EU Parliament approves landmark trade deal with Vietnam

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 3, 2018 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a plenary session in Strasbourg, eastern France. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN

The European Parliament, on Wednesday approved a wide-ranging free trade agreement struck between the European Union (EU) and Vietnam, paving the way for it to take effect in 2020.

The deal was passed by a majority of 416 EU lawmakers to 187, with 44 abstentions.

Advocacy groups had expressed reservations about the agreement due to human rights concerns in Vietnam.

The EU described the trade deal as the most ambitious it had ever struck with a developing country.

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It will eliminate 99 per cent of all tariffs on both sides, cut non-tariff barriers, for example by aligning product standards, and open up the Vietnamese services and public procurement markets to EU companies.

It is considered a potential economic boom for Vietnam.

The free trade agreement must now be formally ratified by EU member states and voted on by the Vietnamese National Assembly.

It is expected to come into force by June.

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