August 6, 2015
Vietnam, EU agree to remove meat and dairy tariffs
It was the first time the 28-nation bloc entered into an FTA with a developing nation and the second time with a Southeast Asian country after Singapore.
Calling it an "important milestone", EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the agreement, reached in principle on Tuesday (August 4), will remove more than 99 percent of tariffs on goods traded between the two countries over a period of up to 10 years.
Frozen pork meat imports, for example, will become duty-free up to a maximum of seven years after the deal is finally approved while dairy products will enjoy the same status after a maximum of five years, food preparations after a maximum of seven years, beef after three years and chicken after 10 years.
Malmström said the deal would hopefully become effective in late 2017 or early 2018.
Besides meats and meat products, the agreement will cover other food products and beverages, as well as non-food sectors including financial services, telecommunications, transport, and postal and courier services.
"This finely balanced agreement will boost trade with one of Asia's most dynamic economies," Malmström said. Vietnam is one of the fastest-developing Asian economies with a population of 90 million people.
A statement by the European Commission (EC) said that under the deal, Vietnam will also open its market to EU investments by lifting or easing restrictions on the manufacture of food products and beverages, among others.
"Vietnam will open its market for most EU food products, both primary and processed, allowing EU high-quality exports to reach its growing middle-class consumers", the EC statement said.
In Hanoi, Industry and Trade Minister Vu Huy Hoang said the deal would help "integrate Vietnam into the global economy," allow Vietnamese companies to meet international standards and provide benefits for businesses and people on both sides.
Malmström, however, pointed out that the FTA will ensure the respect of workers' rights as well as the "sustainable management" of natural resources including wildlife, forests and fisheries.
The deal, she warned, could be suspended if Vietnam fails to respect its "obligations".
The free trade agreement will still undergo the approval processes at the European Council (which comprises the heads of member states) and the EU Parliament. Both bodies are expected to give their nod to the deal. --Rick Alberto (firstname.lastname@example.org)