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Vietnam: EU-Vietnam trade agreement meets opposition over human rights issues

Various groups have raised human rights concerns against the signed EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.

For the upcoming vote, several NGOs sent a joint letter to the European Parliament urging the body to follow strict human rights benchmarks before ratifying this trade deal. 

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22 February 2020

EU accepts free trade agreement with Vietnam despite the country's poor human rights record

Author: David Hutt, Asia Times

"EU puts riches over rights in Vietnam trade deal", 13 February 2020

The European Parliament voted...to accept a free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam, a monumental deal that will cut almost all tariffs on exports from one of Southeast Asia's fastest growing economies.

The trade deal...has simultaneously been criticized for rewarding a one-party state that is among Asia's serial human rights abusers while making virtually no demands on Hanoi to improve its record.


Dozens of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) signed a letter addressed to the European Parliament earlier this month urging it to "vote for postponing Parliament's consent to the deals until the Vietnamese government agrees to meet concrete and verifiable benchmarks to protect labor rights and human rights."


The European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs noted in December that the EC, the body in charge of negotiating the EVFTA, "did not carry out a human rights impact assessment on the [trade deal], though requested to do so by Parliament."

It also chafed at the deal for focusing "on only a certain range of rights," and called for "human rights to be included in a more comprehensive way, accompanied by a mechanism to ensure their effective enforcement."


Geert Bourgeois, the EU's rapporteur for the EVFTA, said that when it comes to democracy and human rights "the glass is not full" but that the trade pact will serve as a "lever to improve the situation."


Yet there is no guarantee that the EVFTA will give the EU much leverage to push for reform in Vietnam....

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12 February 2020

Vietnam: NGOs call EU to postpone vote on free trade with Vietnam citing human rights concerns; EU says deal will address issues

Author: South China Morning Post

"Vietnam looks to burnish human rights image before EU trade vote", 11 February 2020

...[T]he European Union is on the cusp of finalising a far-reaching free trade agreement with Vietnam, in a move that would create the "most ambitious" deal it has ever struck with a developing country, according to the 27-country bloc.


Twenty-eight NGOs, both within and outside Vietnam, have called on the EU parliament to postpone the vote, citing human rights concerns.

A statement by Human Rights Watch called for the vote to be delayed until the Vietnamese government "agrees to meet concrete and verifiable benchmarks to protect labour rights and human rights."


The European Commission...recognises Vietnam's human rights record as a cause for concern. It stresses, however, that the deal will provide a platform to address such issues.

The prospect of the trade deal has already led Hanoi to improve its labour standards, signing up to six of eight ILO conventions, with the final two to be completed by 2023, a Brussels official said on condition of anonymity.

Many human rights organisations in Vietnam welcome the deal, the commission official said, stressing that the EU will closely monitor its implementation. "In a way they feel better protected with than without these agreements," he noted.


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9 February 2020

Vietnam: 28 NGOs urge EU Parliament to postpone vote on trade deal due to human rights concerns

Author: Eugene Wong, Radio Free Asia

"NGOs Ask EU Parliament to Vote Against EU-Vietnam FTA and IPA Over Human Rights Issues," 06 February 2020

A total of 28 NGOs...urged the European Parliament (EP) to postpone consent to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) until Vietnam’s government agrees to protect the rights of laborers and ensure human rights.

The FTA...is scheduled to be voted on in the European Parliament for approval...

In a letter drafted to members of the European Parliament (MEP), the NGOs expressed regret that even though Vietnam had failed to fulfill requests to improve human rights...the International Trade Committee (INTA) voted to quickly consent to both agreements, going against recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and ignoring the pleas of NGOs...

“There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress,” the NGOs said, citing a 2016 decision to consent to a textile trade deal with Uzbekistan only after Tashkent demonstrated it had taken steps to end child labor.

The NGOs also pointed to the EP’s March 2019 refusal to ratify the EU Turkmenistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) because Ashgabat had failed to advance human rights and protect the rule of law.

The groups made four recommendations that they said should be “minimum requirements” for the EP to agree to the deals with Hanoi.

These were: amending or repealing “draconian laws,” especially those used to detain activists, journalists and human rights defenders; the release of political prisoners; a commitment to, before 2021, ratify ILO Convention No. 87 (which ensures freedom of association and protects the right to organize); and the creation of an independent monitoring and complaints mechanism for those who would be harmed by the EVFTA and IPA.

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11 August 2015

NGOs call for human rights impact assessment of EU-Vietnam trade agreement

Author: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) & Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)

“In hurrying trade deal with Vietnam, the EU is bypassing its human rights obligations”, 10 Aug 2015

FIDH and…Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today that if finalised without conducting a human-rights impact assessment (HRIA) and without introducing the necessary human rights safeguards, the EU-Vietnam Free trade and investment agreement (FTA) would be concluded in flagrant violation of EU law…“Without strong human rights safeguards, the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement is likely to cause an increase in human rights abuses in Vietnam,” [VCHR President Vo Van Ai] said. Introducing human rights safeguards would address significant shortcomings in trade agreements, weighing in the human rights of European citizens and those of the Vietnamese people over business interests. Such safeguards could include indicators measuring the impact of the agreement, introduce redress and accountability mechanisms for affected communities, and organise a human and people centred development over business interests, notably in remediating the deficient and unbalanced investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms… In an open letter published today, FIDH and VCHR call upon the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to revisit the conclusion of the negotiations by the EC…

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