Overall, ASEAN is the EU`s third largest trading partner outside Europe, after the United States and China. Ensuring better access for EU exporters to the dynamic ASEAN market is an EU priority. Negotiations for a trade and investment agreement between the region and ASEAN began in 2007 and were interrupted by mutual agreement in 2009 to relax a bilateral negotiating format. These bilateral trade and investment agreements were designed as building blocks for a future agreement between the regions. The free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam has been in force since 1 August 2020. The aim is to simplify imports and exports by EU companies to and from Vietnam. For Vietnam itself, this allows us to be more closely linked to European trade and to open up important markets. The new free trade agreement has therefore laid the groundwork for a better economic relationship to bring the EU and Vietnam closer together economically. Vietnam currently enjoys trade preferences with the EU under the generalised preference system. The EU and Vietnam have agreed to strengthen the disciplines of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (OTC). In particular, Vietnam is committed to strengthening the enforcement of international standards in the development of its regulations. The agreement also contains a chapter on health and plant health measures (SPS), which specifically aims to facilitate trade in plant and animal products, in which the parties have agreed on a number of important principles such as regionalisation and the recognition of the EU as a single unit.
These provisions will facilitate access to the Vietnamese market by EU companies that manufacture a large number of products, including electrical appliances, information technology and food and beverage products. Vietnam can also take advantage of institutional reforms and bilateral cooperation mechanisms and reaffirm to investors that it is the regional investment centre for improving technology, human resources and labour productivity. The Vietnamese Ministry of Commerce considered that the signing of these agreements would create opportunities to participate in the restructuring of new supply chains, amid the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement allows EU companies to award public contracts, among others, with Vietnamese ministries, including for infrastructure such as roads and ports, major state-owned enterprises such as the electricity supplier and the national rail operator, public hospitals and the two largest Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and ho Chi Min. The TFUE calls on Vietnam and the EU (which have not yet done so) to ratify the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO); (ii) respect, promotion and effective implementation of the ILO`s fundamental principles on fundamental rights in the workplace; and (iii) the implementation of the Paris Agreement and other international environmental agreements, including actions to promote the conservation and sustainable management of animals, wildlife, biodiversity, forestry and fisheries.