The already close relations between the two countries were given fresh momentum by German Bundestag President Lammert’s most recent visit to Vietnam in March 2015 and the visit to Germany by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in November 2015. In October 2011, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Dung signed the so-called Hanoi Declaration, establishing a Strategic Partnership between Germany and Vietnam that is designed to strengthen political, economic and cultural relations and development cooperation. As part of a strategic action plan, cooperation between the two countries is being expanded in all areas, with new projects being added every year.
Germany supports the reform of Vietnam’s legal system and to this end is conducting the so-called German-Vietnamese rule-of-law dialogue, which addresses a number of issues including advice on legislative proposals in Vietnam; further development of the country’s legal system; further training for judges, public prosecutors, lawyers and notaries; advice on implementing international conventions and regulations; reform of civil law, civil procedure law, labour, trade union and social law; further development of criminal and criminal procedure law, of commercial law and of constitutional jurisdiction; promoting human rights and legal aid as well as other issues. More information is available here:
Another major project is the building of a German House in Ho Chi Minh City. The idea is to provide a joint domicile for all the German institutions operating there as well as for interested German entrepreneurs. Construction began in 2015 and is scheduled to be completed by 2017.
Another important element in relations between Germany and Vietnam is development cooperation. At the 2015 intergovernmental negotiations, Germany pledged Vietnam funding worth approximately EUR 220 million over a period of two years. Cooperation in the priority areas vocational training, energy and the environment is invariably geared to Vietnam’s Green Growth Strategy. The two countries are working together to ensure that Vietnam has a well-trained workforce and an efficient and sustainable energy supply enabling it to pursue a growth path that protects natural resources and preserves biodiversity as well as being in line with the international obligations and objectives adopted last year as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate summit and with Vietnam’s free trade agreement with the European Union.
In 2016, Germany succeeded in defending its position as Vietnam’s principal trading partner in the European Union. In the past year, bilateral trade reached USD 10.3 billion, German imports from Vietnam increasing by 33 per cent, to USD 8 billion and German exports to Vietnam also growing, by 15 per cent to USD 2.3 billion.
Vietnam’s principal exports to Germany are footwear, textiles, agricultural products (e.g. coffee and pepper), seafood and – more recently – electronic goods and furniture. Vietnam’s principal imports from Germany are machinery, motor vehicles, equipment and chemical products. Vietnam has set its sights on becoming an industrialised country by 2020. This means the country will need more sophisticated production facilities, which is likely to translate into increased demand for machinery made in Germany.
The Delegate of German Industry and Commerce in Vietnam (GIC), which has offices in Ho Chi Minh City, is a member of the German Chamber Network. It is domiciled in Ho Chi Minh City in premises shared with the German Business Association (GBA), in which more than 180 German companies are organised. Negotiations are currently under way to set up a German-Vietnamese Chamber of Industry and Commerce. German and Vietnamese companies expect bilateral trade to be further stimulated by the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement that was concluded in 2015 and is currently in the process of being ratified. In 2015, German companies made new investments worth approximately USD 74.3 million in Vietnam. However, major investments by German companies are made through foreign subsidiaries and are not attributed to Germany statistically. A Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) correspondent has been working in Hanoi since 2008.
Following the conclusion of cultural accord in 1990, bilateral cultural relations have developed well. The approximately 100,000 Vietnamese who studied, trained or worked in Germany act as a bridge between the two countries – a unique relationship in Asia which sustains interest in Germany.
Academic exchange benefits from the large number of academics trained in Germany. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Research Foundation (DFG) support a growing number of academic contacts and cooperation agreements. Vietnam is a priority country in efforts to make Germany internationally more attractive as a place to study. In the 2014/2015 winter semester, there are some 5,500 Vietnamese students at German universities. The Vietnamese-German Centre at Hanoi University of Science and Technology began work in December 1999. Since 2003, it has also been the domicile of the DAAD’s regional office in Hanoi.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) maintains close contacts with Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology. In the area of scientific and technological cooperation, there is extensive exchange at both scientific and political levels.
Several years of negotiations on the reciprocal establishment of cultural institutes were concluded with the signing of an agreement in January 1997. The Goethe Institute (GI) in Hanoi was opened in December 1997 and has since become a heavily frequented centre for German culture and language as well as a popular meeting-place for those working in the cultural sector or with an interest in culture. Since late 2003, it has also run a German centre in Ho Chi Minh City jointly with the DAAD that provides language programmes and academic counselling. In 2008, it was upgraded to a GI branch with its own cultural programme work. For many prospective students, the language courses at the Goethe Institute are a springboard for studying in Germany.
The Friedrich Ebert Foundation opened an office in Hanoi in November 1990, the first political foundation to do so. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation followed suit in 1993. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation has also had its own office in Hanoi since February 2009 and the Hanns Seidel Foundation since 2011. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation, too, opened an office in Hanoi in September 2012.
The Vietnamese-German University was opened in Ho Chi Minh City in September 2008, its founding documents having been signed in Hanoi in February 2008 at a ceremony attended by the Federal Foreign Minister.
As part of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative, which was launched by the Federal Foreign Office in late 2007, German instruction has also been expanded at Vietnamese schools. In July 2013, German was officially recognised as one of the foreign languages taught in Vietnam – a milestone in efforts to promote the German language.