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EU eyes new bilateral pact with Vietnam by next year

Thanh Nien | 21 January 2008

EU eyes new bilateral pact with Vietnam by next year

The European Union (EU) hopes to sign a wide-ranging cooperation pact by next year and will recognize Vietnam’s market economy status as early as possible, EU representatives in Vietnam have said.

The European Community Ambassador to Vietnam, Sean Doyle, told a press conference on Wednesday EU members were keen to press ahead with the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Replacing a 1995 pact, the proposed new agreement will cover areas ranging from trade and investment to science and technology, education, culture, justice, the environment and security.

“We expect to start the first of the two rounds of negotiations in March,” Doyle said.

The whole process should take two years, he said but the EU “hopes to complete negotiations with Vietnam by the end of this year.”

He stressed, however, “it is more important to do things well than to do fast.”

The conference took place in Hanoi on Wednesday to announce France’s term as the representative in Vietnam of the EU president.

The French Ambassador to Vietnam, Herve Bolot, said the EU would soon recognize Vietnam’s market economy status, which would benefit both Vietnam and the EU members.

However, he said Vietnam should further reform its administrative procedures, abolish discriminative business regulations and streamline trade and investment formalities.

A premature recognition of Vietnam as a market economy could badly impact the economies of both the EU and Vietnam, he added.

The EU bloc is now Vietnam’s largest trading partner and both sides hope to increase the two-way flow of goods and services, which reached US$13.4 billion last year, to $15 billion a year by 2010.

The EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was first announced during a visit by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to the fast-growing Southeast Asian economy in November last year.

One of the aims of the agreement was to “facilitate deeper economic and commercial integration between the EU and Vietnam preceding a future Free Trade Agreement between the EU and countries of ASEAN,” a joint statement issued during Barroso’s visit said.

Since Slovenia, which has taken over the EU presidency for the first half of the year, has no diplomatic representation in Vietnam, France is representing Slovenia during the term.

Five priorities

Negotiation of the new pact is one of the EU’s top five priorities for Vietnam in 2008.

The other fields are energy, environment and climate change; the investment environment; and developing freedom of speech; and freedom of communities and cultural dialogues, Bolot said.

The European bloc would support Vietnam in implementing power projects so that the country’s electricity output could reach 40,000 to 50,000 megawatts by 2025, he said.

Bolot urged Vietnam to strive to make appropriate and feasible regulations to boost investment and trade.

The ambassador said Vietnam still needed to make more changes in its laws, institutions and human resource training.

He suggested local governments publicize their investment policies to partner countries.

He also stressed the importance of environmental protection and the need to diversify the economy to reduce the dependence on oil.

Bolot said the EU’s 27 member states, together with Vietnam and other regional partners, should develop energy policies to minimize reliance on oil and gas, which would become increasingly expensive as supplies were depleted.

France would continue to con-tribute $150,000 for the organization of the 2008 Hue Festival in the former royal capital.

French experts would also help Vietnam stage a fireworks display on the upcoming Lunar New Year Eve, Bolot promised.

 source: Thanh Nien