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EU-Vietnam PCA

EU and Vietnam sign PCA

28 June 2012

In an exclusive interview with the EU-Asia Centre, Pham Binh Minh, Vietnamese Foreign Minister, welcomed the signing of the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) in Brussels on 27 June. 

The minister said that the PCA would provide a new legal framework to broaden and deepen relations between Vietnam and the EU. Hanoi was especially interested in closer cooperation in fields such as education, science and technology as well as global issues such as climate change, proliferation and fighting terrorism. The minister also promised to push for closer EU-ASEAN ties when Vietnam takes over as the coordinator for relations with the EU next month.

In a statement after the PCA signing ceremony, EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton said that the EU was committed to forging a broader and more mature partnership with Vietnam for several reasons. First, it was an active partner in ASEAN, which in turn was a key element in the stability and security of the region. Second, because Vietnam has a particularly dynamic economy. 

Ashton said that the scope for a strong partnership was huge and pointed to successful cooperation in the field of sustainable forestry and legal and judicial reform. The PCA would further the scope of EU-Vietnam cooperation in areas such as trade, the environment, energy, science and technology, good governance, as well as tourism, culture, migration, counter terrorism and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The PCA would also allow Vietnam and the EU to further enhance cooperation on global and regional challenges, including climate change, terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all issues on which Vietnam is willing to play an increasingly active role.


At the same time as the PCA signing, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Vietnamese Minister for Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang officially launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Vietnam. Both sides are looking for a comprehensive agreement covering tariffs, non-tariff barriers as well as commitments on other trade related aspects, notably procurement, regulatory issues, competition, services, and sustainable development. 

De Gucht said that the potential for both sides was enormous and he expected the first round of negotiations to take place just after the summer. He noted that Vietnam was the EU’s third partner in the ASEAN region after Singapore and Malaysia. The EU was also continuing contacts with a number of other ASEAN Member States, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. The Commissioner said the EU ‘will be ready to move whenever they are.’ 

Vietnam is the EU's fifth largest trading partner within ASEAN (and 35th out of the EU's total trade). Conversely, the European Union is Vietnam's 3rd largest trading partner (after China and the US). In 2011 the EU exported goods to the value of € 5.2 billion and imported goods worth €12.8 billion from Vietnam. EU exports are dominated by high tech products including electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, vehicles, pharmaceutical products and iron and steel. Vietnam's key export items include footwear, textiles and clothing, coffee seafood and leather furniture. The EU is one of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam with investments worth around US$ 1.8 billion, which represented more than 12% of Vietnam's total FDI in 2011 according to Vietnamese sources.

The new PCA will need to be ratified by EU Member States and submitted to the European Parliament before it enters formally into force. A similar PCA was concluded with the Philippines in 2010 and should be signed shortly. In November 2009, Indonesia was the first country of ASEAN to sign a new-generation PCA with the EU. 

President Van Rompuy will visit Vietnam after the ASEM summit in November and Ashton has agreed to visit sometime thereafter.