European Parliament ratifies EU free trade accord with Vietnam

Strasbourg: The European Parliament on Wednesday ratified an EU free trade accord with Vietnam despite some lawmakers objecting because of the Asian country’s human rights record.
The legislature, sitting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, gave its assent to the pact with a vote of 401 in favour, 192 against and 40 abstentions.
The accord will take effect this year after final approval by the European Council representing EU member states and ratification by Vietnam.
The European Commission, which negotiated the deal, welcomed the vote.
Signed in June last year, it stipulates a phasing out of tariff barriers over a decade for Vietnam and over seven years for the EU.
EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in a statement hailed the “huge economic potential” of the deal.
He also said moves by Vietnam to improve labour rights in order to secure the accord “proves that trade policy can be a force for good”.
But the Greens grouping in the European Parliament issued a statement expressing scepticism over the “real impact” of the labour reform and saying freedom of expression remained under threat in Vietnam.
It also expressed concerns about deforestation, overfishing and animal trafficking in Vietnam.
Vietnam is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner in southeast Asia, with annual exchanges amounting to nearly 48 billion euros ($52 billion).
The EU largely imports from Vietnam telecoms equipment, apparel and food products, and exports machinery, transport equipment and chemical and agricultural products. — AFP