At the second meeting with its Vietnamese counterpart in Hanoi, 18 October 2022, the EU’s Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) published a statement that raised two issues critical to implementation of the European Union-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and its chapter on sustainability. One was the need for a roadmap to address climate and environmental commitments under the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD), Chapter 13. The other was the need to redress the increasingly difficult atmosphere in which members of Viet Nam’s civil society work to monitor those commitments.
Under the EVFTA, both countries’ DAGs play an advisory role regarding TSD implementation, submitting recommendations to the Parties as they deem necessary. In this spirit, the EU DAG welcomed the TSD Committee’s discussion of Viet Nam’s Workplan on Labour Rights noting, among other things, that its implementation had opened the way for effective monitoring and enforcement of fundamental labour rights.
A similar foundation must underpin EVFTA’s environmental and climate obligations, the EU DAG stated, calling on the Parties to develop a roadmap for the TSD’s climate and environmental commitments, complete with time-bound indicators to address common priorities, through a process that is both inclusive and transparent.
The ability for civil society to monitor implementation of commitments without intimidation is a human rights issue, but also fundamental to the proper functioning of the agreement. In addition, civil society must also be allowed adequate time to prepare, they added, pointing to very limited notice of meetings and lack of information regarding topics and agendas.
The need for an environmental roadmap has been recognised also by members of Viet Nam’s civil society. A week prior to the Hanoi DAG-to-DAG meeting, Vu Thi Bich Hop, chairwoman and executive director of the Vietnamese NGO Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) and vice-chair of the Viet Nam DAG, and her colleague Dr Phu Hung Nguyen came to Brussels to meet with civil society and European decisionmakers and observe how the DAG process unfolds in the EU. In a 5 October interview with Borderlex, Hop also called to create an environmental roadmap.
In SRD’s work to help poor and vulnerable communities, Hop noted that the TSD chapter’s impact had been limited: “We want to bring good practices when it comes to climate change adaptation, nature-based solutions, renewable energies, adapted livelihoods, and climate-smart agriculture. We hope to develop the roadmap on environmental activities so that we can have the fundamental basics to monitor the FTA on its environmental aspects.”