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France and Vietnam

Bilateral relations

France was one of the first Western countries to support Vietnam’s reform policy and has been supporting its development and outreach for over 20 years. It has made significant cooperation efforts in terms of official development assistance. France has long been the second leading bilateral donor after Japan, with the Agence Française de Développement contributing nearly €2 billion since 1994. On 25 September 2013, France and Vietnam signed a declaration on strategic partnership aimed at strengthening the relationship in all areas (political, defence, economy, education and culture).

Political relations involve regular very high level meetings: four French presidential visits to Vietnam (1993, 1997, 2004, 2016) and the visit of Prime Minister François Fillon in November 2009; visits to France of the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 2002, the Secretary-General of the Party in 2005, and Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng in 2007, 2013 and 2015. The Secretary General of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong made an official visit to France in March 2018 for the 45th anniversary celebrations of diplomatic relations between France and Vietnam and five years of of the France-Vietnam strategic partnership. The two countries have developed regular consultation mechanisms, in particular in the area of defence and high-level economic dialogue whose most recent session was held in Hanoi in January 2018 with Minister of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne in attendance. Mutual visits by parliamentary friendship groups also take place periodically. Bilateral relations, far-reaching and varied in all of our sectors of cooperation, also draw on the extensive relations between local governments, which meet regularly in French-Vietnamese decentralized cooperation conferences (the 10th conference was held in Can Tho in 2016 and the next one will be held in Toulouse in 2019). Vietnam is a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), whose regional office for Asia and the Pacific is located in Hanoi.

France is the 3rd largest European investor and 16th largest global investor in Vietnam in terms of investment licences stock, totalling US$3.4 billion. Almost two thirds of French investments are made in the services sector, one fifth in industry (water, gas and electricity), 7% in agriculture and 5% in retailing. Almost 300 French businesses are set up in Vietnam in the form of companies, representative offices and joint ventures (representing about 26,000 jobs). Yet, our economic relations appear to be unbalanced. Although our exports to Vietnam, mainly made up of aviation sales and pharmaceutical and agrifood products, have seen a slight increase (€1.5 billion in 2016), our trade deficit continues to grow (more than €3.5 billion in 2017) given the scale of our imports from Vietnam (€4.5 billion in 2016), including textiles and footwear, sports equipment and mobile phones.

The education sector is an important part of the relationship. Vietnamese students make up the second-largest Asian student community in France (nearly 6,000 students), making it the most popular host country among Vietnamese students in the European Union. France and Vietnam have developed many academic and scientific cooperation projects, the best examples of which are the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST), created in 2009 via an intergovernmental agreement, and the French Vietnamese Center of Management (CFVG), which aims to become a leading business school in South-East Asia.

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Updated: July 2018