Both events were cancelled following concerns by Vietnam regarding the involvement of civil society in the “domestic advisory groups” (DAGs) foreseen in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.
When negotiations for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (the EVFTA) concluded at the end of 2015, they had been one of the most rapid, and ambitious to date. However, as members will be only too aware, ratification of the EVFTA was delayed for several years after.
The main reason for this delay – aside from the usual “legal scrubbing” and translation – was the demand that Vietnam should first make definite changes to its labour laws and ratify certain ILO conventions before ratification. A demand that amfori supported. The agreement already contained a strong TSD chapter (on trade and sustainable development) which amfori also supported.
In early 2020 the European Parliament and EU27 voted in favour of ratification – and on 8 June the VN National Assembly did likewise. This was made possible by Vietnam’s ratification of ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (which entered into force in July 2020), significant improvements to its Labour Code (which came into effect in January), and its commitment to ratify ILO Convention 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labour (which will enter into force on 14 July). Consequently, the EVFTA entered into force on 1 August 2020.
However, a further commitment within the EVFTA is that both sides, the EU and Vietnam, set up “domestic advisory groups” (DAGs) in which civil society (NGOs, workers’ representatives, trade associations, etc.) can raise and discuss issues related to social and environmental policies with the European Commission and VN. amfori is member of the EU DAG and at the meeting held on 19 May we were informed that the Vietnamese government were raising concerns about the involvement of civil society in the EU DAG/VN DAG meeting and Joint Forum planned for 3-4 June. Last week, both events were cancelled owing to lack of support from Vietnam.
In response, on 1 June, the EU DAG issued a statement, reminding the Vietnamese government of its commitments and urging it to cooperate in the future. amfori will follow events closely and inform members of any relevant developments.