European Parliament discusses EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

The ILO participated to an Exchange of views on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, organized by the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament.

News | 02 December 2019
This year, Vietnam has ratified ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining and adopted a new Labour Code, which will introduce principles of freedom of association at the enterprise level. “This will open a new chapter of industrial relations in socialist Vietnam,” said Chang-hee Lee, Director of the ILO Country office for Vietnam.

Workers at enterprises now have the right to join or form a representative organization of their choosing.

According to the Director, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) has helped to open and move forward the debate on freedom of association and other fundamental principles and rights at work. “Until 2014, it was unimaginable that Vietnam could come this far. Freedom of association remained a taboo word until then, considered synonymous with political subversion.”

He also mentioned the critical role the EU, ILO and Vietnamese partners have played by closely collaborating and advocating the reform at the highest level of political decision-making, while providing policy support on a daily basis. This partnership has advanced the labour rights agenda, and produced tangible progress towards the ratification of the eight ILO Fundamental Conventions.

The ILO will provide policy advice and technical support to national partners to raise awareness and build the capacity for new industrial relations systems, based on the recognition of the freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Tim De Meyer, Senior Adviser at the International Labour Standards Department, highlighted the positive impact of the EVFTA in stimulating political commitment on international labour standards, even before the Agreement has been ratified. In 2019 alone, Vietnam has ratified three ILO Conventions.

The ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Vietnam are cooperating on a “30-by-30 strategy” that should see Vietnam ratify 30 Conventions by 2030, including all eight Fundamental Conventions.

“With the ratification of the Freedom of Association Convention and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, we are entering the most politically challenging phase of the labour law reform. The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement presents a unique opportunity to drive reform in the labour relations area,” he concluded.

The European Parliament is set to vote on the EVFTA in February 2020.