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Vietnam starts FTA talks with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan   2010-10-13 - SGT

The first working session of the research team to support a free trade agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and a customs union grouping Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan started on Monday in Hanoi, said a top official.

The session, which was convened after 10 months of researching efforts, yielded one document on assignments for the team in the coming time and a draft platform to study impacts of the FTA on the countries, said Dang Hoang Hai, who led the Vietnamese team to the session.

On the part of the visitors, the customs union research team was led by E.E Mairova, vice director general of the Department for Trade Negotiations under Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, and joined by economic officials of the three countries, said Hai, who is director general of the Europe Market under Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“They are not yet FTA negotiations but (such documents are) important to do next steps to hasten the progress,” Hai told the Daily via the phone on Monday, adding that the next discussion is expected to start in December 2010 in Moscow. The FTA negotiations only start when an agreement between the leaders of the countries is reached.

Hai said that he had no idea about what sectors would be discussed because the progress is still limited to the feasibility study. Meanwhile, according to Vietnam News Agency, the FTA negotiations are expected to discuss tariff barriers, services and investment, and intellectual property. 

Hai added that the potential free trade agreement would be the first FTA for Russia.

“Russia has decided to start its first-ever FTA with Vietnam because the South East Asian country is its strategic partner. In addition, Russia wants to increase its presence in Asia as well as ASEAN,” Hai explained.

The FTA is expected to boost trade between the countries. Among them, Vietnam can increase exports of farm products, seafood, and garments to Russia, while the latter can spur exports of fertilizers, gas, nuclear energy, vehicles and heavy industry products.

In an official visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the Russia in December 2009, the two countries’ leaders made an agreement on starting feasibility studies for the free trade agreement between Vietnam and the customs union.

It is forecasted that two-way trade between Vietnam and Russia will gain nearly US$3 billion this year and touch the target of US$10 billion in the future.

Vietnam has up to now signed some FTAs, including membership in the ASEAN free trade area, as well as FTAs between ASEAN and China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

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