Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 23–39 | Cite as

The EU as a norm promoter through trade. The perceptions of Vietnamese elites

  • Daniela SicurelliEmail author
Original Paper


This paper investigates how the external images of the European Union (EU) shape its identity vis-à-vis the USA and focuses on how Vietnamese elites perceive EU-sponsored norms in the context of the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations. The EU emerges as an actor able to export regulatory standards, improve the status of its trade partner within multilateral forums and, at the same time, respect the local ownership of the development process. At the same time, it is criticized for the lack of coherence in its foreign policy, its internal divisions and intrusiveness in Vietnamese domestic politics. Moreover, differences emerge in the way government and non-governmental actors portray the EU, further challenging its univocal representation as a political leader. These perceptions have implications concerning the EU’s ability to export its constitutive principles and values to Vietnam. More broadly, this case study provides insights into the prospects of a future interregional trade agreement with the ASEAN and carries out a critical assessment of the identity and role of the EU as a normative power.


  1. Bagwell KW, Mavroidis PC (2011) Preferential trade agreements: a law and economics analysis. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Börzel lT, Risse T (2004) One size fits all! EU policies for the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, 4-5 October, Workshop on democracy promotion, Center for Development, Democracy, and the Rule of Law, Stanford UniversityGoogle Scholar
  3. Bui TH (2013) The development of civil society and dynamics of governance in Vietnam’s one party rule. Glob Change Peace Secur 25(1):77–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chaban N, Holland M (2010) The EU in the eyes of Asia: motivation and methodology. Asia Eur J 82:127–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chaban N, Elgström O, Kelly S, Suet Yi L (2013) Images of the EU beyond its borders: issue-specific and regional perceptions of European Union power and leadership. Common Mark Stud J Common Mark Stud 51(3):433–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chan K (2010) Images, visibility and the prospects of soft power of the EU in Asia: the case of China. Asia Eur J Asia Eur J 8(2):133–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper (2014) 2013 – A successful year of Vietnam’s diplomacy. 4 January, Press Release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  8. Delegation of the EU to Vietnam (2012) EU-Vietnam economic and trade relations. Press release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  9. Diez T (2005) Constructing the self and changing others: reconsidering normative power Europe. Millennium - J Int Stud 33(3):613–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elgström O (2006) Leader or Foot-Dragger? Perceptions of the European Union in Multilateral International Negotiations, Report, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, Stockholm, 1Google Scholar
  11. European Commission Services (2013) Annex on Vietnam to the position paper on the trade sustainability impact assessment of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and ASEAN, Accessed 22 Aug 2014
  12. FIDH (2013) The EU’s Strategic framework and action plan on human rights and democracy one year after its adoption. Position Paper. 24 June. Brussels, Accessed 28 Febr 2014
  13. Ha A (2012) Quan he doi tac Vietnam–EU binh dang hon, (Vietnam-EU partnership) BaoDatViet. June 29, quoted in Tran, PT, Vieira, AVG, Ferreira-Pereira LC (2013) Vietnam’s Strategic Hedging Vis-À-Vis China: The Roles of the European Union and Russia. Revista Brasileira de Politica Int 56(1):163–182Google Scholar
  14. Harpaz GUY, Shamis A (2010) Normative power Europe and the State of Israel: an illegitimate EUtopia? J Common Mark Stud 48(3):579–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoang HH (2014) Aid darling and the European Union’s aid allocation policy: the case of Vietnam. Asia Eur JAsia Eur J 12(3):301–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Infotv (2012) Dự án EU - Việt Nam Mutrap III:Việt Nam xây dựng tốt chiến lược phát triển kinh tế hậu WTO (EU project - Mutrap III Vietnam:Vietnam builds a good economic development strategy within the WTO). 25 May. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  17. Infotv (2013a) Giày dép Việt rộng đường sang EU (Vietnamese footwear trade with the EU). 8 July. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  18. Infotv (2013b) EU áp dụng chương trình thuế quan phổ cập GSP cho Việt Nam bắt đầu ttừ năm 2014 (The new EU GSP will be operational since 2014. 5 May. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  19. Kerr D, Xu Y (2014) Europe, China and security governance: is there evidence of normative convergence? Asia Eur J Asia Eur J 12(1–2):79–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Laïdi Z (2008) EU foreign policy in a globalized world: normative power and social preferences. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Larsen H (2014) Normative power europe and the importance of discursive context: the European Union and the politics of religion. Cooperation and Conflcit, Published Online May 2014Google Scholar
  22. Lim P (2012) ASEANs relations with the EU: obstacles and opportunities. EU Extern. Affairs Rev, July, pp 46–58Google Scholar
  23. Lucarelli S (2014) Seen from the outside: the state of the art on the external image of the EU. J Eur Public Policy J Eur Integr 36(1):1–16Google Scholar
  24. Lucarelli S, Fioramonti L (eds) (2009) External perceptions of the European Union as a global actor. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Maass M (2012) The European Union, Vietnam, and human rights as law: the case of the 1995 EU–Vietnam framework agreement and its human rights clause. Asia Eur J 10:215–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manners I (2002) Normative power Europe: a contradiction in terms? Common Mark Stud 40(2):235–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Manners I (2006) The constitutive nature of values, images and principles in the European Union. In: Lucarelli S, Manners I (eds) Values and principles in European Union foreign policy, edited. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Meunier S, Nicolaïdis K (2006) The European Union as a conflicted trade power. J Eur Public Policy 13(6):906–925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. MUTRAP EU-Vietnam (2012) Hội thảo giới thiệu Dự án EU-MUTRAP (Seminar to introduce the EU-MUTRAP program). Press Release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  30. Nguyen TTT (2012) Hiệp định Thương mại Tự do với EU - Kinh nghiệm từ những Người đi trước, trước (Free trade agreement with the EU building on previous experiences). WTO CenterGoogle Scholar
  31. OECD, WTO (2011) Aid for trade: case story European Union, Multilateral Trade Assistance Project III in Vietnam. Report. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  32. Pham QM, Bui HD, Tran BH (2009) Images and perceptions of the EU in Vietnam: media, elite and public opinion perspectives. In: Chaban N, Holland M, Ryan P (eds) The EU through the eyes of Asia. World Scientific Publishing, DanversGoogle Scholar
  33. Portela C (2010) The perception of the European Union in Southeast Asia. Asia Eur J 8(2):149–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Portela C (2013) Asean, integration, internal dynamics and external relations. Briefing paper for the European Parliaments Committee on External Relations. SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  35. Rosamond B (2013) Three ways of speaking Europe to the world: markets, peace, cosmopolitan duty and the EU’s normative power. Br J Polit Int Relat 16(1):133–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sjursen H (2006) The EU as a normative power: how can this be? J Eur Public Policy J Eur Public Policy 13(2):235–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Talk Vietnam (2012a) EU to keep supporting Vietnam’s global integration. Press Release. 1 June, Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  38. Talk Vietnam (2012b) Vietnamese exports to EU banging against thick barriers to entry, 28 March. Press Release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  39. Thanh Nien News (2013) EU trade deal threatens Vietnam’s uncompetitive firms. Press Release. 18th November. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  40. Tocci N (2008) (ed.) Who ss a normative foreign policy actor?: The European Union and its global partners, In CEPS,, (ed), BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  41. Tofani, R (2013) EU-Vietnam weigh FTA. Asia Times Online. 20 March, Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  42. Trade Bridge Consultants (2013) FTAs planned with Russia and European Union. Press Release. 14 November, Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  43. Tung T (2013) Vietnam’s export benefit from GSP, Press Release. Vietnam Investment Review. Accessed 28 February 2014
  44. VCCI (2011) kiến nghị chính sách, Của Cộng đồng Doanh nghiệp Việt Nam, về, triển vọng, Hiệp định thương mại tự do Việt nam- Liên minh Châu Âu (Policy recommendations from Vietnamese business associations on the prospect of a Vietnam-EU free trade agreement). Report of the Advisory Committee on International Trade Policy. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  45. VCCI (2013) Một số đánh giá của EU về tình hình đàm phán FTA EU - Việt Nam (Assessment of the EU negotiating position for the EU–Vietnam FTA). Press Release. 12 June. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  46. Vietnam Briefing (2013a) Vietnam-EU free trade agreement expected by late 2014. 18 November. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  47. Vietnam Briefing (2013b) Vietnam, EU continue FTA negotiations. 20 March. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  48. Vietnam Net (2013) Vietnam needs to control export volume to enjoy EUs GSP. Press Release, 13 July. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  49. Vietnam News (2013) VN wishes to boost trade with the EU. 14 November. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  50. Vietnam Paint & Printing Ink Association (2013) Vietnam–EU FTA: opportunities and challenges. Press Release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  51. Vo TT, Nguyen AD (2009) Assessing potential impacts of the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement on Vietnams socio-economic development. Report. Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  52. Vov Online (2011) FTA Việt Nam - EU:Được và mất (Vietnam–EU FTA:Gains and losses). 22 July. Press Release Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  53. Vov Online (2012) 50 leading European businesses to visit Vietnam. 8 November. Press Release.
  54. Vov Online (2013) Vietnam slams EPs human rights resolution. 19 April. Press Release. Accessed 28 Feb 2014
  55. WTO (2013) Trade Policy Review Viet Nam. Minutes of the meeting 17 and 19 September. Accessed 28 Feb 2014

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

Personalised recommendations