Benefits of EU-Việt Nam agri-food trade

July, 11/2022 - 07:00
In the European Union, we believe in the value of food; for our health, our society, and our peace.

The European Union Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski.

Janusz Wojciechowski *

In the European Union, we believe in the value of food; for our health, our society, and our peace.

Since our foundation, we have not only carried a strong belief in the value of food, but also in the value of sharing food; as a bridge between countries and cultures, it is a fundamental part of free and peaceful global relations.

I believe these are values that we share with Việt Nam. It is with this belief, and with the hope of strengthening our shared values, that I come to your country.

I am glad to say that the relationship between Việt Nam and the European Union is strong and growing stronger.

The pillars of our partnership can be found in our bilateral agreements – including the EU-Việt Nam Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) and the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). These pillars will soon be reinforced by the Investment Protection Agreement, once it is ratified by all EU Member States.

As European Commissioner for Agriculture, I am particularly encouraged by the progress of our Free Trade Agreement: between 2020 and 2021, EU-Việt Nam agri-food trade overcame the challenges of COVID to grow by 9 per cent, reaching 3.5 billion euros in total. These figures reach even higher levels if we also consider fishery and forestry products, both of which have particular prominence in Việt Nam’s exports.

As a result of the EVFTA, EU citizens enjoy increased access to Vietnamese tea and coffee, along with an impressive range of nuts, spices, and tropical fruit. Some of these products are protected as “Geographical Indications” via the EVFTA, such as Bảo Lâm seedless persimmon and Lục Ngạn lychees.

Key Vietnamese products such as rice, mushrooms, and sugar products also benefit from significant access to the EU market via Tariff Rate Quotas under the EVFTA, which allows them to be imported into the EU with zero duties.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese citizens can enjoy a diverse array of safe and high quality EU food.

European food has a strong legacy of health and safety standards. The EU checks everything, from pesticide use to packaging, so that you can enjoy our food with full assurance.

We also aim to make our food healthy for the environment. We support our farmers to embrace ecological practices (like organics, for instance) and harness research, innovation and technology for more sustainable farming systems.

And while European food meets the most modern standards, it is deeply rooted in centuries of heritage.

Through our system of geographical indications, we protect traditional methods and flavours, preserving the unique links of territory and local knowledge behind products like Roquefort cheese, Porto wine, Irish Cream spirit, and Prosciutto di Parma ham. These are amazing products from Europe that I’m proud to help Vietnamese consumers discover.

It gives me great joy that Vietnamese consumers have taken strongly to the meat, dairy, and cereals produced by our farmers. European fruits, vegetables, and olive oil are some of the other EU products that Vietnamese consumers are just beginning to discover.

Strengthening our trade relationship

Thanks to the EVFTA, agri-food trade between the EU and Việt Nam is estimated to grow further in 2022. To ensure that this growth is strong and sustainable, I believe there are a few key steps we can take.

Firstly, the balance of our agri-food trade is significantly weighted towards Việt Nam, by roughly 1 billion euros.

I see strong potential to increase the EU’s share of exports in this balance, as part of an overall increase in bilateral trade.

Achieving such a balance is essential to make sure our trading relationship can work effectively into the future.

I also believe we can add new product names – from both Việt Nam and the EU – to the list of geographical indications protected in the EVFTA.

Finally, I wish to work with Vietnamese authorities on the removal of some existing trade barriers, in particular on sanitary and phytosanitary market access. The significant increase of excise taxes for alcoholic beverages is also a concern for EU exporters.

Removing these barriers is essential to maintain free-flowing open trade, which has become all the more important in the face of threats to global food security.

I look forward to engaging with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Minh Hoan and his government colleagues on these topics. I believe we can work together to find practical solutions and solid agreements of mutual benefit.

Further developing the Vietnamese agri-food sector

In addition to my political engagements, I am proud to lead a strong business delegation to Việt Nam.

Approximately 50 delegates will accompany me, seeking to build business-to-business contacts with their Vietnamese counterparts.

The programme includes business forums, targeted sectoral meetings, and VIP dinners in Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City, to establish relationships of mutual interest for future business.

During my visit, I also intend to lead exchanges on how the EU and Việt Nam can further support each other in developing more modern, resilient and sustainable agri-food sectors.

I note the recent publication of Việt Nam's strategy for sustainable agriculture, which echoes many priorities of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and other elements of the EU’s Green Deal.

In line with our shared priorities, Vietnamese research institutes have already benefitted from the EU’s Horizon programme for research and innovation. EU-supported projects in the field of agriculture have ranged from integrating coffee crops into agro-forestry systems to strengthening food value chains and network dynamics.

I am pleased to announce today that the EU will also provide support for the sustainable development of the cocoa sector in Việt Nam through a new project: “Circular Economy Cocoa: From Bean to Bar”, with EU grant co-financing of 1,550,000 euros. This adds to a significant list of other EU-supported projects designed to help address the climate and environmental challenges faced by Việt Nam and to develop sustainable agriculture, in particular for small farmers.

To better understand the specific challenges on the ground, I will meet with a number of Vietnamese producers during my visit, including organic tea farmers in Hà Nội at the Hiệp Thành organic tea Company, visit the Mỹ Tịnh An cooperative, and a dragon fruit farm near Hồ Chí Minh City.

I look forward to speaking with Vietnamese farmers and discovering what we can learn from each other, on subjects like incorporating smart agriculture, embracing organic farming, and developing effective responses to climate change.

I believe that by exploring our similarities and identifying our shared goals, we can build a solid foundation for future cooperation.

And as we face a world of conflict and crises, such cooperation is more essential than ever.

There is a saying in Poland, my home country, which goes: “Z kim się zadajesz, takim się stajesz.” It means, “You become who you befriend.”

In this spirit, I look forward to befriending the people of Việt Nam and becoming closer in our food, our farming, and our future. VNS

* Janusz Wojciechowski is the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture