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European Union Votes to Approve Historic Free Trade Deal With Vietnam

MEPs in European Parliament today voted in favor of a historic free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam.

The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, known as EVFTA, has been labeled by the EU as “the most ambitious free trade deal ever concluded with a developing country”.

The deal assures a plethora of trade benefits on both sides, removes the vast majority of tariffs, and minimizes other trade barriers.

According to Tuoi Tre, Vietnam’s Minister for Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said in a press conference following the vote: "With the adoption [of the trade agreement] in the European Parliament, the relationship between Vietnam and the EU is growing stronger."

Tuan Anh added that the deal "shows that the two sides are looking to a future of multilateral relations, which is meaningful at a time when protectionism and populism are fierce."

International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Vietnam Director Chang-Hee Lee also said in a statement that relations based on recognizing the right to collective bargaining, along with a more skilled workforce and social protections, are vital in regards to helping Vietnam increase incomes in a sustainable way.

The agreement obliges Vietnam to ensure ILO standards including the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced labor, the abolition of child labor, and the elimination of discrimination during employer recruitment.

Vietnam has ratified six out of eight agreements outlined by the ILO, and says it will ratify the two remaining conventions on abolishing forced labor by 2020 and on freedom of association and protecting the right to organize by 2023.

The deal will still need to be approved by EU member states, a single decision taken by all trade ministers, which could happen by mid-March. It will then need to be ratified by Vietnam’s National Assembly in May. The deal will then come into effect just one month later, and will eventually phase out almost 99 percent of tariff lines and barriers to trade.

After the United States, the EU is Vietnam’s second-largest export market. According to the Vietnamese government, the agreement is expected to boost Vietnam’s GDP by around 3% annually by 2023 and around 5% annually between 2024 and 2028.

[Photo via Creative Commons]