Cablegate: Gvn Wants to Negotiate On Peace Corps; Sticking Points
DE RUEHHI #0888/01 1350842
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 150842Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5353
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3024
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 5666
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000888
STATE FOR EAP/MLS
NSC FOR ASIA/HOLLY MORROW
BANGKOK FOR PC DIRECTOR JOHN WILLIAMS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL EAID VM
SUBJECT: GVN WANTS TO NEGOTIATE ON PEACE CORPS; STICKING POINTS
1. (SBU) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 10.
2. (SBU) Summary: EconCouns met with officials of the Ministry of
Education and Training (MOET) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
on May 14, 2006, to obtain an update on the Government of Vietnam's
(GVN's) intentions on the establishment of a Peace Corps (PC)
program. While serious sticking points remain, the GVN demonstrated
a willingness to negotiate formally with the Peace Corps, and has
asked for the USG to appoint a "negotiator." MOET stated that it
would like to conclude discussions this month or in early June, in
advance of the visit of President Nguyen Minh Triet to Washington.
Mission Vietnam seeks guidance on how to respond. End Summary.
3. (SBU) Econ Counselor met with MOET International Cooperation
Department Director General Tran Ba Viet Dzung, Senior Officer Le
Duc Long and MFA Deputy Director Americas Department Nguyen Ba Hung
at MOET on the afternoon of May 11. The purpose of the meeting was
to obtain an update on the status of the Government of Vietnam's
intentions on the establishment of the PC presence in Vietnam. As
the record of discussion below shows, there are still a number of
issues where we and the GVN do not see eye to eye.
4. (SBU) EconCouns opened the meeting by noting statements by Deputy
Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem last March in Washington that Vietnam
was ready to welcome PC to Vietnam. Frankly, he continued, these
confuse us because the GVN has yet to signal its willingness to
seriously negotiate an agreement necessary for this to occur.
EconCouns recounted some of the main sticking points for the U.S.
side, such as the need for a country agreement, the issue of
immunities, the number of authorized staff positions, the number of
volunteers, and Vietnam's insistence that any program initially be
"temporary" or a "pilot." Given the encouraging signal from Deputy
Prime Minister Khiem in his visit to the United States in March, the
recent letter supporting a PC program in Vietnam signed by several
U.S Senators and other positive comments about the possibility of
the Peace Corps being a deliverable during the upcoming visit of
President Triet to Washington, EconCouns inquired whether there had
been any changes to the GVN's positions. He concluded by noting
that the ball was in the GVN's court.
5. (SBU) Emphasizing the positive, Dzung responded with the
following eight points:
(1) Negotiator(s): Dzung asked the USG to assign a single negotiator
or a negotiation team to conduct further discussions. Dzung said
that he will serve as the chief negotiator for the Vietnamese.
(2) On the PC's entry into Vietnam: Dzung recalled that at the first
meeting last year, John Williams, PC Country Director in Thailand,
explained that the PC only comes to a country upon invitation.
Dzung commented that Vietnam accepts PC's presence.
(3) Program duration: While it had originally said in our exchanges
there would be "24-month limit" on the program, Vietnam has changed
its position because of its understanding of the time it takes to
set up administratively. Therefore it would accept a "27-month
(4) The number of volunteers to serve: The maximum number of
volunteers will be 20.
(5) Number of the PC staff in country: The GVN will allow two
people instead one, as previously proposed.
(6) Tax treatment: While MOET is still working with the MOF on this
issue, the GVN would treat PC volunteers the same as volunteers from
other countries, such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Korea
and the United Kingdom.
(7) U.S. signatory: The GVN would like to have the U.S. Ambassador
be the signatory on the agreement for the U.S. side. A senior
official from MOET will be appointed by the Prime Minister as a
(8) Governed law for dispute resolution: If any dispute arises, the
applicable law will be Vietnamese law and regulations.
6. (SBU) MFA's Hung said they would be willing to discuss all of the
issues further. He added that the GVN hoped to be able to conclude
the agreement before President Triet's visit. Therefore, both sides
should work together quickly to solve the pending issues. When
EconCouns asked how the GVN saw the next steps and the time line,
and whether the GVN proposed to send a negotiating team to
Washington, Dzung answered that Vietnam would like to have the
negotiations in Hanoi this month or in early June. He thought it
HANOI 00000888 002 OF 002
would take three or four days to negotiate the text. He urged the
USG to take a practical stand on the issue, and not "demand
conditions that the Vietnamese cannot satisfy." He criticized the
PC country agreement template as "concentrated only on the U.S.
side's privileges." He stated that Vietnam is willing to work
seriously with the United States on the establishment of a PC
program if an appropriate negotiator is identified and draft
agreement can be negotiated.
7. (SBU) EconCouns stressed that the PC cannot work in a country
without signing a country agreement reflecting the long-term vision
and commitment of the organization. In response, Hung confirmed
that Vietnam is willing and desires to sign a
government-to-government -- not agency to agency -- commitment.
Hung also noted that Vietnam agreed not to call the program a
"pilot" project anymore, although the initial term would be 27
months. The GVN was flexible enough to consider any additional
points that the United States wanted to insert in the agreement
which would help reflect the PC's long-term plan, as long as the
wording abides by Vietnamese law and meets its interests. EconCouns
said he would report back to Washington and note the Vietnamese
request for designating a negotiator.
8. (SBU) Comment: While this was the most positive exchange the
Embassy has had with the GVN on this subject since our first talks
last year, it remains to be seen whether the Vietnamese can move far
enough to meet the requirements of the Peace Corps. We believe
negotiations would be useful, however, given the GVN's positive
change in attitude and the positive signal of engagement reaching an
agreement would send in the context of the upcoming top-level
exchange. Though major sticking points remain, the GVN approach -
presumably with an eye on the need for Triet deliverables -- is more
flexible than it was months ago.
9. (SBU) Comment continued: We see two possible options for
responding to Vietnam's request:
(a) Continue negotiations at the Embassy-MOET level, but with
specific instructions from Washington; or
(b) Agree to send a PC negotiator to Hanoi.
Post's recommendation is to adopt option (b). Through direct talks,
we will quickly determine the GVN's seriousness in moving forward.
Regardless of the option adopted, Post suggests that we formalize
our positions on key issues in a diplomatic note prior to initiating
10. (SBU) Action request: Please advise ASAP whether and how
Mission should respond to the GVN request to appoint a negotiator to
come to Hanoi within the next several weeks. End action request.