Vietnam hopes to receive support from the European Union (EU) to conclude a bilateral free-trade agreement soon, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said during a meeting with the EU’s top diplomat in Hanoi on Tuesday.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was in Vietnam for a one-day visit and received by the Vietnamese premier at the government headquarters in the capital city yesterday afternoon.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Dung urged the EU to approve the Vietnam-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, as well as finalize an agreement over free trade between Vietnam and the EU.
The Vietnamese premier also expressed his appreciation for EU-funded official development assistance (ODA), adding that he hopes the EU will continue granting ODA to Vietnam and will recognize the Southeast Asian country as a market economy.
In response, Ashton, who became the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU in 2009, announced that the EU has agreed to increase ODA to Vietnam by 30 percent in the next five years.
The British diplomat also said the two parties will work actively to ensure that Vietnam meet all standards so that the EU could soon recognize it as a market economy.
At a media meeting later the same day, Ashton told reporters that negotiations on the free-trade agreement were making good progress, and expressed her hope that the deal could be signed before the end of the year.
The EU is currently Vietnam’s largest export market, with total shipments worth 21 billion euros (US$28 billion) in 2013.
The free-trade agreement will help Vietnam to further expand its markets of 28 EU member countries with over 500 million people, according to the Associated Press.
Vietnam now has a free-trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.