FTA with Vietnam set as EU priority under Swedish presidency
The European Union (EU) is moving ahead with negotiations on a free trade agreement with Vietnam. The process is expected to be completed by October 2010, said a ranking European Commission officer on July 1, adding that the pact is now an EU priority, under the new Swedish presidency.
The remarks were made by Sean Doyle, Ambassador and Head of the EU delegation to Vietnam, at a press briefing in Hanoi on Sweden assuming its six-month presidency.
According to the Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam, Rolf Bergman, a free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam is one of his country’s top three priorities as it takes the reign for the second half of this year.
“Hopefully we will be able to increase the amount of trade between Vietnam and the EU because the whole point of growth is that if you trade more, you make more business for everybody, everybody earns more money. That is how we get more prosperity and further development,” he said.
The EU took up the idea of individual FTA’s with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), rather than the bloc-to-bloc model, after the 7th round of EU-ASEAN negotiations in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this March ended up with no progress, forcing a temporary halt to the process.
The EU is currently ASEAN’s second largest partner, accounting for 11.7 percent of its total external trade turnover in 2006. Trade between Vietnam and the EU soared to EUR10.8 billion in 2007 from EUR5.5 billion in 2000.
The EU is now pushing to build upon existing developmental and economic assistance to move towards a more comprehensive socio-political relationship with Vietnam through a partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA), which will allow “much more contact at all levels” between the two sides.
According to Bergman, the PCA would “open the door to all kinds of cooperation. Until now we have agreements on development assistance and trade, but the new agreement will go into areas such as climate change, migration security, science and technology and research.”
The PCA would be a new agreement and replace the expiring bilateral cooperation agreement signed between the EU and Vietnam in 1995. It would be developed on the basis of a more equal partnership rather than the old relationship with the EU, as a donor, and Vietnam, as a recipient country.
The Swedish ambassador also confirmed his continued support for Vietnam in the areas of governance and in fighting corruption – on which Vietnam and the EU have held many talks.
“I am sure that with the Swedish presidency and in the spirit of real friendship and support for Vietnam, we will be able to have positive talks and see a lot more progress in those areas,” he added.
Also at the press briefing, the ambassador said Sweden, as the new EU president, will focus on dealing with the financial crisis, creating more employment for EU citizens and combating climate change.