The free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam has been described by the European Commission as the most ambitious deal of its type ever concluded between the EU and a developing country. Not only it will eliminate over 99% of customs duties on goods, it will also open up Vietnamese service markets to EU companies and strengthen protection of EU investments in the country. According to European Commission figures, the FTA could boost Vietnam’s economy by as much as 15% of GDP, with Vietnamese exports to Europe growing by over one third. FESI believes that the entry into force of the FTA between the EU and Vietnam, which fully liberalises all tariff lines and eliminates duties as well as non-trade barriers, will create the much needed economic growth and jobs for both trading partners.
Despite the economic benefits of the agreement, the sporting goods industry is fully aware of remaining challenges concerning labour conditions in Vietnam. FESI believes that the FTA could represent an opportunity for a deepened partnership and a positive trigger for the development of the country. To this end, some FESI members are already present on the ground and have worked with NGOs and international institutions and partnerships including the Fair Wear Foundation and Better Work Vietnam. FESI also encourages the Vietnamese government to ratify the ILO conventions within a reasonable timeframe while stressing their diligent implementation. At the same time, EU and Vietnamese policymakers are encouraged to continue discussions bilaterally, particularly in relation to sustainability issues.
Additionally, although the content of the FTA was already agreed in 2015, its ratification has been delayed by the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the EU-Singapore FTA, issued in 2017. The ongoing legal scrubbing of the agreement and the recent developments of the Singapore ruling, which would consider splitting the agreement so that parts of it can be ratified by the EU alone, are slowing down the ratification of the EU-Vietnam FTA. FESI calls on the Commission and Council to speed up the process and publish the text of the agreement for European Parliament and Member States approval, respectively, by September at the latest. This step will both increase the economic gains for both parties, but also incentivise continued social change in Vietnam.
Please find our Position Paper and Fact Sheet on the topic.