The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has recongized Vietnam as a market economy this week and officially launched negotiations for a free trade agreement.
A memorandum of understanding was signed by the two sides Thursday.
Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang was quoted on the government's website as saying that the fact that EFTA and 30 other countries in the world have recognized Vietnam as a market economy showed the international community's recognition of the nation's efforts to renovate its economy and integrate it into the world economy.
The new MoU is proof that Vietnam and EFTA have sufficient basis to boost economic and trade ties, Hoang added.
The European trade bloc, comprising Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, said in a statement on its website that total EFTA-Vietnam trade amounted to US$2.1 billion in 2011. It said that a free trade agreement will provide a strong framework for further development of bilateral trade and investment relations.
Vietnam also launched negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union late last month, becoming the third member of the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN to start individual negotiations with the EU, after Singapore and Malaysia.
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