Ambassador-Head of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam Franz Jessen
Speaking to VietNamNet, Ambassador-Head of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam Franz Jessen revealed that EU and Vietnam would officially kick off the first round of negotiation for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) this October in Hanoi, followed by the first official visit to Vietnam by President of the European Council Van Rompuy.
The visit of the senior European official will “enhance and consolidate political relations with Vietnam” an objective in parallel to economic relation, emphasized the Ambassador.
After the visit of Mr. Van Rompuy, EU will arrange an official visit of Ms. Catherine Margaret Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security policy.
An ambitious trade agreement
Talking about specific benefits such as the current important target of FTA negotiations, in your view, what should both sides do to achieve this historic, ambitious economic and trade accord? Is it true or not, as the public has been aware of, since the enlargement, the pursuit for consensus from all 27 countries on each decision has seemingly become more complicated?
The preparation for an EU-Vietnam FTA has been taking place in the context that both sides are facing economic difficulties. However, the EU internally does not face any large disagreement in the search for consensus on this ambitious agreement with Vietnam. We do not see any obstacles from the enlargement which create difficulties for our decision making process.
According to statistics, for the first half of 2012, Vietnam exports to the EU increased by 22.6 percent while EU exports to Vietnam was up by 6 percent compared to the same period of last year. Nevertheless, among many European businesses there are concerns that they seem to have been loosing in the Vietnamese market due to the incapability to compete with Chinese businesses. Do you think this issue needs to be addressed?
As far as European investment in Vietnam is concerned, we see that there is much work to be done to promote investment in this market and one part of it is to have the FTA concluded as soon as possible. European businesses invest in areas which differ from other investors in Vietnam.
European investors are not aiming at using cheap labour force in Vietnam but looking at training dynamic workers to increase the flexibility of the country’s labour force.We want to see fair, transparent bidding and government procurement procedure so that European businesses can participate in the process.
Possibility of a clash is minimal
Escalation of tensions in the East Sea is the latest developments where their significance has gone beyond regional borders. But it seems that the EU is far behind the US in this matter? Does the resumed participation of senior European officials in the recent Asia security summits give a signal for a shift in strategy of the EU?
I think the relationship between the EU and ASEAN has made progress. The engagement of EU high representative on foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton in some of the recent meetings proves that. We post big delegations in Japan, India and China, which shows our close link with this region.
EU-ASEAN trade accounts for 28% of the total ASEAN trade, while ASEAN- USA trade accounts for 22%. Therefore, to some extent, our trade relation with ASEAN is stronger than ASEAN’s trade relation with the USA.
In the agenda of the European External Action Service (EEAS), our new diplomatic service, Asia is specified as the focus of EU external policies.
There have been economic and political changes with the recent developments in the region, in which Vietnam is in the centre. The EU is preparing to welcome the visit to Brussels by the Vice Minister of Defence of Vietnam Nguyen Chi Vinh. This proves that both sides are increasingly strengthening their political ties.
The EU pays more attention to the core economic interests in East Asia and South-East-Asia in which maritime security is an important factor. In the event of a conflict in the East Sea, will EU military intervention be limited?
No, I mean these two issues go abreast. Actually I believe in the way that concerned countries solve their problems. I personally think the possibility of a clash in the East Sea is minimal. We have worked with both Vietnam and China on this matter.
A dispute will seriously affect the stability both politically and economically which is an important factor not only for European investors but also for investors from other countries in their search for market.