On 4 August 2015, after three years and several rounds of negotiation, the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”) officially established principles for the basic content of the Agreement.
The EVFTA is a comprehensive and advanced Agreement, balancing rights and benefits for both parties whilst simultaneously complying with WTO regulations. The main content of the Agreement includes Trade of Goods, Principles of Origin, Customs, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, technical barriers to trade (TBT), Trade of Services, Investment, Trade Defence, Competition, State Owned Corporation, Government Procurement, Sustainable Development, Capacity Build and Cooperation, Legal Matters, and Intellectual Property.
The major elements of the agreement are Tariff Reductions and Facilitation of Trade in Services and Investment. The Intellectual Property section commits Vietnam to a high level of protection beyond the standards of the TRIPS agreement. The IP sector of this Agreement includes copyrights, patents and other commitments related to pharmaceuticals and Geographical Indications (GI). When the EVFTA takes effect, 169 of the EU’s GIs will be protected in Vietnam and 39 of Vietnam’s GIs will be protected in the EU, all of which are for agricultural products and foodstuffs. This aspect facilitates some types of Vietnamese agricultural product branding activities in the EU. This Agreement also allows new GIs to be added in the future. In the pharmaceutical sector, data protection will be improved and there will possibly be a patent extension of up to two years available in the event of delays in obtaining marketing authorization.
The intention is also that EU innovations, artworks and brands will be better protected against infringement through stronger enforcement provisions in Vietnam.
Although at present only principles have been agreed, so we are still awaiting the final legal texts, the EVFTA is being heralded as a ‘win-win agreement’ to boost trade activities and strengthen relations between the EU and Vietnam.