The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI) welcomes the Energy Council’s green light for the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Vietnam (EVFTA). The Council’s consent sends a strong and positive message for free and sustainable trade. Once in force, this agreement will eliminate over 99% of customs duties on goods traded between the two sides. In addition to creating new opportunities for EU firms, in particular in the sporting goods sector, the trade agreement aims to support Vietnam’s transition towards a more competitive and more sustainable economy. FESI now calls on all Member States, Commissioner Malmström and the Romanian Trade Minister to sign the agreement and asks the newly elected European Parliament to quickly begin the ratification process.  

More than three years after the end of the negotiations, I am glad that the Council finally gave its consent to the signature of this agreement. Vietnam has always been a strong partner for our industry and I’m sure this agreement will bring great benefits for European and Vietnamese companies, workers and consumers”, commented Frank Dassler, FESI President.  EU imports from Vietnam have been increasing in the last years, in particular in the footwear and textile sectors, which are the second and third most imported category of goods from the Southeast Asian country. Vietnam’s textile and garment sector is indeed one of its most important industries, comprising in 2014 around 4000 enterprises and giving work to more than 4.5 million people.

Despite the significant economic advantages offered by the EVFTA, many stakeholders have expressed reservations due to human rights and other legitimate issues. “The Sporting Goods Industry is fully aware of the concerns regarding labor rights and working conditions in Vietnam. Over the last few years, FESI members have been actively engaging with various factory partners, independent organisations, international programs and partnerships in order to address these challenges and make sure that the Vietnamese workers effectively benefit from this agreement”, said Jérôme Pero, FESI Secretary General.

FESI would also like to congratulate Vietnam on its recent efforts on sustainability, by ratifying the first ILO Convention and adopting an ambitious roadmap that will see the ratification of the remaining ILO and the revision of the labor code in the coming years. This is a very good signal for positive developments to come in Vietnam”, he added. The agreement itself contains a sustainability chapter which provides for a strong and legally binding commitment to sustainable development, including the respect of human and labor rights. Once in force, the EU will thus have more leverage to encourage Vietnam in its efforts to address human rights and environmental issues.

Now that the Energy Council has approved the signature of the EVFTA, Member States will be invited to formally sign the agreement together with Commissioner Malmström and Romanian Trade Minister Ștefan-Radu Oprea. Together with similar agreements with Singapore and Japan, the EVFTA will strengthen EU’s relations with Asia at the time when multilateral rule-based trade is being put in question and send a strong signal against protectionist tendencies, for the benefit of growth and development.