineteenth century, when Swiss trading companies were established in this region.
Their presence led to the opening of the first Swiss Consulate in Saigon in 1926. With the reunification of Vietnam, the representation in Saigon was closed in 1975.
Today, we come back and we mark a new step in the economic heart of Vietnam. This new representation will boost our economic exchanges. It will support Swiss companies aiming to trade and invest in Vietnam. It will help create jobs and improve lives.
To date, Swiss companies have already invested a lot. Some 80 Swiss companies are active in Vietnam, employing more than 15,000 people. More than 60 of these companies are operating in Ho Chi Minh City and neighbouring provinces.
Some of them have set their own vocational training programmes and are thereby making a significant contribution to the Vietnamese economy. Switzerland has a strong and extensive tradition of vocational education which was a key to our economic success in the past and remains so to this day. I am happy that Swiss companies are creating such opportunities for young Vietnamese too.
That is for today. And for tomorrow there is great potential, if we succeed in negotiating a free trade agreement with Vietnam.
Either way, we will build a future based on a story of partnership. Vietnam and Switzerland are longstanding partners. We have entertained diplomatic relations since 1971. And the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been active in Vietnam for more than 20 years. Vietnam is one priority country for our economic development cooperation in Southeast Asia. And we focus on fields where Switzerland is most able to share expertise and develop true human stories.
Such human stories between Vietnam and Switzerland are not new. Let me recall one of them that took place more than 100 years ago: the story of a physician, whose name was Alexandre Yersin. Yersin spent most of his life in this country, carried out important research on different illnesses, developed treatments and brought several agricultural innovations to this country – such as the rubber tree, which is still cultivated in Vietnam today.
That story also laid the intellectual foundation for our cooperation in the field of science and research, which involves existing as well as new and promising co-operation projects between Vietnamese and Swiss universities, public institutes and initiatives undertaken by private companies.
Ladies and Gentlemen
This Consulate General opens the way for more human stories. Last year about 30,000 Swiss nationals visited Vietnam and around 1,000 Vietnamese tourists travelled to Switzerland. There is clear potential here.
Many of you here are living such a human story between Switzerland and Vietnam. Many of you have personal links to this country; many of you share professional skills with Vietnamese people and contribute to the development of your host country.
With this new Consulate General, with this new “Swiss house” in Vietnam, we are strengthening your link and your gateway to Switzerland. We are here to help and this is a place where you will feel at home
My special thanks go to Mr Beat Waefler. He has held the function of Honorary Consul of Switzerland for twenty years with great dedication and competence. I would like to extend to you my appreciation and my gratitude for your outstanding work.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Swiss presence in Vietnam and in Ho Chi Minh City in particular is being strengthened because Switzerland believes in the great potential of Vietnam and its people. We support our Swiss community, which is building bridges to bring our two countries and cultures closer together.
I would like to end by expressing my wish for strong, extensive, friendly relations between Vietnam and Switzerland and for the well-being of the people of our two countries.
Sin cam ön
Address by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter: Opening of the new Swiss consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), 02.06.2015 - Address by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter on the occasion of the opening of the new Swiss consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City - Check against delivery
Speaker: Didier Burkhalter
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