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EU lawmakers approve EU-Vietnam free trade agreement

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU lawmakers approved on Wednesday the European Union's free trade agreement with Vietnam, the bloc's most comprehensive such pact with a developing country and a further European push into Asian markets.

Members of the European Parliament backed the agreement by 401 votes to 192, opening the way to it potentially entering force in the middle of the year.

The European Union already has free trade deals with fellow ASEAN member Singapore, along with Japan and South Korea. Critics had taken issue with Vietnam's record on human and labour rights and urged lawmakers to delay approval.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)