There is criticism of the brand new free trade agreement that the European Union and Vietnam have signed. It has been agreed that trade barriers will be gradually phased out. Vietnam promises to improve the rights of employees.

The FNV trade union and Milieudefensie, among others, are opposed to the agreement. Child labor and human trafficking still occur in Vietnam, according to international reports. "That is really not yet in order, and we think it must be in order before you take any further steps", says Tuur Elzinga, vice-chairman of the FNV.

The Netherlands is Vietnam's most important trading partner in Europe. The country exports shoes, clothing, electronics and garden furniture to the Netherlands.

Niel Nguyen has been trading with Vietnam since 2011. He imports garden furniture and brings Dutch baby milk and sweets to the country. "I have seen opportunities for a long time. That the products from Vietnam are cheap is of course point one. But the value of the products is also important, the craftsmanship of the people there."

In the run-up to the agreement, obstacles have already been removed, Nguyen has noticed. He sees the trade agreement as a step forward for the country. "I think it is an opportunity for employers and governments to set a new standard. That way, people get more rights and more pleasure."

Move jobs

According to the FNV, the free trade agreement opens the door to relocating jobs to Vietnam. Vice-president Tuur Elzinga: "A trade agreement is often accompanied by lowering standards, which not only makes Vietnamese products come here more easily, but also jobs are moved from here to there. Then you no longer have to meet all kinds of strict standards and the costs are lower. "

In trade negotiations with the United States and Canada, the trade union supported protest demonstrations. "It is important for Vietnam, but the impact here is smaller. We are going to lobby the European Parliament and the Dutch government to get the agreements adjusted."

The European Parliament and national parliaments still have to decide on parts of the agreement. Earlier this week, the European Union signed a trade agreement with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It takes a while before that agreement is actually signed. The texts of the agreement must first be worked out.

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