The earliest Swiss-Vietnamese relations reach back into the second half of the nineteenth century. During these early days, the Swiss presence in the region was mainly of economic nature, and consisted of some Swiss trading companies active in the region. Nevertheless, their presence also allowed the establishment of certain official ties from Bern to Indochina later on, resulting in 1926 in the opening of the first Swiss Consulate in former Saigon (nowadays Ho Chi Minh City), the then economic centre of the region. This was followed by the opening of a Consular Agency in the country’s northern seaport of Haiphong in 1935.
Certainly, the relations between Switzerland and Vietnam have not always been easy for either side: after the end of World War II, the whole of Indochina began to free itself from foreign rule, and began to form sovereign nations. In particular, the partition between North and South Vietnam, and the extended absence of a clear and stable regulation due to conflicting foreign and domestic interests, complicated Bern’s relation to the region, and challenged Switzerland’s neutral foreign policy.
During the troubled 1960s, Switzerland experienced an uncomfortable imbalance in its relations with partitioned Vietnam. The Consular Agency in Haiphong had closed in 1955, and the Consulate in Saigon remained the sole Swiss presence in Vietnam. Based on continued informal relations, a rapprochement between Switzerland and the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North) led to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971. One year later, this was implemented by the formal opening of the first Swiss Embassy in Hanoi. The changing circumstances in the region provoked a considerable shift of diplomatic priorities, and the Swiss presence in southern Vietnam was abandoned by the end of 1975.
During the 1970s and 1980s, relations between Bern and Hanoi remained friendly, but kept a rather low and formal profile. It is only at the end of the 1980s that fundamental changes in both Europe and Vietnam allowed an intensified political and economic contact, leading to the reopening of the Embassy of Switzerland in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi in 1990 (after having been closed down in the mid-1980s), and the opening of the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in Bern in 2000.
Nowadays, the bilateral relations between Switzerland and Vietnam are very good and stable. Vietnam has been a major beneficiary of Swiss development cooperation since 1992, and has been the recipient of many Swiss foreign investments. Political relations are free of tensions. Switzerland has a good image in Vietnam, partly due to its long-lasting commitment to peace, which, for example, created the basis for the Conference on Indochina in Geneva in 1954.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, both Switzerland and Vietnam have actively promoted the conclusion of many bilateral treaties focussing on development cooperation and economy.
Hence, the two countries have concluded a large number of bilateral treaties and agreements, including an air transport agreement (1979), an agreement for the promotion and protection of investments (1992), an agreement on trade and economic cooperation (1993), two agreements on the granting of a mixed financing (1993 and 2002), a Convention for the avoidance of double taxation (1996), a framework agreement on technical and financial cooperation (2001), and others.
Later, Switzerland and Vietnam have again deepened their relations with the conclusion of a bilateral agreement on market access in the framework of Vietnam’s accession process to the WTO (August 2005), and an agreement between the two countries on child adoptions (December 2005), an agreement on readmission (2006), and a new civil aviation agreement (2018).
List of important bilateral visits and meetings since 2015
Meeting between the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann, and the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Tran Dai Quang, at the 16th Summit of the Francophonie in Madagascar
Official visit of the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Mrs. Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen in Vietnam and Celebration of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Vietnam
Official visit of the Vice – Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, Mrs. Tong Thi Phong in Bern
Meeting between the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc and the Federal Councillor, Mr Schneider-Ammann at the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Courtesy meeting between the Vice President of Vietnam, Mrs. Dang Thi Ngoc Trinh and the President of Swiss Confederation, Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann in Bern
Meeting between the Federal Councillor, Mr Schneider-Ammann and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Pham Binh Minh at the Spring Meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions in Washington, D.C., U.S.A
Meeting between the Federal Councillor, Mr Schneider-Ammann and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Vu Van Ninh in Bern
Meeting between the Federal Councillor, Mr Didier Burkhalter and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi
Meeting between the Federal Councillor, Mr Didier Burkhalter and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Hoang Trung Hai in Hanoi
Meeting between the Federal Councillor, Mr Schneider-Ammann and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Pham Binh Minh at the WEF in Davos