EU-Vietnam trade pact still contains vast future benefits

February 22, 2023 | 09:00
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Europe and Vietnam are looking to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement as a way to deepen bilateral trade and investment cooperation with a focus on a greener economy and more sustainable development.
EU-Vietnam trade pact still contains vast future benefits
The new Whitebook consists of contributions from all 18 of EuroCham’s sector committees

The European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) on February 16 released its most recent Whitebook themed “Working Toward a Green Economy and Sustainable Development” at a business-to-government dialogue forum.

Bringing together an assemblage of nearly 300 political and business leaders, the gathering served as a stage for exploring the prospects for further collaboration between the public and private spheres, aimed at propelling EU-Vietnam trade and fostering sustainable and green-oriented investment opportunities.

EuroCham’s annual Whitebook offers a comprehensive overview of the regulatory obstacles that impede the country’s economic growth, encompassing critical areas such as trade, investment, employment, and development, and offers their proposals for rectifying any such issues.

The Whitebook, as more than simply a catalogue of challenges, is the product of EuroCham’s broad range of stakeholders. With contributions from each of its 18 sector committees, the Whitebook presents a rich tapestry of insights, perspectives, and policy recommendations, reflecting the nuanced and multidisciplinary nature of the regulatory environment in Vietnam.

Giorgio Aliberti, EU Ambassador to Vietnam, said, “The publication is a valuable source of inspiration and suggestions for Vietnam’s endeavours to transform itself into a regional production hub and an attractive destination for high-quality EU investments.”

In the days preceding the Whitebook launch, EuroCham and a delegation from the EU-ASEAN Business Council took part in a series of meetings with distinguished government officials and ministries in Hanoi. Notably, the delegation had the privilege of engaging in dialogue with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.

Alain Cany, chairman of EuroCham Vietnam said, “In our meetings with the EU-ASEAN Business Council, we were able to raise key issues and recommendations, and confirmed our solid relationship with the Vietnamese government. The European business community will continue to be the strongest supporters for helping Vietnam to achieve the endless prospects that lie ahead.”

The launch event provided a platform for a productive dialogue between the European business community and Vietnamese policymakers. At the forefront of the discussions were the key findings from the Whitebook, tackling critical topics such as healthcare, the green economy and sustainability, and innovation and investment.

EuroCham shared its insights, which were met with thoughtful responses from representatives from Vietnamese ministries, departments, and agencies.

Despite the fact that the timeline for reducing import tariffs by 99 per cent between the two sides is still underway, the pact has already produced dividends for both parties. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, the country exported $56 billion worth of goods to the EU in 2022, an on-year increase of 10.2 per cent.

EuroCham believes that if the challenges outlined in the Whitebook are addressed, the positive outcomes will rise and the full potential of the deal can be realised.

EuroCham’s executive director Delphine Rousselet stated, “Europe-Vietnam business has made great progress so far, but we still have a long way to go before we can fully benefit from the deal, both in trade and investment. The Whitebook provides a framework for realising the full potential of our strong partnership and of the EVFTA.”

Alain Cany-Chairman, EuroCham Vietnam
Vietnam’s impressive economic progress is a testament to its potential as a leading player in the region. However, in order to ensure long-term stability and growth, it is imperative that we prioritise sustainable development.

Our newest Whitebook serves as a comprehensive guide to this future, offering practical policy recommendations to address the most pressing regulatory challenges faced by European businesses operating in Vietnam. By working together to overcome these obstacles and create a more conducive atmosphere for sustainable growth, we can help secure a brighter, more sustainable future for Vietnam and its people.

Emin Turan-Chairman, Pharma Group
Innovation is the driving force behind progress in healthcare, contributing to healthier societies and generating economic value.

Government legislation has set out bold visions for the country’s pharma and life sciences development, with a key role for innovation.

Representing the innovative pharmaceutical industry with a paramount role during the pandemic, Pharma Group is committed to support the government in developing a transparent, bold, concrete, time-bound, and measurable action plan to achieve the shared vision of Vietnam becoming among the leading countries in the region for quality healthcare with an innovation-driven industry.

Eunjung Han-Vice chairwoman Digital Sector Committee
This is an especially important year for Vietnam in terms of digital with key instruments in the pipeline including, among others, the draft cybersecurity sanctions decree, draft personal data protection decree, and draft amended Law on E-Transactions.

The Whitebook reflects these dynamic developments while sharing our members’ viewpoints and practical recommendations reflecting international best practices. In particular, we recommended harmonisation of local personal data protection provisions with the EU’s data protection regulations and other jurisdictions’ laws; facilitation of free cross-border flow of data; and recognition of international certificates for e-signatures.

Always appreciative of the government’s pragmatism, we hope that continued dialogue will remove unneeded barriers, better facilitate business, and ultimately thrust Vietnam in the direction of becoming a regional digital hub.

Jean-Jacques Bouflet-Vice chairman, EuroCham Vietnam
In light of the difficult economic conditions of 2022 and forecasts that predict continued challenges in 2023, it is imperative that we take decisive action to address the issues affecting the business climate in Vietnam.

The Whitebook serves as a crucial tool in this effort. One of the biggest concerns is the complex and unpredictable process of obtaining work visas for foreign experts. Currently, they face numerous obstacles and need to get approval from various levels of authority to work in the country. The process is often intimidating, frustrating, and unpredictable. If this process is simplified and made more transparent, experts and investors will find Vietnam a much more attractive destination.

To truly bring about positive change, we urge Vietnamese government officials to consider correcting not only these, but also the numerous other challenges we have highlighted in our latest Whitebook.

Tomaso Andreatta-Chairman Green Growth Sector Committee
As Vietnam’s economy has grown, so have its environmental threats. Against this backdrop, our committee is dedicated to promoting sustainable growth while safeguarding the environment as a whole.

For this reason, we have taken great care to formulate policies in the Whitebook that balance economic growth and environmental protection. We advocate for not only a push towards clean and renewable energy sources, but also improved recycling efforts, particularly with regards to plastics.

We also put forward policies promoting the implementation of energy-efficient smart buildings to reduce pollution and energy consumption, as well as better water management practices, including the management of water resources, to counteract the effects of climate change.

Jesper Clausen-Chairman, Food, Agri, and Aqua Business Sector Committee
Vietnam is positioning itself as a foremost food producer in Southeast Asia, with a proven track record in the cultivation of rice, fruit and vegetables, meat, and seafood. The goal of our Whitebook recommendations is to build on this success. The EVFTA’s implementation presents a unique opportunity to further bolster this trajectory, as it reduces trade barriers and supports Vietnam’s adherence to international standards.

The entry of European food companies in the Vietnamese market is expected to elevate the quality of food products available to consumers. It is imperative, however, to approach food production with a philosophy to minimise the reliance on antibiotics and pesticides.

The growing global interest in green and sustainable food production presents a promising landscape for business ventures, as evidenced by the success of the Green Economy Forum and Exhibition here in 2022.

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By Bich Thuy

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