|Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Madam Ann Måwe
Both countries celebrated 50 years of diplomatic ties on January 11. On the occasion, VOV talks with Madam Måwe about the history of the bilateral relations and cooperation plans for her 4-year term.
Reporter: 2019 is an important year for Vietnam and Sweden - the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Activities have been organized throughout the year, including cultural exchanges and visits such as the visit to Vietnam by Crown Princess Victoria and a delegation of Swedish business leaders in early May. What do these events say about the state of bilateral ties?
Ambassador: Regarding the visit of our Crown Princess, this is really a proof of the importance we attach to our bilateral relationship. She is a very important representative of all of Sweden. Another important highlight was the visit of your Prime Minister to Sweden in the summer with a huge business delegation as well. For me, I came here in the year of the 50th anniversary and I have really been impressed with the history of our bilateral relations.
I think now our relation has changed in character. It is more mutual, equal relations based on mutual interests, exchanges and I think that’s interesting and good for both countries. But again when I come here in the year of our 50th anniversary, it gives lots of opportunities to learn about the rich history of the friendship between our nations.
Reporter: On top of good political relations and economic cooperation, bilateral trade relations have increased. Which areas will come to the fore in future bilateral cooperation?
Ambassador: I think there's a huge potential for business opportunities and trade between our countries and also when it comes to technology transfer.
I think as Vietnam pursues its economic reforms, continue to further integrate its national economy and also moves up the value changes, Sweden is interested in substantially increasing trade with Vietnam. I think we can contribute to Vietnam’s economic development and do it by increasing business trade tie and exchanging business solutions and technology transfer.
To my understanding, the two-way trade now has reached a volume of 1.3 billion US dollars and an average growth rate of 10%. But I think it's more concrete to talk about the companies we have here around 70 Swedish companies in Vietnam and most of them have been here for some time.
They are quite well-known like Ericsson, ABB, Tetra Pak, Electrolux, and even more popular among people are Ikea, H&M, new companies like Spotify. I think the products of Swedish companies are quite well-known and liked in Vietnam - not only the clothes from H&M, the furniture of Ikea, but also the robotics of the ABB and the food packages of the Tetra Pak.
I think these companies really offer innovative and sustainable solutions. They do big investment in sectors like infrastructure, urban transport, and sustainable manufacturing. They’ve, of course, provided hundreds of thousands of jobs in Vietnam. From the side of the embassy, we work very closely with our companies and we try to focus on 3 themes that are quite relevant in the Vietnamese contexts - innovation, sustainability, and safety. These are also the areas where Sweden has a lot of experience and expertise to offer.
Reporter: The diplomatic relationship between Vietnam and Sweden has entered a new phase of equal partnership, mutual benefit, and a new free trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU. How will Vietnam and Sweden benefit from these changes?
Ambassador: I must start with saying Sweden is a strong supporter of free trade. With this comprehensive agreement when it's ratified and when we start to implement it will give tremendous opportunities for both EU and Vietnam. Our two countries are small coastal countries and we're dependent on global trade and international integration, so I think it's good that we have realized trade ….is a key to prosperity.
For Vietnam the trade agreement will add more values to goods and services produced in the country and I think the manufacturers of garment, shoes, electronics, and apparel will gain more beneficial access to European markets as the tariffs will drop immediately after ratification.
I also want to stress that the trade and sustainable development chapter in the agreement will spur/improve conditions in labor which is important in by itself but we have seen other cases, also at least, to increase productivity and increase economic gains.
So I think this is good for many reasons. What will happen now is that the government will need to enable the development by creating favorable condition as much as possible. If that happens, I think it also be easier for small and medium enterprises from Europe to enter to the Vietnamese market.
Reporter: What will Sweden do specifically so that both can benefit from these changes?
Ambassador: The EU-Vietnam Trade Agreement will contribute to our cooperation in innovation and what we are doing from our side is mainly our companies, they are contributing with their expertise and they are also supporting Vietnamese counterparts in innovation. For example, now we have a competition which is called “Innovative like a Swede” where we ask young Vietnamese, mainly students, to come in with proposals.
This is an exercise that is supported by our companies. At the end when a person who wins the completion will go to Sweden and work in a Swedish company.
There are various ways that we can work on innovation and startup theme together and it's obvious to me that Vietnam has an ambition. I mean you jumped 3 ranks in 2019 on the Global Innovation Index to the 42nd place of 129 and Sweden is number 2 in the world on the Global Innovation Index.
For us, this is a quite broad area to work with because you have to create an ecosystem that is conducive for innovation and for that, you need a good education, you need a lot of support in research, you need a good digital infrastructure, you need access to capital. But you also need a culture that is stimulating creativity.
Reporter: During your tenure in Vietnam in the next 4 years, what will you do to promote bilateral cooperation?
Ambassador: My main message is that Sweden has been trustful friend and partner of Vietnam for four decades and that we will continue to be here. We believe that in the areas of innovation and sustainability and safety, there are a lot of needs on the Vietnamese side to get to the next level of development and as I said before I believe that we have a lot of offers in this area.
But I think that we will continue to work closely on even more complex issues like human rights including rights of women and the rights of the LGBTQI community, and also to strengthen the role of media in the society and promoting openness and the internet application.
So there are many areas where we want to cooperate. I think my main tasks as well as my colleagues in the embassy are to convey a modern and up-to-date image about Sweden today which we’re trying to do but at the same time it's important to know that Sweden came from being one of the poorest countries in Europe about a hundred years ago and now we are fully knowledge-based economy and one of the most innovative countries in the world.
Reporter: Thank you for granting VOV this interview.