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EU's top diplomat says Vietnam trade talks need further impetus for agreement this year

European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton, left, shakes hands with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday Aug. 12, 2014. Ashton told reporters that she hoped the EU and Vietnam could seal a free trade agreement before the end of this year. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

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European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton, left, shakes hands with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday Aug. 12, 2014. Ashton told reporters that she hoped the EU and Vietnam could seal a free trade agreement before the end of this year. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

HANOI, Vietnam - The European Union is making progress in free trade talks with Vietnam but a concerted push would be needed to reach an agreement this year, the EU's top diplomat said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Hanoi during a one-day visit, Catherine Ashton said the negotiations will be given "new impetus" by EU President Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to Vietnam later this month.

"Negotiations are making good progress although acceleration of talks would be required to reach an agreement before the end of the year," she said.

The EU is already Vietnam's largest export market, with shipments worth 21 billion euros ($28 billion) last year.

A free trade agreement would help Vietnam to further expand its exports to the 28 EU member countries that have a combined population of more than 500 million people.

Currently, Vietnam has a free-trade agreement with 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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