EU signs trade agreement with Vietnam; human rights defenders oppose it

On Sunday, 30 June, European Union signed a trade agreement with Vietnam in Hanoi. This makes it the biggest economic agreement the EU has signed with one of Asia’s countries.

The EU was represented by European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom and EU’s presiding country Romania’s Entrepreneurship Minister Ștefan-Radu Oprea.

In accordance with this agreement, 99% of all standing customs duties have been abolished for mutual trade between EU and Vietnam. The signed agreement also provides for abolishing other restrictions that, until now, made it hard for EU companies to access Vietnam’s service and public procurement market.

The agreement, known as EVFTA (EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement) is believed to serve as a major stimulus for Vietnam’s economic growth. It is estimated that in a long-term perspective this agreement may secure 15% growth for Vietnam’s GDP.

However, this agreement has come under fire from human rights defenders.

Vietnam’s civil society activities sent an open letter to European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament’s International Trade Committee chairman Bernd Lange, urging EU to exact pressure on Hanoi to perform deeper political reforms before ratifying the agreement.

Vietnam remains a Communist single-party country. According to data from US human rights organization 88 Project, there are 263 political inmates held in Vietnam’s prisons.

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