European Union trade ministers authorised on Thursday the start of free trade negotiations with Vietnam as the 27-nation bloc pursues promising deals around Asia.
The talks between Hanoi and the European Commission are expected "to start shortly," making Vietnam the third country from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to negotiate a free trade pact with the EU, an EU statement said.
The world's biggest economic bloc is already negotiating deals with ASEAN members Singapore and Malaysia.
ASEAN is the EU's third largest external trade partner, with annual commerce totalling 175 billion euros.
The EU entered its first free trade deal with Asia last year when a sweeping pact with South Korea came into effect, and the bloc is hoping to seal a major deal with India.