EU hints at FTA with Vietnam
VietNamNet Bridge — The European Union is looking to sign a separate free trade agreement with Vietnam after experiencing a slow progress in negotiating a region-to-region free trade deal with ASEAN.
“Nearly two years into these negotiations [EU-ASEAN FTA negotiations], we now clearly see the limitation of this region-to-region approach. The negotiations have been very slow and we have seen little progress,” said Philip Meyer, head of the EU negotiation delegates for the EU-ASEAN FTA.
Meyer paid a visit to Vietnam in late January to test local waters on whether the country would be ready to negotiate a bilateral deal with the union.
“We are now ready to negotiate bilaterally with Vietnam and also some other ASEAN countries who are willing to talk with us [about an FTA],” he said.
“What we need to think now is whether Vietnam is ready to open its market at a certain level.
We are waiting for a signal [from the Vietnamese side] on whether it is willing to open the economy, to compete and to integrate deeply in the EU market,” Meyer said. The EU and ASEAN launched the first talk on a region-to-region free trade deal in May 2007 with high hopes.
However, the diversification in the levels of development, interests and priorities among the ASEAN countries are attributed by the EU to the slow progress in negotiation for the deal.
Meyer noted that in order for EU countries to get further approaches to the ASEAN regional markets, particularly during global economy hiccups, it was important for them to seek separate FTAs with some individual ASEAN member countries. “The way forward in these difficult times is not to resort to an era of protectionism and trade barriers, but to open up new markets for our businesses,” he said.
European Union nations exported more than $7 billion worth of goods to Vietnam last year, accounting for about 9 per cent of Vietnam’s total imports. They bought $10.6 billion worth of Vietnamese products in 2008, up 18 per cent against the previous year. Meyer stressed that the union was ready to negotiate an FTA with Vietnam if the offers from the Vietnamese side were not less than what the country negotiated with Japan in a free trade agreement signed last December.
“We do not trade only in goods. We need goods and services as well. If our businesses invest in Vietnamese manufacturing, they do need to be assured that those manufacture have accessed good services relating to financial, transportation, advertising and telecommunication,” he said.
“Our investors also want to see a good level of competition. So, the competition law is very important [in Vietnam],” Meyer said.