The free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam is a fair deal, and will not damage the Italian market. But farmers are worried. EURACTIV Italy reports.
European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, reassured the rice sector after it had expressed concerns about the repercussions of the deal
After two and a half years of negotiations, the EU and Vietnam finally agreed on a free trade agreement on 4 August of this year. The deal has only been agreed at a political level and its technical and legal details will be established by the end of the year, says Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.
The agreement covers goods and services, investment and public tenders, and is intended to eliminate tariffs between the two economies.
The EU is one of Vietnam’s biggest investors, having invested over €500 million in the Southeast Asian country in 2013.
Italy worried about its rice
A few hours after the agreement was signed, Confagricoltura, an association that represents and protects Italian agricultural enterprises, issued a response, stating that the EU had once again used the rice sector as “a bargaining chip in a commercial deal with the Southeast Asian countries”.
Confagricoltura adds that, by opening the way for the import of 80 million tonnes of duty-free Vietnamese rice, the agreement worsens further a “situation that has already become difficult, thanks to the exponential rise in duty-free rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar, as part of the EBA agreement”.
One of the organisation’s chiefs, Fulco Gallarati Scotti, highlighted that, “no less than 500 million tonnes of duty-free Asian rice”, expected to arrive in the EU in 2006, will be sold at “a price so low that the sales of Italian rice on the European market, where Italy is a leader, will be put at risk”.
A fair deal
The European Commission responded to these concerns. The commercial agreement between the EU and Vietnam is fair and “will not damage the Italian or Spanish market”, according to Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan. Italy and Spain are two of the main producers of rice in the EU.
Hogan added that it is understandable that the agreement may be seen “more as a threat than an opportunity”, but added that “every negotiation is a two way street.”
Hogan went on to emphasise that, “there are opportunities for both parties, especially the dairy sector.”
The Commissioner concluded his response by stating that Italian producers “should think about the 90 million people in Vietnam”, who are all potential new consumers.