Vietnam farmers, SMEs threatened by upcoming free trade deals: trade expert

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Farmers harvest rice in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. PHOTO: VNA
A trade expert has warned that farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are likely to be hurt when Vietnam signs several free-trade agreements (FTAs) in the next two years.
Tran Huu Huynh, chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s commission for consulting international trade policy, speaking at a conference
Thursday,
said given the outcome of FTAs already signed, some groups like farmers would suffer more from harsh competition right at home.
SMEs that do not prepare well would also be affected, he said.
But many SMEs are  making changes to merely survive foreign competition rather than make use of the opportunities brought by FTAs.
While removing tariff barriers, countries that are set to sign FTAs with Vietnam would possibly raise technical barriers, including sanitary measures, he said.
Such barriers could be insurmountable for vulnerable groups like farmers, agricultural businesses, and SMEs, he said.
Vietnam is also likely to face more lawsuits related to anti-dumping and the like, he warned.
With its provisions related to intellectual property rights, the Trans-Pacific Partnership– a 12-nation FTA led by the US – is likely to push drug prices up, affecting the poor, he said.
He urged the government to take into consideration the opinion of domestic businesses and people while negotiating FTAs.
He said the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, should ensure that local businesses and people can make use of the opportunities brought by the deals.
Nguyen Dinh Luong, who negotiated a trade deal with the US, said the government should provide SMEs with support not precluded by FTAs like training and consultancy.
Vo Tri Thanh, deputy director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, said despite the possibility that vulnerable groups like cow breeders could be hurt, the TPP would still bring long-term benefits to Vietnam.
“Without integration, Vietnam will definitely be unable to develop,” he stressed.
Whether the TPP is “too much” for Vietnam depends on how the government cooperates with the US and supports vulnerable groups in the beginning, he said.
Vietnam is now negotiating six FTAs, the others being the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between ASEAN member countries and ones with Europe; Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan; the European Free Trade Association; and South Korea.
The seminar was organized by the house's Foreign Affairs Committee and the US Agency for International Development.

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