Vietnam-EU relations strengthened

(VOV) - Vietnam and the EU have agreed to speed up negotiations to sign a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and enhance equal partnership and comprehensive cooperation for mutual benefit.

Immediately after the welcome ceremony in Hanoi on October 31, State President Truong Tan Sang held talks with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.

The two leaders reviewed bilateral cooperation and discussed regional and international issues of common concern as well as measures to further strengthen future Vietnam-EU relations.

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They expressed their delight at the rapid and positive development of bilateral relations across the three pillars of economics-trade, politics, and cooperation-development.

The EU is one of Vietnam’s leading trade partners and international donors while Vietnam represents the EU’s fifth biggest trade partner among ASEAN member countries.

Bilateral trade between the two economies reached over US$24 billion last year despite global economic woes, and shows further potential.

The signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and the first round of negotiation on the FTA are significant steps towards establishing closer economic and political relations between Vietnam and the EU.

Both sides agreed to promote the exchange of high-level visits and foster positive conditions for Vietnamese and EU businesses to make long-term investments in each other’s markets, especially in infrastructure development, transport, energy, finance, health care, tourism and services.

The EU delegates pledged to provide technical assistance and accelerate negotiations that will enable the two sides to sign the FTA soon and agreed to recognize Vietnam’s full market mechanism status.

Vietnamese representatives asked the EU to continue maintaining its full Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for Vietnam over the 2013-2015 period and consider the early implementation of the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA).

Vietnam officials thanked the EU and its member nations for providing it with official development assistance (ODA) over the years.

The two sides consented to closely coordinate to effectively implement development aid programmes scheduled for 2011-2013 and define priority areas for bilateral cooperation for 2014-2020 based on Vietnam’s strategy for socio-economic development which focuses on poverty reduction, sustainable development, environmental protection and responding to climate change.

They agreed to increase cooperation in education and training, science and technology, natural resources and the environment, agricultural and-rural development, justice, culture and tourism, communications, transport, and construction.

They will also promote dialogues and cooperation at regional and international forums such as the UN and ASEM and within the ASEAN-EU cooperation framework.

Vietnam praised the EU’s contributions to the process of building an ASEAN community, its initiatives for the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) cooperation and its active role in shaping a regional structure within ASEAN.

Both sides supported joint efforts to build a Southeast Asian region for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and friendship and underlined the need to ensure maritime security, safety and freedom in the East Sea, and settle disputes through peaceful means on the basis of respect for international law, as well as full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) looking towards a Code of Conduct (COC).

To mark the occasion, they inked a 2012 European Investment Bank-funded climate change contract worth 150 million Euros and issued a statement on the signing of a financial agreement for the European Trade Policy and Investment Support Project (EUMUTRAP).

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During the three-day visit, the European Council President will meet with Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, National Assembly (NA) Chaiman Nguyen Sinh Hung and several Vietnamese entrepreneurs.

He will also visit the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and other cultural and historical sites, as well as deliver a speech at the Hanoi National University where he will receive an honorary doctorate.