Early on Wednesday morning (2 November), Foreign Minister Steinmeier returned from a three-day trip to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. His visit took him to a country that is in transition – a pioneering spirit can be felt everywhere. Steinmeier encouraged Viet Nam’s leadership to continue its policy of opening up the country. Projects like the Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh City aim to deepen Germany’s relations with Viet Nam – in the economic, political and cultural spheres.
Next to pagodas built of thousand‑year‑old cedar wood, skyscrapers rise up that are made of recently-dried concrete: Viet Nam is undergoing rapid transformation. At universities, in schools and in street markets – the country’s fresh energy and pioneering spirit can be felt everywhere.
“Anyone who has not visited in a while will find a completely changed country,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in Hanoi, the first stop of his visit. In recent years, Viet Nam has experienced impressive economic growth in particular. And Germany is one of its most important partners. Right at the beginning of his trip, Steinmeier gained an impression of how fast investment and trade between the two countries have been growing. In Hai Phong, the Foreign Minister opened a brand‑new factory of the German family‑owned company Knauf, a global producer of construction materials.
Promoting openness and freedom
The aim is to deepen more than Germany and Viet Nam’s economic ties. At a meeting with young Vietnamese who studied in Germany thanks to the German Academic Exchange Service, Steinmeier gained an idea of the opportunities that can be opened up through cooperation in the sphere of education.
At the universities of Viet Nam, the opening of the country is on full display: since this Monday, students at Hanoi University of Law have been able to enrol in a German and European Law degree course. It was established thanks to the rule-of-law dialogue between Germany and Viet Nam. The German Foreign Minister inaugurated the new course in front of an assembly of students and professors.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier then met bilaterally with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh. Afterwards, Steinmeier expressed how impressed he was by the country’s rapid transformation: “Between modern skyscrapers and ancient pagodas, a truly unique Asian success story is being written.” He went on to say that the Vietnamese government has set about implementing an ambitious programme of reform. Steinmeier called on the political leadership of Viet Nam to decisively move forward with opening the country, and to follow up economic reforms with progress in the spheres of civil and political rights. Germany, too, wishes to further intensify cooperation with a view to supporting the continuation of Viet Nam’s success story.
The Deutsches Haus: a symbol of cooperation between Germany and Viet Nam
The Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh City will be a flagship of cooperation between the two countries. Foreign Minister Steinmeier participated in the topping-out ceremony during his visit. Representatives from the political, economic and cultural spheres will meet here in ever-changing constellations. The building, which is currently under construction, is due to be completed in mid‑2017. In addition to providing office and meeting space on 25 floors for economic and cultural representatives, it will also house the German Consulate-General.
To round out his trip, Steinmeier had the opportunity to attend a German-Vietnamese cultural evening at Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City, where he saw proof of the two countries’ cultural cooperation: Vietnamese artists delighted the audience with songs sung in German.