EU trade commissioner visits Vietnam to spur links
By Tu Hoang – The Saigon Times Daily
HANOI – EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht arrived in Hanoi on March 17 as part of his four-day trip that also takes in Cambodia and Myanmar to bolster the EU’s trade links with ASEAN countries,
The trade commissioner had a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi, where both sides appreciated the development of trade ties between the EU and Vietnam.
PM Dung told the EU dignitary that he expected the two sides could conclude the FTA in October, paving the way to further strengthen trade links, the official portal www.chinhphu.vn reports.
At the meeting, the Vietnamese leader said he hoped the EU would open the door wider for Vietnamese commodities, especially farm produce, fisheries, apparel and footwear products. He also called on the EU to recognize Vietnam as a market economy.
The commissioner’s arrival in Hanoi coincided with the start of the 7th round of talks for an EU-Vietnam free trade agreement (FTA). He on March 17 also joined the latest round of the FTA negotiations.
The round is running from March 17 to 21. Both sides are looking for a swift conclusion of the negotiations so that businesses can start reaping the benefits of what is expected to be an ambitious agreement. Once in place, the agreement will boost EU-Vietnam trade and investment ties and provide more business opportunities on both sides.
The EU and Vietnam announced the start of bilateral FTA negotiations in Brussels in June 2012. Vietnam is the third ASEAN country to hold FTA negotiations with the EU after Singapore and Malaysia, and followed by Thailand.
The FTA will cover trade in goods and services, investment, government procurement, intellectual property rights, including geographical indications, and other regulatory issues such as non-tariff barriers, animal and plant health and hygiene issues, technical barriers to trade, customs and trade facilitation, and trade and sustainable development.
The EU and Vietnam have strong trade ties. In 2012, two-way trade amounted to almost 24 billion euros, with EU exports to Vietnam amounting to 5.3 billion euros and EU imports from Vietnam to 18.5 billion euros. The EU is one of the largest foreign direct investors in Vietnam, committing 1.37 billion euros in total.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s General Customs Department said two-way trade between Vietnam and EU last year reached US$33.8 billion, rising over 16% on 2012. Vietnam exported over US$24.3 billion worth of commodities and spent nearly US$9.5 billion on imports from EU, enjoying a trade surplus of US$14.88 billion.
EU exports are mainly high-tech products – electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, vehicles, pharmaceutical products and iron and steel. Vietnam’s key exports to the EU include telephone sets, electronic products, footwear, textiles and clothing, coffee, rice, fishery products, and furniture.
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