Vietnam becomes seventh country to ratify Trans-Pacific trade pact

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s lawmaking body, the National Assembly, on Monday unanimously ratified a landmark 11-country deal that will slash tariffs across much of the Asia-Pacific.

FILE PHOTO: Tourists walk past Vietnam's National Assembly (Parliament) building in Hanoi, Vietnam, September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kham

One of the region’s fastest growing economies, its status cemented by strong exports and robust foreign investment, the Southeast Asian nation is believed to be among the largest beneficiaries of the trade deal.

The ratification makes Vietnam the seventh country to have passed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the National Assembly said in a statement.

“It is not just a trade agreement, but it also requires breakthroughs in law making and enforcement, in government management and social governance,” the government said in a statement, adding that the deal spells great opportunities for Vietnam.

Vietnam has already signed around a dozen free trade pacts to scrap, or cut, taxes on several imports and exports.

Taxes on nearly 43 percent of Vietnam’s apparel exports to Canada will be removed immediately after the agreement takes effect, and 100 percent after four years, the government said.

The garment sector is Vietnam’s second largest export-earner after smartphones.

Exports of footwear products and seafood will also benefit.

The pact, which includes specific requirements on labor rights and conditions of work, is also expected to help Vietnam advance in labor reforms, the International Labour Organization said.

“This is really an opportunity for Vietnam to modernize its labor laws and industrial relations system, and the need for such reforms firstly comes from the country’s internal context,” said the agency’s Vietnam director, Chang-Hee Lee.

Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore had earlier formally ratified CPTPP, which takes effect at year-end.

The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritize protecting U.S. jobs.

Brunei, Chile, Malaysia and Peru are the four remaining members yet to ratify the pact.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Clarence Fernandez