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Reject the EU-Vietnam agreement, say human rights defenders!

© ILO/Nguyễn ViệtThanh – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The European elections are not yet over, but we are already preparing for the next battle.

The next in line is a deal between the EU and Vietnam. EU governments are planning to vote on the deal in June. It will be the first agreement on the menu of the newly elected European Parliament.

Just like TTIP, CETA and the EU-Singapore deal, the EU-Vietnam agreement contains enormous privileges for corporations. It includes the ISDS system used by multinationals to bully governments into shying away from passing social and environmental safeguards. It will do nothing to end corporate impunity and will give European multinationals more power. It’s hard to see what Vietnamese people get out of the deal.

But it is not just campaigners for a fairer trade and investment system that are against the EU-Vietnam deal. Back in January, a broad coalition of Vietnamese human rights defenders and civil society wrote a joint letter to the Commission, demanding a halt to the ratification of the deal until Vietnam ceases its crackdown on human rights.

The crackdown has set off alarm bells across the world with Human Rights Watch also joining the calls to halt the agreement. According to them, the human rights situation in Vietnam has not only not improved, but deteriorated since the end of the negotiations.

Our governments purport to care about human rights. But if we judge them by their actions rather than their words, it’s clear that they couldn’t care less. After all, they are planning to pull out of negotiations on a UN Binding Treaty that would hold corporations to account for their human rights abuses.

Their behaviour on the EU-Vietnam deal shows that the current Commission and our national governments care little about the fact that Vietnam has been jailing peaceful government critics, bloggers, religious leaders, labour rights activists, environmentalists and human rights defenders.

By letting the appeals of Vietnamese human rights defenders and civil society fall on deaf ears, our political leaders are putting the profits of European corporations over the lives of people in Vietnam.

This is a dodgy deal between a craven Commission (supported by many national governments) that does not seem to care about human rights and a Vietnamese government that has been roundly criticised for its own human rights record. If they approve this deal, both sides have worked together against the interests of the Vietnamese people.

The EU’s collective determination to sign dodgy deals with governments with awful human rights records is not limited to the Vietnam deal. A deal with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (who is accused of presiding over tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings and has compared himself to Hitler) is also on the agenda. And of course, there is the “TTIP 2.0” deal with Trump’s US government that violated the human rights of thousands of migrant children by cruelly separating them from their parents.

We must not allow the EU to send the message that you can violate basic human rights and still enjoy a business as usual relationship with Europe. For this reason, it is vital that we stand in solidarity with the Vietnamese people and stop the EU-Vietnam deal.