10.09.2018

Project launched to make sure Vietnam’s trade deal with EU endorses workers’ rights

In Vietnam, a rights group works to ensure that the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement safeguards labour and environmental standards laid out by EU and UN guidelines.

A rights group in Vietnam is working to ensure that the country’s trade deal with the European Union explicitly safeguards labour and environmental standards, which are laid out by EU and UN guidelines. The project, in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and funded by the EU, was launched at a conference in Hanoi on 25 July 2018.

The Vietnamese NGO Centre for Development and Integration (CDI) is working with the FES in Vietnam to make sure that an upcoming free trade agreement with the European Union does not threaten the rights and well-being of the country’s workers.

The project funded by the EU, upholds the participation of workers’ representatives in the implementation and monitoring of the relevant aspects of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). It is titled “Business and Human Rights in Trade Relations and Global Supply Chains in Vietnam” and shortly referred to as the BHRTR project. As one of the main components, the projects aims to uphold inclusive participation in the implementation and monitoring of the sustainability chapter of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). This objective will first be realised through awareness raising campaigns on the chapter’s particular mechanisms which provide for the participation of non-state actors. Moreover, the project is working to establish a network of workers’ representatives and CSOs in Vietnam who will have regular exchange on the labour situation in the country, give advice to Vietnamese government on trade-related labour issues and engage with their European counterparts under the framework of EVFTA.

"[T]hese standards should not be a safety net, but a trampoline that enables countries to benefit from trade while at the same time improving the lives of workers, consumers and preserving the environment."

The legal review of the final text of EVFTA was formally concluded in June 2018. It is now being translated into Vietnamese and 26 official languages of the EU. The agreement is expected to be signed between the Vietnamese government and the European Council in late 2018.

“We have incorporated a Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter into our agreement that commits both sides to comply with multilateral labour and environmental standards,” said Bernd Lange, Member of the European Parliament and also the chairman of its International Trade Committee.

“Because these standards should not be a safety net, but a trampoline that enables countries to benefit from trade while at the same time improving the lives of workers, consumers and preserving the environment.”

  • MEP Bernd Lange making a key note speech on EU’s concept of value-based trade at a FES Conference in Hanoi, 25 July 2018. Photo by FES Vietnam.

Lange was speaking at the BHRTR project’s official launch held in Hanoi on 25 July 2018. Later in the week, he met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan on the ratification process of EVFTA.

“While the US is attacking rule-base trading system, we try to work out better and fairer rules,” he commented on Twitter after the meeting. “In Vietnam, I gave the introductory lecture on a new EU-funded FES project to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the field of trade”

Lange was speaking at the BHRTR project’s official launch held in Hanoi on 25 July 2018. Later in the week, he met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan on the ratification process of EVFTA.

“While the US is attacking rule-base trading system, we try to work out better and fairer rules,” he commented on Twitter after the meeting. “In Vietnam, I gave the introductory lecture on a new EU-funded FES project to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the field of trade”.

These principles, known as the UNGP, provide a comprehensive framework on human rights in business by operationalizing the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework. They complement the EVFTA’s chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development, and underpins the second component of the BHRTR project.

“The UNGP also make clear that governments must not enter into trade and investment agreements that constrain their ability to meet human rights duties.” 

Despite its significance and widespread acknowledgement by many European as well as Asian countries in recent years, the UNGP has not enjoyed an adequate awareness and application in either policy or operational level in Vietnam. The BHRTR project therefore aims to raise awareness on UNGP, to push forward the business and human rights agenda in the context of the increasing trade and global market integration of the country.

At the opening conference, Catherine Phuong, Assistant to Country Director of UNDP in Vietnam, introduced participants to the three main pillars of UNGP, namely the state’s duty to protect human rights, the cooperate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedy.

“The UNGP also make clear that governments must not enter into trade and investment agreements that constrain their ability to meet human rights duties,” she said.

“The EU, in particular, is required to respect its Charter of Fundamental Rights. Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union obliges the EU to define and pursue policies and actions that consolidate and support the rule of law and human rights in its external relations.”

The Conference attracted over 80 participants representing Vietnamese government, business, trade unions and civil society, as well as researchers in the fields of labour and human rights. With such a large and diverse participation, the conference was not simply a launch of the project for its target groups and the public, but also one of its first awareness-raising actions.

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Mai Ha Thu is project manager at the FES Vietnam office. For more information on the work by FES in Vietnam contact the office staff and follow the official facebook fan page for daily updates. 

   

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia

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+65 6297 6760
info(at)fes.asia

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