Vietnam, EU focus on key issues, avoiding late ratification of EVFTA

08:20 | 28/01/2017 MUTRAP Corner

(VEN) - In his last days of 2016, Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Vietnam, Ambassador Bruno Angelet spent time with Vietnam Economic News’ reporters Phan Mai and Nhat Quang, looking back on what Vietnam and the EU have achieved in the past year as well as plans devised by two sides towards the signing and ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).  

vietnam eu focus on key issues avoiding late ratification of evfta

The year 2015 witnessed the Declaration on the official conclusion of negotiations for the EVFTA. In the near future, the two sides will promptly complete the legal scrubbing task and proceed the signing and ratification procedures of the agreement. Could you please indicate the remarkable achievements made by Vietnam and the EU in 2016?

2016 was a year of transition for Vietnam. It was the National Assembly Elections, the new leadership appointed by the National Assembly and the first session of the new legislature. In November, there were two high-level visits to Vietnam led by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan and Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella.

But the main achievement in 2016, I think, is the two sides’ greater focuses on technical works following up to the conclusion last year of the negotiations for the free trade agreement. After concluding the negotiations, we carry out legal review to ensure the consistency of legal terms; translate the agreement text into Vietnamese and the EU’s languages, ensuring that there is no discrepancy between the English and translated versions. Our plan is to finish these technical works, then signing and ratifying the agreement by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

vietnam eu focus on key issues avoiding late ratification of evfta

You pointed out positive signs of development in trade and investment between the EU and Vietnam despite the outbreak of Brexit. Due to the fact that UK is not a big partner, both political and economic, for Vietnam, Brexit has not made an immediate and direct impact on Vietnam as well as the EVFTA yet. Brexit, however, may lead to indirect impacts. Could you please share your opinion on these indirect impacts on Vietnam, the EU and the process of the EVFTA?

In my opinion, Brexit will not make any indirect impact Vietnam, the EU and the process of the EVFTA. We have concluded the negotiation and the texts have been fixed now.

Could you please name some obstacles to the implementation of the EVFTA?

The EVFTA is really ambitious, but I think it is completely doable. As we know, the EVFTA is a bilateral free trade agreement. The issues which may lead to obstacles were discussed and two sides found out the solutions. However, the risks, because of the EVFTA’s ambitiousness, are that the two sides just wait and do not do anything until the agreement is approved. If we just wait, there would be a question that whether Vietnam is able to implement the EVFTA or not? In my opinion, Vietnam can do it but we need to make proper and in depth preparation for the implementation of the agreement from now. The two sides also need to take timely measures to ensure that the signing and ratification will be conducted early and favorably.

During former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to Europe in December 2015, Vietnam and the EU agreed on the principle and instructed the two sides’ administrations to elaborate a roadmap which is now under preparation and expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2017.

And if there was any obstacle, it would depend on how and how long we would commence and complete the preparatory work. We need to avoid the delays in preparations and to focus on key issues such as standards of food and agricultural products exported to the EU countries from Vietnam.

For instance, the content of the EVFTA’s Chapter 15 on Trade and Sustainable Development can be an obstacle to Vietnam’s enterprises in the short term. The EU’s high standards for food safety are not technical barriers as complained by many people. These high standards are set to protect the European consumers’ health. These standards initially can cause certain difficulties for exporting enterprises of Vietnam. However, when the exported products from Vietnam meet EU standards, there is no discrimination between the EU’s products and Vietnam’s products in the EU market.

During the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue last November, you expressed the desire to higher ranking position of the EU in Vietnam. Could you please share the roadmap of this desire?

I met Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue because firstly I wanted to congratulate him on his promotion after the 12th National Party Congress. Then given his important position in the national economy, I wanted to see his view on the EVFTA. What I wanted to share with Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue is that the partnership between Vietnam and the EU, including the EVFTA, should focus on quality other than quantity of development. Access to the EU market can prepare for Vietnam’s access to the other developed markets of the world. And the important thing is that Vietnam should prepare for the EVFTA right from now. Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue also agreed with my sharing on this approach.

In terms of history of development, Vietnam and the EU share many commonalities which can pave the way for the cooperation between Vietnam and the EU. Among the Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam is the number one country sending students to Europe. Hopefully, next year, the EU can attract more Vietnamese students studying in Europe. In my opinion, studying in Europe is more than studying. The student can discover not only the European history, its civilization but also the experience of European development. They, later, can contribute to the development of Vietnam.

Phan Mai and Nhat Quang