Vietnam and the European Union (EU) have pledged to step up efforts to conclude negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (EVFTA) by October this year.

During talks between Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Vice President of the European Commission (EC) and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in Hanoi on August 12, both sides agreed to speed up the EU’s early recognition of Vietnam as a market economy.

Deputy PM Minh thanked the EU and its member states for their precious support for Vietnam during the country’s national development and international integration.

He appreciated the union’s decision to increase official development assistance (ODA) for Vietnam to 400 million EUR for the 2014-2020 period, up 30 percent compared to that of the 2007-2013 period.

Ashton spoke highly of Vietnam’s socio-economic development achievements as well as its increasing role and position in the regional and global arenas.

Both host and guest expressed pleasure with the rapid and positive development of the bilateral ties in all fields. The EU is now the largest export market, the biggest non-refundable aid provider and leading investor of Vietnam . Despite difficulties in the world economy, two-way trade last year reached over 33.7 billion USD, up 16 percent over the previous year.

The two sides agreed that in the future, Vietnam and the EU will increase the exchange of high-level delegations and continue creating favourable conditions for their businesses to invest in each other’s market, particularly in the fields of industry, infrastructure, transport, energy, finance, health care, tourism and service.

They also agreed to promote partnership in specific areas, including education-training, science-technology, natural resources and environment, agriculture and rural development, justice, culture-tourism, information-communication, transport and construction.

Vietnam and the EU will strengthen dialogue and collaboration at regional and international forums, especially the United Nations, the Asia-Europe Meeting, as well as within the framework of the ASEAN-EU cooperation.

Vietnam hailed the union for its contributions to the building of the ASEAN Community, and its engagement in sub-regional cooperation initiatives, as well as its commitment to playing an active and constructive role in the evolving regional architecture with ASEAN being the core in East Asia , Minh said.

As the coordinator for ASEAN-EU relations for the 2012-2015 period, Vietnam will try its best to boost the effective and practical development of bilateral ties, he added.

During her stay in Vietnam, Ashton visited the President Ho Chi Minh relic site, the Women Museum and the Hoa Lo Prison historical site.-VNA