On 12 February 2020, the European Parliament gave consent for the ratification of the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements.
The trade agreement contains two cross-border data flow commitments. The related data protection safeguards in this agreement are similar to the ones in the EU-Japan agreement, which entered into force in February 2019. Civil society organisations and academics had pointed out flaws in these safeguards.
The EU-Vietnam investment agreement contains a variant of the controversial investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. In Opinion 1/17 (ISDS in EU-Canada CETA) the Court of Justice of the European Union found this mechanism compatible with the EU Treaties. ISDS does not interfere with the principle of autonomy of EU Law as the EU and its member states can refuse to pay ISDS damages awards, the Court suggests. Refusing to pay ISDS damages, however, comes with serious drawbacks.
The continued use of weak data protection safeguards is all the more disappointing as two years ago, in January 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for stronger safeguards to be used in trade agreements. Consumer and digital rights organisations supported these safeguards in principle. The Commission, however, never applied it. In order to properly protect the fundamental right to data protection in the context of trade agreements, the new von der Leyen Commission should adopt the proposed better safeguards and actually use them.
EU/Vietnam Free Trade Agreement 2018/0356(NLE)
Weak data protection in EU-Vietnam trade agreement (06.02.2020)
EU-Japan trade agreement not compatible with EU data protection (10.01.2018)
The European Commission rightly decides to defend citizens’ privacy in trade discussions (28.02.2018)
Study launch: The EU can achieve data protection-proof trade agreements (13.07.2016)
EU Court CETA ruling shows failure of ISDS reform (06.05.2019)
(Contribution by Ante Wessels, EDRi member Vrijschrift, the Netherlands)