A seminar on opportunities and challenges from the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement was held in Hanoi on October 19 by the European Chamber of Commerce and the Hanoi Department for Planning and Investment.

Currently, the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement is in the negotiation process with the aim of promoting trade liberalization and implementing WTO commitments among members of ASEA and EU.

According to Bui Huy Son, deputy director of the Multi-lateral Trade Policy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam is a developing country so the competitiveness of small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is limited and the position of the country’s market economy has not been recognized. Therefore, when engaging in the agreement, the EU should develop assistance policies and the Government should also have decisive policies to develop SMEs.

Regarding potential of the EU market, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien said the EU is one of ASEAN’s three largest markets, and is the biggest investor in Vietnam. ASEAN has many advantages in terms of resources and agricultural products. EU-funded projects in Vietnam are being implemented efficiently, greatly contributing to the country’s socio-economic development.

Michael Growder from the Australian Embassy in Hanoi said ASEAN is a large partner of the EU, accounting for about 16 percent of the total trade value. Research shows that a closer trade link with this region will bring about benefits for all three sides.

The EU is now Vietnam’s largest trade partner with the two-way trade turnover reaching US$10.2 billion in 2006. Vietnam exported products worth approximately US$7 billion, accounting for 17 percent of its foreign trade turnover. The EU is considered a key market for Vietnamese businesses in particular and for ASEAN businesses in general.

Source: VOV