Better Work in Vietnam and the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement

Roopa Nair, Head of Operations, Quality, and Innovation at Better Work, participated at a High-Level Conference on the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, organized in the European Parliament.

News | 28 January 2020
Following the vote of the INTA (International Trade) Committee of the European Parliament to recommend the ratification of the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, Rapporteur Geert Bourgeois organized a conference to debate the agreement.

Panellists included the European Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, the Vice-Minister of Trade of Vietnam, Tran Quoc Khanh, Better Work’s Roopa Nair and the EU’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Giorgio Aliberti.
The conference focused amongst others on labour and human rights standards, which fall under the sustainable development chapters of the agreement.

Ms Nair highlighted how Better Work, a joint ILO-IFC programme which is co-funded by the European Union, has been working for ten years in Vietnam to improve working conditions and boost productivity in the garment industry. She explained how much progress has been made in this time with regard to freedom of association, decreasing the gender pay gap (a decrease of 85%) and in terms of preventing labour violations.

Moreover, Better Work has seen a 22% increase in productivity and firm competitiveness which goes hand in hand with better working conditions. The positive impact of better working conditions is not limited to workers: they also bring opportunities to families, and the enrolment rate of children at school has been shown to increase with these improvements.

Key interventions from the Vietnamese Vice-Minister for Trade and the EU Commissioner for Trade laid out a roadmap for how Vietnam would ratify outstanding fundamental ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and on the Abolition of Forced Labour.

Some MEPs inquired about assurances that there will be continuing signals from Vietnam to improve human rights and uphold labour standards. All sides of the debate recognized the progress made in Vietnam’s labour code and wide-ranging reforms since the EU first engaged in trade talks in 2012.