EU-Viet Nam trade deal important to encourage Viet Nam to stay on course of labour reform

ILO Viet Nam Director, Chang-Hee Lee, comments on the role of the EU- Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement to the country’s journey towards democratic governance in labour markets.

Comment | 28 September 2018
© ILO/Nguyen A
Today, we witness retreat from democracy and commitment to universally-accepted principles in many corners of the globe. While Viet Nam has its own problems, it is one of a few countries where we see progress towards aligning its labour laws and institutions with ILO standards.

The Vietnamese Government is now revising the Labour Code, which, if adopted, will represent a major progress towards alignment with the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In parallel, the Government is working towards ratification of the three remaining ILO core conventions – Convention 98 on collective bargaining in 2019, Convention 105 on forced labour in 2020, and Convention 87 on freedom of association by 2023. This is a core requirement under the Sustainable Development and Trade Chapter of the EU-Viet Nam FTA.

Looking back on my early days of work in Viet Nam more than 10 years ago, when the terms ‘freedom of association’ and ‘effective recognition of collective bargaining’ were still a political taboo, I am amazed how far the country has come along. Now, we are working together to create a new legal and institutional industrial relation framework aligned with ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining. The new generation of FTAs has played as important a role as the domestic need for Viet Nam to modernize its labour law and industrial relations.

Of course, we can never be sure whether Viet Nam will complete its reform as planned. There is an unpredictable global environment, temptation for the status quo and concerns about an uncertain future. That is why the EU-Viet Nam FTA, together with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), is important to encourage political leaders and policy-makers to stay on the course of reform within the parameters set by the ILO standards and the FTAs. The ratification of the EU-Viet Nam FTA will provide Viet Nam with solid encouragement and incentive to continue its journey towards democratic governance in labour markets, as the Sustainable Development and Trade Chapter intends to achieve.

(*) The piece has been used for a report entitled “The EVFTA: Perspectives from Vietnam” by the European Chamber of Commerce in Viet Nam.

(*) Funding for the New Industrial Relations Framework project is provided by the United States Department of Labor under cooperative agreement number IL- 29690-16-75-K-11. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government. One hundred percentage of the total costs of the project or program is financed with Federal funds, for a total of 3 million dollars.

(*) This story is a product of the European Union-funded project on Promoting ILO fundamental conventions towards ratification of Conventions 87, 98, 105, and actions to eliminate discrimination and forced labour in Viet Nam. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.