Last updated in October 2018
Since 2011, Germany and Viet Nam have had a “strategic partnership” involving cooperation projects at all levels and in numerous policy fields. Bilateral relations were given further impetus in 2016 by visits to Viet Nam by then Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vice-President of the German Bundestag Edelgard Bulmahn, several members of the German Bundestag and ministers from Land parliaments. However, the traditionally close and trusting relations between the two countries were dented by the kidnapping of a Vietnamese national from Berlin by Vienamese state agencies in July 1017.
The basis for the “strategic partnership”, which Germany suspended till further notice in the wake of the kidnapping, is the Hanoi Declaration, which also paves the way for numerous joint projects and initiatives. The Declaration was signed in October 2011 by Federal Chancellor Merkel and the then Prime Minister Dung and aims 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 Viet Nam’s judicial system and numerous legislative projects and to this end is conducting the German-Vietnamese rule of law dialogue, which addresses a number of issues including advice on legislative proposals; 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 and the law of civil procedure, 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. (Further information from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection: “The German-Vietnamese Rule of Law Dialogue”).
Another major bilateral cooperation project is the building of a German House in Ho Chi Minh City, providing a joint domicile for all the German institutions operating there as well as for interested German entrepreneurs. Construction was completed in 2017, and the German Consulate General moved into the German House in 2018.
Development cooperation is another important element in relations between Germany and Viet Nam. At the 2017 intergovernmental negotiations, Germany pledged Viet Nam funding of around 150 million euros over a period of two years. Cooperation in the priority areas vocational training, energy and the environment is invariably geared to Viet Nam’s ambitious Green Growth Strategy. The two countries are working together to ensure that Viet Nam 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 in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate summit and with Viet Nam’s free trade agreement with the European Union.
In 2017, Germany retained its position as Viet Nam’s principal trading partner in the European Union. Bilateral trade amounted to 13 billion euros. Imports from Viet Nam increased to 9.6 billion euros and exports to Viet Nam totalled 3.4 billion euros. German and Vietnamese companies expect further stimulus from the EU‑Viet Nam free trade agreement concluded in 2015 and an investment protection agreement between the EU and Viet Nam, which it is hoped will enter into force in mid‑2019. The aim is to increase German-Vietnamese trade to 20 billion US dollars by 2020.
Viet Nam’s principal exports to Germany are electronic goods, footwear, textiles/clothing, foodstuffs (e.g. coffee and pepper) and leather goods. Its principal imports from Germany are motor vehicles/vehicle parts, machinery, technical equipment and pharmaceutical products. Viet Nam has set its sights on becoming an industrialised country by 2020. The resulting need for more sophisticated production facilities is likely to translate into increasing demand for machinery “Made in Germany”.
The Delegate of German Industry and Commerce in Vietnam (GIC), which has offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is a member of the German Chamber Network. In Ho Chi Minh City it shares premises with the German Business Association (GBA), in which more than 200 German companies are organised. The long‑term goal is to set up a German-Vietnamese Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
German companies have cumulative investment of 1.6 billion US dollars in just under 300 projects, with a total of 414 million US dollars going to 33 new projects in 2017.
However, major investments by German companies are made through foreign subsidiaries and statistically are not attributed to Germany. A Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) correspondent has been working in Hanoi since 2008.
Since the conclusion of the cultural agreement in 1990, bilateral cultural relations have developed well. The some 100,000 Vietnamese who have worked, studied or trained 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 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) support a growing number of academic contacts and cooperation agreements. Viet Nam is a priority country in efforts to make Germany more attractive internationally as a place to study. In the 2014/2015 winter semester, there were some 5500 Vietnamese students at German universities. The Vietnamese-German Centre at Hanoi University of Science and Technology began work in December 1999. It is also the domicile of the DAAD’s office in Hanoi, set up in 2003.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) maintains very close contacts with Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology. In the area of scientific and technological cooperation, there is extensive exchange at both the scientific and the political level.
Several years of negotiations on the establishment of cultural institutes were concluded with the signing of an agreement in January 1997. The Goethe-Institut 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 cultural workers and people 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 Goethe‑Institut branch with its own cultural programme work. For many prospective students, the language courses at the Goethe-Institut are a springboard for studying in Germany.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung opened an office in Hanoi in November 1990, the first political foundation to do so. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung 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 PASCH initiative, which was launched by the Federal Foreign Office in late 2007, German lessons have also been expanded at Vietnamese schools. In July 2013, German was officially recognised as one of the foreign languages taught in Viet Nam – a milestone in efforts to promote the German language.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is updated regularly. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.