Jean-Jacques Bouflet, who is also head of the trade and economic affairs section at the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam, told the Daily that last year EU and the U.S were neck and neck for the biggest market for Vietnam-made export products.

“According to the latest statistics available for the 11 months of 2012, we are now the first destination for exports (of Vietnam)… exports only because imports from Europe are far too low,” Bouflet said.

The trade and economic affairs section at the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam quoted preliminary statistics of Vietnam’s General Statistics Office as saying that Vietnam’s exports to the EU from January to November reached US$18 billion, up 21.3% year-on-year while the U.S. imported goods worth some US$17.9 billion from Vietnam in the same period.

In the year to November, Vietnam imported goods worth US$8 billion from EU, a year-on-year increase of 14.6%. In this period, two-way trade between the EU and Vietnam stood at US$26 billion, or US$2 billion higher than the bilateral figure for the entire 2011.

Despite uncertainties in Europe for years, Vietnam’s exports to the EU have undergone strong double-digit growth of 22.36% year-on-year to US$11.38 billion in 2010 and up to 45.4% to US$16.5 billion last year.

“2011 and 2012 show that Vietnamese exports to Europe have still increased. So, the crisis (in the Eurozone) has not been yet able to curb down imports from Vietnam into Europe,” Bouflet said.

The EU export of goods to Vietnam has grown dramatically over the past years, 15.6% year-on-year to US$6.36 billion in 2010 and 18% to US$7.5 billion last year. With strong growth in both imports and exports, the EU-Vietnam trade has expanded to nearly US$17.2 billion in 2010 and US$26 billion last year.

Speaking at the debut event for EuroCham’s Whitebook 2013, Bouflet credited strong growth of Vietnamese exports to the EU to partially “unilateral preferences offered by the EU” and a significant proportion of Vietnam’s goods entitled to tariff exemption or preferential duties under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

However, there will be changes to the GSP system that require increasingly competitive products from Vietnam. “GSP is unilateral and subject to modifications every three years,” Bouflet said.

Bouflet noted companies and exporters needed a stable mechanism for their business strategies under “an ambitious bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as it offers stability and predictability to businesses.”

“It is great that Vietnam has realized the importance of having an FTA with an economy complimentary to Vietnamese economy which ensures the best long-term solution for improved access to overseas market,” Bouflet said.

Officials of the EU and Vietnam began the first round of FTA negotiations in Hanoi in October this year. “The second round will soon be held in Brussels in January 2013,” Bouflet said.

By Mong Binh - The Saigon Times Daily - December 3,2012