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The event, co-organised by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), provided an opportunity for Vietnamese and European businesses to update information on the first round of negotiations and the deadline Vietnam set for its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, as well as Vietnam’s economic prospects and future challenges.

Speaking at the event, VCCI Vice President Doan Duy Khuong said that Vietnam and the EU have always enjoyed good relations. Especially in light of 2013 when many EU countries will celebrate the 40 th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties with Vietnam .

The EU accounts for over 80 percent of Vietnam ’s total import-export turnover. In 2011, despite the global economic downturn and the debt crisis in some European countries, two-way trade between the EU and Vietnam still increased 36 percent from previous years, to over 24 billion USD.

According to Khuong , Vietnam is in the midst of its implementation of its 2011-2020 socio-economic development strategy, which serves as a gateway to a dynamic region and an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

Vietnam and the EU signed the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and began negotiations for the FTA in June 2012. The agreement is expected to bring economic benefits to both sides by gradually removing technical barriers in trade and creating more opportunities for the two sides to increase competitiveness in international economic integration, Khuong added.

The FTA will create a more favourable environment for Vietnam when zero duties are introduced to almost all commodities, including agricultural products, food, footwear and garments, said Luong Hoang Thai, head of the Multilateral Trade Policies Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

He also expected increasing investment from European businesses in Vietnam once the agreement is signed.

According to Jean Jacques Bouflet, Minister Counsellor and head of Trade and Economic Section of the EU delegation to Vietnam , there is great potential for Vietnam-EU economic and trade relations. The EU market has a 500 million-strong population at its disposal, and will provide many opportunities for Vietnamese goods.

The EU ranked fourth among Vietnam ’s foreign direct investors in 2011, with 1.77 billion USD pledged investment. It has been an important provider of official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam over the past years.

Bouflet expressed his belief that the Vietnam-EU FTA will open a sustainable entrance for both sides’ products and services.

It will bring to Vietnam not only visible but also invisible benefits that will improve the country’s economy in the global production chain, he added.-VNA

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