European Parliamentarians on Wednesday voted in favor of a trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam, taking the deal over its last hurdle.
Some 401 MEPs voted in favor, with 192 against, according to Parliament’s trade committee.
The pact pits the EU’s aspirations to gain a foothold in one of Southeast Asia’s most important and expanding markets — with a population of 96 million — against the concerns of activists on human rights and environmental issues. Indeed, the European Parliament held off the vote until Hanoi promised to sign up to basic international labor standards.
The agreement is set to enter into force in the summer, and will eliminate virtually all customs duties on exports to and from Vietnam over the next decade, with 65 percent of EU products and 71 percent of exports from Vietnam enjoying duty-free access from day one.
Duties on vehicles, wine, medicine, chicken and pork will drop more gradually.
For the Vietnamese, the deal is expected to benefit export sectors such as textiles, shoes, smartphone and computer parts, while Europe will take advantage of eliminated tariffs on dairy, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, wine and chocolate.
Brussels insisted that it had shielded its own most sensitive products, such as rice and tuna.