Deputy Head of the European Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade Duong Hoang Minh said that exports to the European market would recover rapidly after three free trade agreements (FTAs) between Vietnam and Europe are concluded this year, the Vietnam Economic News reported on April 14.

Statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that exports to Europe reached 6.06 billion USD in the first quarter of this year, an only 7.1 percent increase from a year ago, compared with 28.5 percent for Vietnamese exports to Oceania, 25.3 percent to America, 21.6 percent to Africa and 12.4 percent to the rest of Asia.

Duong Hoang Minh said slow economic recovery in Europe resulted in low demand for imported goods. In addition, political changes in the Ukraine and Russia also affected exports to these countries. For these reasons, exports to many European markets fell against the same period last year. Specifically, exports to the Ukraine reached 57 million USD in the first quarter of this year, a 4.7 percent drop from a year ago, the UK 851 million USD, a 6.8 percent drop, and Germany 1.16 billion USD, a 3.7 percent drop.

He also said that exports to Europe would increase by only 10 percent this year. However, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is negotiating three important FTAs with Europe including Vietnam-EU FTA, Vietnam-Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Vietnam-EFTA (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) FTA. The FTAs are expected to boost bilateral trade between Vietnam and European countries.

Specifically, after the FTA with the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is concluded with export tax preferences, Vietnamese exports to Russia would probably increase by 63 percent, Belarus up by 41 percent and Kazakhstan up by 8 percent. Similarly, Russian exports to Vietnam would likely increase by 75 percent, Belarusian exports up by 83 percent, and Kazakhstani exports up by 83 percent. The fifth round of negotiations on this FTA was completed on April 5 and final FTA negotiations are scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Similarly, Vietnam would significantly increase its consumer goods, agricultural products and food exports to the EFTA. So far Vietnam-EFTA FTA negotiations have not yet been completed. However, according to previous FTAs between the EFTA and other countries, the EFTA committed to reducing all tariff lines on industrial and manufactured products to zero percent. In this light, after the FTA between Vietnam and the EFTA is concluded, Vietnamese exports to this market would pay fewer taxes, have easier access to the EFTA countries and improve their competitiveness.

In addition, with the presence of global leading groups in Vietnam, the country is expected to become an important overseas investment destination for EFTA investors. The eighth negotiation round on the Vietnam-EFTA FTA is scheduled to take place this April in Switzerland and be completed this year.

After the Vietnam-EU FTA takes effect, more than 90 percent of Vietnamese exports to the EU would pay zero percent taxes. Trade between Vietnam and the EU would increase by 30-40 percent, while a variety of tariff barriers would be removed. The sixth round of FTA negotiations was completed early this year and the FTA would be concluded this coming September.

Duong Hoang Minh said that in the short run the Ministry of Industry and Trade would get together with local departments of industry and trade to speak about advantages and disadvantages for exports to Europe in order for businesses to make the most of the concluded FTAs which are expected to motivate trade between Vietnam and European countries this year and in the future.-VNA