After consultations with the government of Hanoi, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said that the European Union plans to conclude a free trade pact with Vietnam as soon as possible. De Gucht said that the negotiations will not take Vietnam’s observance of human rights into consideration. However, the European Parliament, which will ultimately have to ratify any agreement made, may well take issue with Vietnam’s human rights performance. The EU is Vietnam’s biggest trade partner after the United States. Last year, EU exports amounted to seven billion euros. De Gucht will travel on to Singapore next, where he will also hold negotiations on a free trade pact. (U.N. News Service)

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