Vietnam – Suisse: Horizon Pacifique (CVSHP)” (Vietnam-Switzerland Centre: Peaceful Horizon), at a total cost of more than US$100 million.
It’s normally usual for the Vietnamese Government or State-level agencies to establish a trade-cultural-education-training centre abroad in order to boost the country’s relations with foreign countries. However, with so few Vietnamese-Swiss, an individual has taken on the responsibility to establish the Vietnamese-Swiss centre of this kind. His name is Nguyen Phu Binh, who has lived in Switzerland for more than 16 years. He granted an interview to reporter Tran Ha about his CVSHP project.
Reporter: What has enabled you to come up withthe idea of building the Vietnamese-Swiss Centre?
Mr Binh: It’s no accident that many important international political, economic and cultural events take place in Switzerland. A large number of giant multi-national groups are also based here because of political stability, sustainable socio-economic development, the attractive investment environment and the world’s premier finance/banking system. Switzerland has a good image in the international community so it’s an excellent place to promote a positive image of Vietnam.
There are nearly 10,000 Vietnamese people residing in Switzerland. Most of them are small entrepreneurs and they rarely meet each other. Therefore, a Vietnamese-Swiss centre will not only be a good venue for their business operations but will also strengthen the cooperation between Overseas Vietnamese in Switzerland and those elsewhere in Europe.
Reporter: Could you give a brief introduction about the CVSHP project?
Mr Binh: As planned, the centre will be built in the Champex Industrial Zone in Aigle city in Vaud district, which is not far from the renowned tourist sites of Chateau D’oex, Montreux, Villars and Leysin. Three buildings are to be built on a total area of 45,000 sq.m. One will be a three-storey building that include 200 booths, five restaurants serving Swiss, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai food, and an entertainment/sports area on the top floor. A 5,000 sq.m four-storey building will also be constructed with a swimming pool, a bar and a sports centre on the top floor. Finally, a six-storey Peaceful Horizon tower will be built on 28,000 sq.m. This will be the venue to welcome Vietnamese delegations visiting Switzerland or foreign guests who want to cooperate with Vietnam. The tower will have office space for rent to Vietnamese-Swiss, Swiss and foreign companies. There will be an information centre, a multi-media training room and other training facilities. In addition, there will also be a performance area, a martial arts competition house, a conference hall and a cinema.
Reporter: Where will the investment capital for the construction of the centre come from?
Mr Binh: The centre is estimated to cost more than US$100 million. I represent private Swiss investors who will invest 51 percent of the total capital, and the remainder will come from other businesses from Vietnam, Switzerland and other foreign countries. Investors contribute 150,000 CHF, they will able to lease a 150-sq.m booth equipped with computers and cash counting machines, a 80-sq.m warehouse and a 15-sq.m office.
Reporter: When establishing a large centre in Switzerland, as a Vietnamese national, do you face any difficulties from local authorities?
Mr Binh: In fact, the project will not only benefit the businesses directly involved but also local residents. This will be a key project for the city and a catalyst for local development, particularly tourism. Hence, the project has received strong support from local authorities at all levels in Switzerland.
We have also worked with the Swiss Import-Export Promotion Organisation (SIPPO) to strengthen cooperation in helping Vietnamese exports penetrate European markets and the world market. SIPPO has committed to sponsoring Vietnamese enterprises that do business at the centre. Currently, we are preparing more detailed commitments in writing.
Reporter: How about support from Vietnam?
Mr Binh: The project is significant for Vietnam as it will promote ties between Vietnam and Switzerland in various fields. In Switzerland, the project has won support from the Vietnamese permanent delegation to the United Nations and the Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland. I really hope for “symbolic” financial aid and support from the Vietnamese Government, as well as its approval in written documents.
Reporter: Could you elaborate on the implementation of the project?
Mr Binh: As scheduled, the centre will open in the beginning of 2009. So far, local authorities at all levels have officially issued written documents affirming their support for the construction of the centre. The project’s estimations and architectural design have been completed. We are now waiting for the State Economic Development Department (Departement de developpement d’economie de vaud – DEV) to access the economic plans for the project to determine whether it is feasible or not. We are worried about this because the plans had been prepared thoroughly. After getting the DEV’s approval, we will hold a ground-breaking ceremony to start the construction of the centre.
Reporter: Asa Vietnamese national living in a foreign country, do you think that it is risky to invest in such a large project?
Mr Binh: The idea about the project first came to me in 2004, and so far things have progressed well. I’ve spent quite a lot of my own time and money on this project. I’ve visited more than 20 sites and organised more than 30 meetings to discuss the implementation of the project. Authorities in the Canton de Vaud district have promised to back the project in terms of political and financial support. The UBS Bank and the Canton State Bank have agreed to provide us loans to carry out the project at a preferential interest rate after the DEV approves the plan. The project is feasible and practical.
Reporter: Do Vietnamese businesses get preferential treatment?
Mr Binh: All businesses taking part in the centre will enjoy common benefits, such as preferential tariff rates, good advertising services and consultancy. Vietnamese businesses participating in the centre will be granted resident visas or work permits if they meet requirements of local authorities. The centre will help them complete administrative procedures from central to local levels.
Reporter: Do you think that all of the booths in the centre will be taken up?
Mr Binh: At present, we have not called for investment from businesses as the DEV has not yet approved the project. When receiving the green light from the DEV, we will hold an official press conference in Switzerland to make the project public. After that, the DEV director and I will go to Vietnam to organise a seminar to call for investment from Vietnamese enterprises. If we cannot find enough investors in Vietnam, we will go to China, Russia, Germany and the CzechRepublic. However, a number of Vietnamese-Swiss businesses have said that want to register to book a place at the centre.
With their reasonably prices, we believe that all booths will be full before the centre opens and many businesses will have to wait until we set up another centre in Zurich.
Reporter:Thanks a lot and great success to you.
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