EU signs free trade deal with Vietnam

Vietnam

The European Union (EU) has finalised a free trade deal with Vietnam, one of the world’s few remaining communist states, after two and a half years of talks.

“Today’s signature is not the end of our relations but the beginning of far more ambitious ties,” said EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker after talks with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung. “The EU and Vietnam can do great things together.”

The final deal, which follows a preliminary agreement reached in August, removes nearly all of the tariffs imposed to trade on goods traded between the two economies over a period of up to seven years and is similar to one agreed last year between the EU and Singapore.

It marks a milestone in the EU’s ties with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Vietnam and Singapore, said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem. The deal gave the EU access to a “vibrant economy of more than 90m consumers with a growing middle class and a young and dynamic workforce.”

Malmstroem called the deal “a new model for trade policy with developing countries”, adding that the EU’s ultimate goal was to establish a region-to-region agreement.

The EU is already in talks with two other ASEAN members, Malaysia and Thailand, to secure similar free trade agreements, while negotiations will also begin with the Philippines early in 2016. The commission is exploring the possibility of negotiating with Indonesia, said Malmstroem.

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