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Élysée Agreement (8 March 1949)

Treaty during the Indochina War (1946–1954) signed at the Élysée Palace in Paris on 8 March 1949 between French President Vincent Auriol and Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai. In the Élysée Agreement, France recognized Vietnam as an associated state within the French Union and promised to support its application for membership in the United Nations. The treaty was formally ratified by the French Chamber of Deputies in January 1950. Under the agreement's provisions, France promised to incorporate within the new State of Vietnam the Republic of Cochin China, which it had created out of Vietnamese territory in 1946. Paris lauded the agreement as proof that Vietnam was independent, and it no doubt helped achieve one of its goals of convincing U.S. officials that the war in Indochina had been transformed from a colonial conflict into a civil war between Vietnamese democrats and Vietnamese communists.

The reality was quite different. Under the constitutional framework of the French Union, Vietnam could receive only autonomy rather than full independence. France recognized Vietnam's right to have diplomats only in a few specified countries: China, Thailand, and the Vatican. (Because of the subsequent victory of the communists in China, India was substituted for China, but India did not recognize the Bao Dai regime.) Proof that the new State of Vietnam was not independent was seen in the fact that it recognized Paris's right to control its army and foreign relations, and French economic domination of Vietnam was preserved.

Stanley Karnow quotes Bao Dai as remarking soon after the treaty was signed that "what they call a Bao Dai solution turns out to be just a French solution." Indeed, Bao Dai was unable to offer Vietnamese nationalists any alternative to the communists. The French had, however, recognized the territorial unity of Vietnam. By the end of 1949 Laos and Cambodia signed treaties similar to the Élysée Agreement.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Hammer, Ellen J. The Struggle for Indochina. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1954.; Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking, 1983.; Tucker, Spencer C. Vietnam. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.
 

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