On 12 February 2020, the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Vietnam (EVFTA) was officially ratified. The strong commitments in terms of open markets within the EVFTA framework will help to boost Vietnam – EU trade relations while further expanding Vietnam’s export markets. This is especially fortunate news due to dwindling global trade caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has brought factories around the world to a crawl.

Since the negotiations are still ongoing, many of Vietnam’s SMEs have already began making preparations beforehand. This is shown through their participation at the Biofach organic trade fair in Germany which took place in mid-February 2020. Through their participation at this trade fair, these SMEs have shown that they are confident that their products have met European standards and are ready to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the EVFTA.

Of the eleven Vietnamese SMEs that attended the trade fair, six of them have been supported by the BioTrade Vietnam project, funded by European Union (BioTrade EU project) in seedlings, cultivation techniques, product manufacturing process and certification application in European standards for many years.

Mr. Van Luong Pham, Director of Helvetas Vietnam, Representative of BioTrade EU project said: “Since 2014, when the EVFTA was not been signed, we have been sponsored by the European Union and the Swiss government in implementing BioTrade projects on agriculture to access European market. The project’s approach is to improve the capacity of farmers and SMEs in market access and product certification.”

Consumers in Europe as well as in Vietnam are becoming more interested in healthy and green products in which the production process does not cause extensive damage to the environment. The European Commission are progressively requiring more and more stringent criteria on products for sustainable exploitation and conservation. The BioTrade EU project helps raise the awareness of Vietnamese SMEs on that requirement.

“We see that the European market does not merely require product quality, but they also care about its contribution to the society and the community. Therefore, we want to prove our social responsibilities in environmental, social, human and climate change issues,” said Ms. Lisa Nguyen, General Director of Vietnamese Staranise-Cinnamon Company, Vinasamex.

At Biofach 2020, Vietnamese SMEs introduced their agricultural products which were all certified with European organic standards.

Mr. Phuc Mich Ha, President of VOAA commented: “In my opinion, European organic standards are the most rigorous organic standards, but Vietnamese enterprises are ready for it. The proof is that they all bring their fully-certified products by European organic standards to this trade fair.”

The BioTrade EU project is key to helping Vietnam’s economy open the door to international markets. The project offers support at the household level, providing a guideline to farmers to produce on a small scale while maintaining high product quality to meet European market requirements. This is a way to help Vietnamese farmers and SMEs utilise their strengths in the European market.

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