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EU set to sign trade and investment agreements with Vietnam on 30 June 2019

27/06/2019 08:40 AM

Vietnam is the EU's second largest trading partner in the ASEAN region after Singapore, with trade worth €49.3 billion for goods and over €3 billion for services. While EU investment stock in Vietnam remains modest standing just at €6 billion in 2017, an increasing number of European companies are establishing there to set up a hub to serve the Mekong region. Main EU imports from Vietnam include telecommunications equipment, footwear and textiles, furniture and agricultural products. The EU mainly exports to Vietnam goods such as machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and food and beverages.

The agreements reached with Vietnam, alongside those signed recently with Singapore, help paving the way for a future region-to-region agreement with the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The European Council announced on 25th June 2019 that Council of Ministers approved the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements, paving the way for their signature and conclusion.

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and Romanian Minister for Business, Trade and Entrepreneurship Ștefan-Radu Oprea will sign the agreement on the EU's behalf in Hanoi on Sunday 30th June. The agreements are set to bring unprecedented benefits for European and Vietnamese companies, consumers and workers, while promoting respect for labour rights, environmental protection and the fight against climate change under the Paris Agreement.

The EVFTA and EVIPA are the most ambitious agreements concluded between the EU and a developing country. 

Once the EVFTA takes effect, over 99 per cent of tariff on goods from both sides will be lifted. Vietnam will remove 65 per cent of import tariff on goods from the EU. Remaining tariffs will be removed in the next decade. 

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: 

"I am very pleased to see that Member States have given a green light to our trade and investment agreements with Vietnam. Vietnam is a vibrant and promising market of more than 95 million consumers and both sides have much to gain from stronger trade relations.”

The trade agreement will eliminate nearly all customs duties on goods traded between the two sides in a progressive way that fully respects Vietnam's development needs. The agreement also contains specific provisions to remove technical obstacles, such as those in the car sector, and will ensure that 169 traditional European food and drink products recognised as Geographical Indications are protected in Vietnam. Thanks to the agreement, EU companies will also be able to participate in bids for procurement tenders in Vietnam on an equal footing with domestic companies.

Besides offering significant economic opportunities, the EU and Vietnam have agreed strong sustainable development measures. This includes a commitment to implement the Paris climate agreement effectively. The agreement also commits both sides to respect and effectively implement the principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning fundamental workers' rights. To this end, Vietnam has recently ratified the ILO Convention on collective bargaining and has notified the EU of its intention to ratify the two outstanding fundamental ILO conventions by 2023 at the latest. It is also in the process of reinforcing its labour legislation. The agreement also establishes dedicated platforms for the EU and Vietnam to involve civil society in the implementation of these commitments. In addition, the trade agreement includes an institutional and legal link to the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, allowing appropriate action in the case of human rights' breaches.

The investment protection agreement includes modern rules on investment protection enforceable through the new Investment Court System and ensures that the right of the governments on both sides to regulate in the interest of their citizens is preserved. It will replace the bilateral investment agreements that 21 EU Members States currently have in place with Vietnam putting in place new legal guarantees preventing conflict of interest and increasing transparency.

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