The European Parliament voted on February 12 to accept a free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam, a monumental deal that will cut almost all tariffs on exports from one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies.
By an overwhelming vote of 401 in favor to 192 against with 40 abstentions, the European Parliament pushed the pending trade agreement over its final hurdle in Brussels.
The so-called free trade agreement, known by the acronym EVFTA, will see 99% of all tariffs on Europe-bound Vietnamese exports dropped by 2035, though the majority of those taxes will be phased out in the next few years.
Dozens of nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) signed a letter addressed to the European Parliament earlier this month urging it to “vote for postponing Parliament’s consent to the deals until the Vietnamese government agrees to meet concrete and verifiable benchmarks to protect labor rights and human rights.
However it now must be approved by Vietnam’s National Assembly in Hanoi, which is all but a certainty.
The content of the agreement is “problematic”, says Anna Cavazzini, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and spokesperson on trade for the Greens/European Free Alliance group.
“Firstly, the agreement contains special rights for investors, which we reject,” she said. “Secondly, legally enforceable sustainability standards are still nowhere to be found. In order to achieve our climate objectives, we need a fundamentally different trade policy.”
Europe is already one of Vietnam’s largest export markets, with bilateral trade in goods worth around US$52 billion in 2018.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.