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EU-Vietnam trade agreement enters into force

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EU-Vietnam trade agreement enters into force. Image: Pixabay
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EU exports to Vietnam will be taxed less as of tomorrow, 1 August. This is the immediate effect of the entry into force of the EU-Vietnam trade agreement that will ultimately scrap duties on 99% of all goods traded between the two sides.

Doing business in Vietnam will also become easier for European companies: they will now be able to invest and pitch for government contracts with equal chances to their local competitors.

Under the new agreement, the economic benefits go hand in hand with guarantees of respect for labour rights, environment protection and the Paris Agreement on climate, through strong, legally binding and enforceable provisions on sustainable development.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The European economy needs now every opportunity to restore its strength after the crisis triggered by the coronavirus. Trade agreements, such as the one becoming effective with Vietnam today, offer our companies a chance to access new emerging markets and create jobs for Europeans. I strongly believe this agreement will also become an opportunity for people of Vietnam to enjoy a more prosperous economy and witness a positive change and stronger rights as workers and citizens in their home country.”

Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan, commented: “Vietnam is now part of a club of 77 countries doing trade with the EU under bilaterally agreed preferential conditions.  The agreement strengthens EU economic links with the dynamic region of South-East Asia and has an important economic potential that will contribute to the recovery after the coronavirus crisis. But it also shows how trade policy can be a force for good. Vietnam has already made a lot of effort to improve its labour rights record thanks to our trade talks and, I trust, will continue its most needed reforms.”

The EU-Vietnam agreement is the most comprehensive trade agreement the EU has concluded with a developing country. It takes fully into account Vietnam’s development needs by giving Vietnam a longer, 10-year period to eliminate its duties on EU imports.

However, many important EU export products, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals or machinery will already enjoy duty free import conditions as of entry into force.

Agri-food products like beef or olive oil will face no tariffs in three years, while dairy, fruit and vegetables in maximum five years. Comprehensive provisions on sanitary and phytosanitary cooperation will allow for improving market access for EU firms via more transparent and quick procedures.

It also contains specific provisions to address regulatory barriers for EU car exports and grants protection from imitation for 169 traditional European food and drink products (like Roquefort cheese, Porto and Jerez wines, Irish Cream spirit or Prosciutto di Parma ham) recognised as Geographical Indications.

At the same time, the trade agreement expresses a strong commitment of both sides to environment and social rights. It sets high standards of labour, environmental and consumer protection and ensures that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ to promote trade or attract investment.

Under the agreement, the two parties have committed to ratify and implement the eight fundamental Conventions of International Labour Organization, and respect, promote and effectively implement the principles of the ILO concerning fundamental rights at work; implement the Paris Agreement, as well as other international environmental agreements, and act in favour of the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, biodiversity, forestry and fisheries; and involve independent civil society in monitoring the implementation of these commitments by both sides.

Vietnam has already made progress on these commitments by ratifying in June 2019 ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining and in June 2020 ILO Convention 105 on forced labour. It also adopted a revised Labour Code in November 2019 and confirmed that it would ratify the one remaining fundamental ILO Convention on freedom of association* by 2023.

The trade agreement also includes an institutional and legal link to the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, allowing appropriate action in the case of serious breaches of human rights.

The entry into force of the trade agreement has been preceded by its approval by EU Member States in the Council and its signature in June 2019, and the European Parliament’s approval in February 2020.

Background

Vietnam is the EU’s second largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after Singapore, with trade in goods worth €45.5 billion in 2019  and trade in services of some €4 billion (2018).

The EU’s main exports to Vietnam are high-tech products, including electrical machinery and equipment, aircrafts, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products. Vietnam’s main exports to the EU are electronic products, footwear, textiles and clothing, as well as coffee, rice, seafood, and furniture.

With a total foreign direct investment stock of €7.4 billion (2018), the EU is one of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam. Most EU investments are in industrial processing and manufacturing.

The agreement with Vietnam is the second trade agreement the EU has concluded with an ASEAN member state, following the recent agreement with Singapore. It represents an important milestone in the EU’s engagement with Asia, adding to the already existing agreements with Japan and Republic of Korea.

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India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal

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India and US in negotiations to make a trade deal. Image: Pixabay
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India and the US are in negotiations to make a trade agreement. The  Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Piyush Goyal has invited the United States commercial enterprises to take the bilateral exchange to new heights. Addressing the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) via a digital convention, ShriGoyal stated that the 2 democracies percentage deep dedication with each other, on the Government, Business and those to people to people levels.

Both nations trust in free and fair trade and the United States is India’s biggest buying and selling partner. He said that going beyond trade, in this interconnected world, the two nations can be the resilient trusted partners in the global value chain.

He further indicated to the members of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum about the initiatives taken by the government to facilitate industry and investments. He said that a GIS-enabled land bank has been launched on pilot basis, with six states on board, which will help the investors in identifying the land and location. 

India is ready to sign an initial limited trade package, and it is upto the US to move ahead, he said. 

The US is eager for a deal in advance of its presidential elections in November and had indicated that a preliminary deal ought to encompass recuperation of the GSP advantages to India and marketplace entry for each other’s agricultural products. India has demanded exemption from excessive obligations imposed on steel , aluminium products and its farm products, even as the United States is looking to have a  market entry  for its farm production, merchandise and clinical devices. 

He said, the trade deal has challenges but also a number of opportunities. This could be a foundational exchange deal on the way to deepen our engagement going forward.

 

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Food Logistics

India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic

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India ranks first in number of organic farmers and Sikkim becomes first state in the world to become fully organic. Image: Pixabay
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As the global pandemic situation continues the demand for access to good quality food is on the rise and it’s a high priority to India. In a very recent official statement from the government, India ranks first within the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming. Also Sikkim became the first state in the world to become fully organic and other states such as Tripura and Uttarakhand have similar goals.

With the aim of aiding farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations, government had introduced two dedicated programs specifically Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage organic farming. 

The major organic exports from India are flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an rise of nearly 50% in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5151 crore. 

Modest commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland to UK, USA, Swaziland and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations because the demand for health foods increases.

Both Mission Organic Value Chain Development and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana are promoting certification under  Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Program for Organic Production (NPOP) respectively targeting local and international markets. 

Before making a purchase a consumer should look for the logos of FSSAI, Jaivik Bharat / PGS Organic India on the produce to ascertain the organic authenticity of the product. This can be a very important element of an organic produce. 

Presently, the commodities with highest potential include ginger, turmeric, black rice, spices, nutri cereals, pineapples, medicinal plants, buckwheat, bamboo shoots, etc. Supplies of organic produce has started from the north eastern region including for Mother Dairy from Meghalaya, Revanta Foods and Big Basket from Manipur. 

The organic e-commerce platform www.jaivikkheti.in is being strengthened for directly linking farmers with retail as well as bulk buyers. Infusion of digital technology in a much bigger way has been a major takeaway during the pandemic period.

Indian organic farmers will soon be reinforcing the top place in the global agriculture trade. 

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Retail imports to see lowest annual total in four years

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Retail imports to see lowest annual total in four years. Image: Pixabay
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Imports at major U.S. retail container ports during 2020 are expected to see their lowest total in four years as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy continues, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“The economy is recovering but retailers are being careful not to import more than they can sell,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Shelves will be stocked, but this is not the year to be left with warehouses full of unsold merchandise. The more Congress does to put spending money in consumers’ pockets and provide businesses with liquidity, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.9 percent from May but down 10.5 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.76 million TEU, down 10.2 percent year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, down 7.3 percent; September at 1.69 million TEU, down 9.5 percent; October also at 1.69 million TEU, down 10.4 percent; November at 1.59 million TEU, down 5.8 percent, and December at 1.56 million TEU, down 9.6 percent.

Those numbers would bring 2020 to a total of 19.6 million TEU, a drop of 9.4 percent from last year and the lowest annual total since 19.1 million TEU in 2016. The first half of 2020 totaled 9.5 million TEU, down 10.1 percent from last year.

August is expected to be the busiest month of the July-October “peak season” when retailers rush to bring in merchandise for the winter holidays. But with retailers ordering less merchandise, the month’s total would be the lowest peak for the season since 1.73 million TEU in 2016 and falls far short of the 1.96 million TEU peak in 2019. Peak season usually includes the busiest month of the entire year, but this year that was likely January’s 1.82 million TEU.

“This year, peak season seems to have been thrown off by the coronavirus pandemic along with just about everything else we consider normal,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “We’ve probably already had our busiest month. And with the pandemic taking a hit on the economy ever since then, peak season is likely to be a disappointment by comparison.”

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