In a joint conference in Ho Chi Minh City – more commonly known as Saigon – representatives of livestock in both countries said the initial goal of the deal was to build the trust in Vietnam, so consumers know it’s safe to eat French beef.
Beef products from France have been banned in the country since 2000, after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) swept from the UK to mainland Europe with devastating effect.
The deal for French beef in Vietnam follows a meeting with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the European Union’s (EU) president Jean-Claude Juncker, who finalised a free trade deal on 2 December 2015.
The free trade agreement is “good news for both the EU and Vietnam”, according to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
She added: “Vietnam is a vibrant economy of more than 90m consumers with a growing middle class and a young and dynamic workforce. Its market has great potential and offers numerous opportunities for the EU’s agricultural exports.”
Following the deal, Vietnam has given to go-ahead to 23 beef producers in France to start exporting beef. This followed a successful inspection of cattle farms in France by Vietnamese health officials.
Initially, only frozen beef products will be shipped from France to Vietnam. This is so the latter can gauge beef’s reception in the market and, based on its performance, France may start to export fresh beef too.
Emmanuel Bernard, speaking on behalf of the French Meat and Livestock Association (INTERBEV), said one of the key benefits of French beef was its “traceability”. In France, for example, the origin of some beef varieties can be traced right down to the individual cow. However, in Australia – a major exporter of beef in Vietnam – the ability to track beef products stopped “at farm level”, added Bernard.
EU-Vietnam trade was worth over €28.3bn in 2014, according to data published by the European Commission for Trade. Imports from Vietnam into the EU were worth €22.1bn, while exports from the EU to Vietnam were worth €6.2bn.