European Interest

S&Ds: Vietnam’s reformed labour code a positive signal but concrete changes are needed

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
National Assembly of Vietnam, Hanoi.

The S&D Group today welcomed the adoption of Vietnam’s reformed labour code following a vote in the National Assembly in Hanoi. Ahead of the European Parliament’s ratification of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and the EU, the labour reforms send S&D MEPs a positive signal that Vietnam is taking steps in the right direction to improve labour rights with a view to implementing the remaining International Labour Organisation (ILO) core conventions. For the S&D Group, there are still a number of areas, such as human rights, where progress needs to be made in Vietnam.

“With parliamentarians voting in favour of a reformed labour code, the National Assembly in Vietnam has sent an important signal at this stage in the FTA ratification process. Nevertheless, the trade agreement is not a done deal as far as the S&D Group is concerned. Before taking any decision on next steps in the process, S&D MEPs will take time and care to look at the reforms in detail and assess whether they deliver on the calls our group has made for concrete progress on labour rights,” said Kathleen van Brempt, coordinator of the committee for international trade (INTA).

“In the new European Parliament, there is far from any automatic majority. A credible roadmap on what steps Vietnam will take to address our concerns, particularly in relation to ratifying the outstanding ILO core conventions, 105 on forced labour and 87 on freedom of association, would help build a majority in the European Parliament for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement,” said van Brempt.

The committee for international trade (INTA) has started its consent procedure for the EU-Vietnam Free Trade and Investment Protection Agreements. The first two exchanges of views were held on 2 October and 6 November, with the next exchange of views planned for 2-3 December. The committees for development and for fisheries as well as the sub-committee for human rights give opinions to the procedure. The INTA committee will vote on 20-21 January 2020. The plenary vote is scheduled for February 2020.

“During a recent INTA delegation to Hanoi, S&D MEPs had the opportunity to listen to the Vietnamese government as well as to a range of voices from civil society and NGOs on the situation of labour rights and human rights in Vietnam. We underlined that the S&D Group’s top priority was seeing concrete progress made on improving labour rights and human rights,” added Jude Kirton-Darling, shadow rapporteur.

“While the vote in the National Assembly today demonstrates that Vietnam has taken a step in the right direction in addressing some of the challenges faced by workers, there is still some way to go. These reforms must contribute to the ratification of the remaining ILO core conventions, and we look forward to gaining a clearer picture of how this will happen from our Vietnamese counterparts. The S&D Group also wants to see more concrete action being taken to improve human rights, which have sadly deteriorated in recent years. The implementing measures for Vietnam’s new cyber security law should ensure that the law respects fundamental freedoms. For us, timely preparations for implementing the FTA, in particular the agreement’s chapter on trade and sustainable development, and tangible progress are key. We want not only businesses but also people to benefit from closer trade relations between the EU and Vietnam.”

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