Swiss president pledges aid, trade to Vietnam
President Pascal Couchepin pledges aid in improving education and researching environmental issues for Vietnam.4 August 2008
HANOI - Swiss President Pascal Couchepin met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet Monday, pledging Swiss help for Vietnam in improving education and researching environmental issues.
Couchepin, visiting Vietnam for three days on the way to the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, predicted trips such as his would lead to increased Swiss business interest in Vietnam.
"I think over the years, Swiss investors have underestimated Vietnam's potential," Couchepin said.
On Tuesday, Couchepin is to preside over the signing of cooperation agreements between Bach Hoa University of Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Lausanne and between Hanoi University and the University of Geneva.
In recent years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has also supported Vietnamese projects to help poor farmers raise livestock and to monitor air pollution in Hanoi, among other places.
Switzerland ranks 18th in direct foreign investment in Vietnam, with USD 720 million as of the end of 2007. Bilateral trade in the first four months of 2008 was up 18 percent from the same period in 2007 to 185 million dollars, led by growing Vietnamese demand for Swiss medicines and chemicals.
Responding to questions from Swiss journalists regarding the stability of Vietnam's economy, Triet admitted the government had been slow to respond to rising inflation early in 2008.
But he said the government's moves since February to restrict the money supply, cut back wasteful government spending, and promote agricultural production and exports would resolve Vietnam's macroeconomic problems.
"However, the situation may still develop unpredictably, which means we must redouble our efforts and our vigilance," Triet said.
Switzerland's most newsworthy aid effort in Vietnam is a survey of pollution in Hanoi, which was completed in June. The results have not yet been released, a source who requested anonymity said, because of political concerns from officials in heavily polluted neighbourhoods.
[dpa / Expatica]