The Hanoitimes - The ambassador noted Sweden continues to be committed to Vietnam`s future road ahead even though the relationship between Sweden and Vietnam has changed over the years.
Sweden has been a true and frank friend of Vietnam over the past 50 years, and the friendship between the two countries will grow even further, Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Pereric Högberg affirmed at a ceremony in Hanoi on January 11.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed”
Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Pereric Högberg addresses the ceremony. Photo courtesy: Swedish Embassy
At the ceremony to commemorate the 50 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Sweden at Metropole hotel in the heart of Hanoi, where the first Embassy of Sweden was opened in Hanoi, Högberg affirmed that Sweden has been Vietnam’s friend and partner over the past half century, even in the most difficult times.
Sweden became the first Western country to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam, exactly 50 years ago today, on January 11, 1969, at the height of the American War. The Swedish government and the Swedish people expressed its support for and its solidarity with the Vietnamese people.
The decision to provide financial and technical assistance to Vietnam was not an uncontroversial decision. The Swedish government, through its aid agency SIDA, started a large program of development co-operation. The official development assistance lasted for 46 years and amounted to over US$4 billion in today’s monetary value. Sweden was the second largest ODA donor to Vietnam in the 70s, the largest in the 80s and the fourth largest in the 90s.
The bilateral cooperation focused on healthcare such as the Uong Bi Hospital and the Children’s hospital here in Hanoi, the paper and forest industry with the Bai Bang and reforestation projects, administrative reforms within law and taxes.
Sweden also supported the Doi Moi economic reform process, poverty reduction, equipment and training to journalists and cultural cooperation. Swedish politicians, academics and experts shared knowledge and experiences that supported Vietnams own efforts in transforming towards a market economy – lifting millions of people out of poverty. “We are very proud of that,” said the ambassador.
He noted that even though the bilateral development cooperation ended in 2013, Sweden still provides substantial assistance to the Vietnamese people through its regional aid programs in the Mekong, and via EU’s and UN’s respective aid budgets to Vietnam.
Sweden was and is a trusted partner and continues to have a unique relationship with Vietnam. The Scandinavian country was the first bilateral donor in sectors such as local governance, judicial reform, media, transparency, anti-corruption, gender equality, LGBT-rights and sustainability.
“However, just as in any good friendship, we sometimes disagree, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. This is the strength of the Vietnam-Sweden relationship. A true friend is also a frank friend,” he noted.
Into the future
As Vietnam has become a middle-income economy, the two countries have taken steps towards a more equal partnership. The core of the bilateral relationship has shifted primarily to business and trade, which have become increasingly important for both sides in a globalized economy.
Trade, investments, exchange studies, academic and cultural cooperation and tourism have flourished between Vietnam and Sweden. Bilateral trade tops US$1 billion per year with potential for a strong increase.
Photo courtesy: Swedish Embassy
Today, some of the largest and most successful multinational corporations of Sweden such as ABB, Ericsson, H&M, IKEA, Volvo, AstraZeneca, Atlas Copco, SKF, Tetra Pak and Electrolux and many others are doing business in Vietnam. They do not only provide goods, services, science, technology and training, but also create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Vietnam, and they will continue to promote Swedish key values such as innovation, sustainability and safety.
With the ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement we will see an even stronger Swedish presence, he said.
The ambassador noted Sweden continues to be committed to Vietnams future road ahead even though the relationship between Sweden and Vietnam has changed over the years.
To further bolster bilateral relations, in 2019, besides high-level visits and cultural exchanges, an internet forum and a joint Vietnam-Sweden Business Summit to be held in May.