On the 16th February 2017, in HCMC - the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham) - in collaboration with the EU-Vietnam Business Network (EVBN) organised a conference that gathered key speakers and experts in EU-Vietnam and EU-ASEAN relations, as well as business leaders and thinkers discussing possible scenarios of Vietnamese economy in 2018 when EVFTA is scheduled to come into force.
Global politics and economics at the beginning of 2017 has experienced growing uncertainty and challenges, especially since President Trump signed the order to withdraw the US from the TPP. Unquestionably, Vietnam’s hopes for a “big” FTA-driven rise in the ASEAN Economic Community now rely heavily on the only deal seen as realistically achievable: the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).
H.E. Mr. Francisco Fontan, EU Ambassador to ASEAN started the event with an opening speech highlighting the great momentum of EU-ASEAN relations generally and with Vietnam in particular. Ms. Miriam Garcia Ferrer, First Counsellor-Head of Section / Economics & Trade Section, EU Delegation to Vietnam followed with presentation on outlook of EU-FTAs in ASEAN and Vietnam’s reaction in face of the other EU Trade Agreements being negotiated with Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.
H.E. Mr. Francisco Fontan, EU Ambassador to ASEAN
Dr. Le Anh Tuan, Deputy CIO & Head of Research, Dragon Capital followed with a presentation on strengths and weaknesses of Vietnam’s economy benchmarked with its ASEAN neighbours. Perspectives and expectations of businesses towards the EVFTA were contributed by industry leaders in 3 key sectors: pharmaceutical (Mr. Bradley Silcox, Chairman of EuroCham Pharma Group), automotive (Mr. Chris Humphrey, Executive Director /EU-ASEAN Business Council), garment/textile/footwear (Mr. Bill Watson, Managing Director, Coats Vietnam, Cambodia & Korea Cluster).
Mr. Bill Watson, Managing Director, Coats Vietnam, Cambodia & Korea Cluster
H.E. Mr. Francisco Fontan, EU Ambassador to ASEAN said: “EU has launched a series of FTA-negotiations with selected ASEAN countries in order to fully realise the market opportunities for EU companies. Among them, negotiations with Vietnam and Singapore have been successfully concluded. The EU and Vietnam remained two solid and reliable partners, opened for business, to ASEAN, and to the world”.
Mr. Michael Behrens - Chairman of EuroCham said “The EVFTA will “go live” about a year from now. The potential of the EVFTA is clear, as its effective application can build on these good trade numbers between Europe and Vietnam and turn them into a long-lasting and ever progressing partnership, and ultimately into one of the most powerful intercontinental trade and investment corridors in the world. The EVFTA offers Vietnam the chance to link 500 million Europeans with more than 500 million ASEAN citizens, thus being at the centre of a trade corridor for about 1 billion potential customers”.
Chris Humphrey, Executive Director of EU-ASEAN Business Council
Regarding Vietnam’s opportunity in ASEAN’s automotive industry with EVFTA implementation, Chris Humphrey, Executive Director of EU-ASEAN Business Council commented: “Vietnam is in possession of low cost base, and increasing concentration of auto parts makers, EVFTA provides Vietnam the potential to become one of the fastest growing car markets in the ASEAN region over the next 20 years as economist’s prediction. Yet challenges remain due to high levels of competition from Thailand and Indonesia or infrastructure and anti-congestion issues and so on urging Vietnam’s need to raise technical standards and increase local content for global export markets”.
Dr. Le Anh Tuan, Deputy CIO & Head of Research, Dragon Capital commented: “With a large population at working age, the second fastest growing middle class worldwide, and continuously improving productivity, Vietnam has a lot of advantages that make it very attractive for foreign investors. However, this window of opportunity will close within the next seven to ten years as these competitive advantages will diminish”.