Over two dozen NGOs have called on the European Parliament to hold up consent on a free trade and investment agreement with Vietnam until the country consents to address human rights and labor abuses.
Twenty-eight NGOs signed off on a letter lamenting that members of the European Parliament had given the green light to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and Investment Protection Agreement, despite Hanoi’s failure to properly address human rights and labor abuses.
The Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam, the Con Dau Parishioners Association, Human Rights Watch, and the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ were among the 28 signatories of the letter.
The NGOs said the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade had “regrettably” endorsed the agreements on Jan. 21, in opposition to recommendations from the EU’s Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as international and Vietnamese rights groups.
The EVFTA was inked in June 2019 and, if implemented, will result in tariff reductions on 99 percent of goods between the 28-member bloc and the Southeast Asian country.
The EU called the EVFTA “the most ambitious free trade deal ever concluded with a developing country.”
The rights groups, however, contend the benefits of trade cannot supersede rights-related stipulations.
“There are notable precedents of the European Parliament setting human rights benchmarks to be met before giving their consent to bilateral deals in order to promote human rights progress, in line with the commitments laid out in article 21 of the Treaty of the European Union,” the letter read.
The NGO’s specifically cited a 2016 textile trade with Uzbekistan, in which the Central Asian state was forced to demonstrate it had taken “serious efforts to eradicate child labor before approval was granted.
They further mentioned how an EU partnership and cooperation agreement with Turkmenistan had been put on ice due to that “country’s reluctance to make any progress in the field of human rights and the rule of law.”
“The European Parliament should take the same approach with Vietnam, withholding Parliament’s consent and approving a parallel resolution laying out the human rights conditions that Vietnam should meet for MEPs to greenlight the deal,” the NGOs said.