Vietnamese Prime Minister Xuan Phuc anxietly waiting for EVFTA – MEPs object

EVFTA signing ceremony in Hanoi on June 30, 2019

On Feb 11, the European Parliament (EP) will vote on the Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam (EVFTA). This is an important vote to determine whether the agreement will go into effect. There have been many voices from international human rights organizations to urge the EP to vote on delaying the implementation of EVFTA until Vietnam has truly improved its human rights record.

What do international human rights organizations hope for the incoming vote?

Claudio Francavilla, representative of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Europe on the campaign, said:
This is not the first time we are sending a joint letter like this. We sent a letter about a year and a half ago, and in January 2019 we also sent a letter urging European MPs to pressure, demanding that Vietnam make concessions on human rights. The hope and purpose remain unchanged, so that the European parliamentarians see this as an unprecedented opportunity to use their influence to make sure human rights improvements from Ha Noi.

If they do not do so, they still agree with the Agreement without significant improvements on human rights, which means they wasted this opportunity.

With the question: What will the campaign results look like when the previous vote of the European Parliamentary Committee of Trade has only 6 votes say No and 29 votes agree.
Mr. Claudio Francavilla said:
The result of voting on the International Trade Commission is not something we did not anticipate. Of course, Trade Representatives mostly pay attention to trade issues and do not pay much attention to other issues such as human rights.

Many European parliamentarians have tried to persuade other MPs to postpone the vote.

At the same time, we also got an opinion from the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee demanding that the voting be postponed. However, these appeals were ignored by Trade Representatives. However, the MPs knew more about the situation in Vietnam. There are many Representatives and groups who are constantly trying to persuade their colleagues to postpone the implementation of the EVFTA in the next vote. Non-governmental organizations do the same and we expect these efforts to bear fruit.
With the question: There has been a lot of pressure from the EU to Vietnam on human rights issues, including a resolution from the European Parliament in 2018. However, according to HRW, the human rights situation of Vietnam still bad?

OClaudio Francavilla replied:
The resolutions are not binding instruments from the EU when these repressions are occurring while Europe is trying to finalize the agreement. Many MPs have sent a message to Hanoi that everything is fine, and Parliament will agree. So the Hanoi authorities continue to persecute human rights and they think that the repression has no consequences and is not punished when criticized in the international arena.
That’s why international human rights organizations have made great efforts in recent years. This is an opportunity MPs should not miss to influence.

Vietnamese prisoners of conscience

Music teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh was sentenced to 11 years in prison and 5 years of probation on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state.”
Claudio Francavilla: It is the adoption of one of the three important ILO conventions, although there are two more conventions that Vietnam still has to ratify.
In addition, the revised Labor Code was passed last year.
However, the ILO says there are still shortcomings. For example, the Labor Code allows the creation of independent unions, but the name of the independent union is not officially mentioned in the law. When reading carefully, you will see that if they do, they can only operate at the factory and local level. They still have to be approved by the government if they want to form. There is also a law in the law when the government grants or disallows such unions. So the process is entirely up to the Vietnamese government.

What has not happened yet is the release of political prisoners. As you all know, it was a case of arresting journalist Pham Chi Dung, who contacted the European Parliament. I saw a response from the Vietnamese Ambassador to this case, saying that Mr. Pham Chi Dung was arrested for violating Vietnamese laws but he did not say anything. The Ambassador also compared the freedom to express opinions in Vietnam with other cases in the West or in the EU.

Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam (IJAVN)’s President Pham Chi Dung was arrested by Vietnamese authorities on November 21, 2019 for writing many articles condemning the persecution of human rights in Vietnam

They were jailed for the harsh laws in the Criminal Code. These laws criminalized any expression or dissent, any criticism directed at the government. Vietnam can pass conventions or pass any law you want but these are almost meaningless unless the provisions of the Penal Code are changed.
Will passage of EVFTA lead to improvements in human rights in Vietnam?
This is an empty law, like a slogan that we hear over and over from those who support the ratification of the agreement.
Supporters argue that as the economy grows, the middle class will grow and become stronger, and they will demand more civil and political rights, which is the driving force for domestic change.
But if you look at the Chinese example, this is different. There is no evidence to suggest that further economic development will result in more political rights. On the other hand, Vietnam has had very good economic development over the years, but the repression has increased.

Teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh teaching students the song “Return Power to the People”

Journalist Pham Chi Dung urges EU to postpone ratification of EVFTA

We have read the chapter on sustainable development and we do not see the terms required, no sanctions, no deadlines.
It simply proposes through ILO conventions. If you read the Agreement you will find that Vietnam will consider proceeding with conventions. The agreement did not say when Vietnam should do it, when should it do it, if Vietnam keeps delaying its approval. So the effect of this chapter is almost nonexistent.
The third argument of supporters of the agreement is the human rights clause in the Vietnam-EU Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (PCA).
They said that if Vietnam violated human rights, the Agreement would be stopped. Some reasons for this are paranoia.
First, this has never happened in the past when a trade agreement was suspended because of human rights.
Secondly, if it is stopped, it will be harmful to the European business community that has invested in Vietnam. The situation of human rights suppression in Vietnam is still high, it is said that when the agreement comes into effect, the human rights clause will work but it is not.

It is true that the agreement has a chapter on sustainable development but no provision can be made. About the mechanism that we are talking about. If you look at the recent Dong Tam case, land enforcement is quite common in Vietnam. Vietnam will produce more and export more. Therefore more land is needed. The Vietnamese judicial system is not independent so it will affect people a lot. You can reopen the treaty negotiations, or you can apply an optional procedure to establish this mechanism. ”
February 11 will vote for the last time and, if approved, only about a month after the agreement will go into effect. If most of them still agree like the last vote, what is the campaigner’s next plan?
We have seen a lot of effort from many MPs and NGOs, persuading the European Parliament to postpone the agreement. If we are unsuccessful in doing this then of course our work will continue.

But if the MPs agree with the Agreement without a sign of improvement in human rights, the message they send to Hanoi is that all the appeals made no sense, because they had the opportunity to create effect that they did not use it.

The road of exporting goods to China is seriously congested due to the coronavirus epidemic, Vietnamese agricultural products have been dumped piled up right at the border. The EVFTA would be a single lifesaver to make Vietnam’s economy less dependent on China.

If the agreement is not approved – it will put an end to the political life of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as he is responsible for this disruption.

On the contrary, when approved, this agreement will be a plus point for Mr. Phuc to have more opportunities to continue to climb up to the new position at the 13th Congress of the party.
Either way, Phuc and the dictatorial regime of the CPV will continue to be criticized by domestic and foreign public opinion as well as internationally condemned for persecuting and detaining innocent citizens just for their sake. voice a peaceful voice to build the country.

Hoang Lan from Ha Noi – (Translated)