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EU and Vietnam - From A Parental to A Competitive Relationship?

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This paper discusses the changing relationship between the EU and Vietnam, andasks whether there is a shift from a “parental” to a “competitive” relationship. The focus ofthe paper is on the shift from aid to trade as the main interface between the EU and Vietnam.Aid relationships are often understood as hierarchical, linking a benevolent donor to a needyrecipient, whereas commercial relationships are typically expected to involve a morecompetitive relationship. However, we argue that the bilateral relationship was never a“parental” one, even at the time when Vietnam’s relation to the EU was limited to aid. Thereason is largely Vietnam’s historical experiences from the aid relationship with the SovietUnion, which created dependence and eventually an economic crisis when aid flows dried upin the late 1980s. Instead, there has been substantial tension between the donor communityand Vietnam during most of the period since the early 1990s, when aid flows from the EUstarted growing. Regarding trade relations, we note that the EU’s increasing use ofantidumping tariffs against Vietnamese exporters during the past years could be an indicationof a less friendly and more competitive attitude towards Vietnam. However, it is likely thatthe antidumping measures used by the EU are not primarily directed at Vietnam, but rather atChina. This means that Vietnam is affected by the re-polarization of the world economythrough its proximity to and links with China, but that the relation is perhaps not as bad as theincreasingly frequent trade conflicts may suggest.

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Ari Kokko

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