As with my trade missions earlier this year, I will be accompanied by a delegation of EU agri-food companies. These are impressive operators: their total turnover is in excess of 170 billion Euro - higher than the GDP of Hungary! We will work on political, diplomatic and commercial fronts to develop new market opportunities for European exporters.
Trade is a somewhat controversial subject in the media at the moment, but I firmly believe that if trading partners form agreements which are balanced, sustainable and fair, everyone benefits.
And I’m eager to back that assertion up with action. This week, prospects for EU exports of red meat to Hong Kong were given a boost following an agreement between myself and Hong Kong Secretary for Food & Health Gregory Ko.
Both sides have now agreed on measures to simplify certification requirements for Hong Kong imports of meat from the EU. Instead of insisting that meat must come from animals that were born, raised and slaughtered in the same exporting Member State, Hong Kong is now prepared to accept that animals may come from any Member State that is eligible to export to Hong Kong.
I am delighted that we have been able to resolve this long-standing trade impediment and that Hong Kong has found a way to recognise the EU as a Single Market entity. This shows our commitment to Hong Kong as an important trade and investment partner, and crucially - it allows us to cooperate more closely with Hong Kong as a hub for the Chinese mainland market. Every small step in the right direction helps.
With annual export volumes amounting to roughly 4 billion EURO, Hong Kong is a particularly important market for EU agri-food trade - the 7th most important export destination in 2015, accounting for 3.5% of global EU agri-food exports.
I am currently in Vietnam, where the business delegation and my team have a hugely busy programme. My team and I will meet the Ministries for Agriculture and Rural Development, Industry and Trade, Health, and Science and Technology to discuss the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. Other topics that will be dealt with include food safety and the wines and spirits sector.
Progress can sometimes be slow and deliberate, but achieving a good end result is worth the work.
Vietnam's middle class will double in size between now and 2020, resulting in a massive new consumer cadre looking for high-quality products for their families. EU producers are very well placed to meet that demand. And as trade relationships deepen, our partners will also benefit - with increased EU investment in Vietnam. The beauty of a solid business relationship is that both sides benefit.
Building our trade and export potential is one vital way to achieve the Juncker commission’s priority of job creation and growth. By finding new, dynamic markets for our high-quality EU agri-food products, we will create growth and high-quality jobs for our people. And - crucially - we will create those jobs in rural areas, where they are urgently needed.
With Hong Kong Secretary for Food & Health Gregory Ko.
With Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi.