Cablegate: Codel Hoyer's Meetings with Gvn Leadership

DE RUEHHI #0022/01 0070855
R 070855Z JAN 08 ZDK





E.O. 12985: N/A


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1. (SBU) Summary. On January 3, a thirteen-member Congressional
delegation, led by Majority Leader Representative Steny Hoyer and
Minority Whip Representative Roy Blunt, discussed bilateral
priorities during meetings with President Nguyen Minh Triet, the
Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Phu Trong and Deputy Prime
Minister Hoang Trung Hai. During their meetings, members of the
delegation discussed legal, political and economic reform in
Vietnam, UN issues, respect for human rights and key commercial
concerns. The delegation also exchanged views on trade and
commercial issues with AMCHAM Hanoi. End Summary.

Meeting with President Triet

2. (SBU) As part of its visit to Guam, Vietnam, Australia and New
Zealand, the congressional delegation led by Majority Leader
Representative Steny Hoyer and Minority Whip Representative Roy
Blunt engaged in substantive exchanges with Vietnamese leaders
during its one-day stay in Hanoi on January 3. President Nguyen
Minh Triet opened his meeting with the CODEL by noting that the
delegation's visit was both a good opportunity to discuss issues of
mutual interest and a chance for the delegation to witness the
changes occurring in Vietnam. He continued by highlighting
developments in U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relations, including
President Bush's November 2006 visit to Hanoi; his own meetings in
Washington during his June 2007 trip to the United States; and other
high-level USG visitors to Hanoi such as Secretary of Commerce
Carlos Gutierrez in December 2007. President Triet noted that
differences remain, largely due to the different economic and
political conditions in the two countries, but suggested that any
problems can be discussed and solutions identified.

3. (SBU) Congressman Hoyer mentioned Vietnam's new role as a member
of the UN Security Council and asked for President Triet's views on
key issues such as the Iranian and North Korean proliferation
threats, the political repression in Burma and the status of Israel.
President Triet replied that the GVN is aware of the role and
responsibilities of a UNSC member and stated that Vietnam will have
clear positions on such issues when it is asked for its views.
Concerning a question from Congressman Hoyer about Vietnam-China
relations and the GVN view of China's future role in the world and
the region, President Triet explained that as China's neighbor with
a longstanding relationship, Vietnam "congratulates China on its
success." Vietnam's relations with China will not affect its
relationship with any third country. To the extent Vietnam and
China have differences, the two countries have agreed to discuss
them in order to reach a solution.

4. (SBU) Congressman Blunt reiterated the view that Vietnam's UN
Security Council role will mandate a new level of responsibility and
mentioned that he looks forward to opportunities when Vietnam's
views on issues before the Security Council will allow our countries
to "be on the same side." He also expressed appreciation for GVN
cooperation in the recovery of the remains of U.S. personnel missing
in action from the Vietnam War, noting that those efforts opened the
door to subsequent bilateral cooperation in other areas.
Congressman Blunt inquired whether Vietnam can maintain its
"amazing" economic growth and about the future of GVN state-owned
enterprises. President Triet said that Vietnam is trying to fulfill
its WTO commitments. In areas such as legal reform and human
resource development, Vietnam must improve. Past reform efforts
have transformed the Vietnamese economy to become more flexible and
market-based, and equity markets are being developed in order to
facilitate the "equitization" (partial privatization) of state-owned
enterprises. The President noted that Vietnam is in a transitional
period, but affirmed that the direction of future development is
clear and that the GVN has built confidence in the minds of foreign
investors. He concluded that "Vietnam is on the right track."

5. (SBU) Noting the impressive results of GVN economic reforms,
Congressman Hoyer asked whether the GVN had moved to enact political
reforms to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom
to criticize the government. With the growth of participatory
democracy around the world, Congressman Hoyer inquired where the GVN
stands on these issues. President Triet affirmed that the "voice"
of the Vietnamese people has been growing for many years.
Authorities at local and central levels typically poll public
opinion about important issues and use contradictory views to reach
better decisions. The Communist Party of Vietnam also provides a
mechanism for annual grassroots level criticism of GVN officials.
He said that sessions of the National Assembly include diverse,
frank opinions about the performance of the GVN and the cabinet

HANOI 00000022 002.2 OF 003

ministers are more often criticized than praised when they attend.
President Triet closed by arguing that, although the United States
and Vietnam have different economic and political conditions, he
hoped that they can cooperate in order to understand each other
better, and that he looked forward to other such exchanges in the

Discussions with National Assembly Leadership

6. (SBU) Earlier on January 3, the delegation met with Vietnam
National Assembly (NA) leaders, including NA Chairman Nguyen Phu
Trong, to discuss the two legislative branches' roles in
strengthening the bilateral relationship. The legislators focused
on trade, environmental, and security concerns. Both sides
expressed their satisfaction with the increased "productivity" of
the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship, citing, in particular, the
two countries' growing trade and economic ties.

7. (SBU) Congressman Blunt asked the NA members present to update
the U.S. delegation on changes to the civil and criminal codes that
might affect the protection of intellectual property rights,
copyrights, and patents in Vietnam. Chairman of the Legal Affairs
Committee Nguyen Van Thuan replied that, while such changes are
underway as part of a comprehensive legal and judicial reform
program aimed at realizing Vietnam's commitments as a WTO member,
the real problem in Vietnam is enforcement. Nonetheless, Thuan
promised that he would continue to inform Ambassador Michalak of
progress in implementing these legislative reforms. Thuan further
stressed that Vietnam considers intellectual property rights a
"civic right" and welcomed U.S. advice on how to improve existing
laws to ensure better implementation.

8. (SBU) Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz raised her concern that at
the United Nations, Vietnam has a record of not voting with the
United States on matters pertaining to Israel. Noticeably
surprised, Chairman Trong responded by stressing Vietnam's active
and growing involvement in numerous international organizations, but
conceded that Vietnam should pay more attention to issues related to
Israel. Other NA members emphasized Vietnam's good relationship
with both Israel and Palestine. In response to Congressman Hoyer's
question regarding Vietnam's future role in peace-keeping and
humanitarian efforts, Chairman Trong pledged strong support for such
efforts as long as they were legal under Vietnamese law and within
the country's capacity. Congressman Hoyer concluded the meeting by
highlighting each citizen's right to choose his/her government and
every government's responsibility to protect basic human rights.

Economic Issues Discussed with DPM Hai

9. (SBU) In the afternoon, Codel Hoyer met with Deputy Prime
Minister for Economic Affairs Hoang Trung Hai. In response to a
comment by Congressman Blunt, the DPM noted that Vietnam is
continuing to pursue broad administrative reforms, including
simplification of the licensing process. He also stated that
Vietnam realizes that enforcement of its IPR laws is necessary to
encourage the development of science and technology, and that the
GVN has much work to do in this regard. DPM Hai showed a broad base
of knowledge about U.S. foreign direct investment, commenting
extensively on proposed projects by Gannon, Alcoa and others. With
regards to the proposed Gannon project, he explained that the GVN
did not want to move forward until it could resolve the issue of
pricing kilowatts at a level that would both compensate producers
and be affordable to the public. He added that the GVN hopes the
ConocoPhillips gas project in the South China Sea, currently stalled
due to objection by China, will move forward very quickly because
Vietnam needs additional gas supplies.

10. (SBU) In response to a question by Congresswoman Emerson, DPM
Hai said that the GVN plans to increase its renewable energy supply
by at least 5% by 2010 and 8% by 2020. He explained that the GVN
has effectively communicated to the public that the price of energy
will be increased to market rates, and that a law regarding
effective energy use was being drafted. Finally, he noted that
Vietnam is in the process of overhauling its education system and is
ready for additional cooperation on education and training.

American Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

11. (SBU) Congressmen Hoyer and Blunt shared their views of the

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growing relationship between the United States and Vietnam,
including the impressive expansion of bilateral trade and concerns
such as human rights, environmental protection, intellectual
property rights and product safety, with a crowd of more than 100
U.S. business community members at an American Chamber of Commerce
luncheon. The large turnout, despite the holiday season,
demonstrated the business representatives' interest in exchanging
views with the legislators and gaining a better perspective of how
the U.S. relationship with Vietnam is viewed on Capitol Hill.

12. (SBU) In his remarks, Congressman Hoyer encouraged U.S. firms to
serve as a model of the benefits of open market principles for their
Vietnamese business partners and government interlocutors. He
continued by imploring that U.S. firms "not only can, but ought to"
spread the ideals of individual freedom and basic human rights in
Vietnam. Congressman Blunt then shared his positive impressions of
Vietnam's competitive commercial atmosphere, but noted that more
must be done to strengthen the tenets of rule of law, competition
and a fair judicial system. For example, he cited the incongruence
of Vietnam's requirement for an economic needs test for foreign
retailers to establish multiple outlets with the principles of an
open, competitive market. Amidst questions on domestic U.S.
politics, and the level of partisanship in Congress, one audience
member sought the delegation's views on how to balance economic
reform with political reform here. Congressman Hoyer responded that
he views individual liberties as not only a political issue, but
also as a means to boost the country's economic development - a
sentiment he shared earlier in the day with President Triet and NA
Chairman Trong. He also opined that Vietnam is following the "China
model" of economic liberalization coupled with continued tight
political control, and expressed his hope that both countries will
more positively pursue the issue of human rights in the future.

Comment: Off to Ho Chi Minh City

13. (SBU) The CODEL departed Hanoi on the evening of Jan 3 en route
to Ho Chi Minh City. Overall, the delegation expressed its
satisfaction with the substance of the meetings and noted the high
level of engagement and responsiveness of the GVN officials. Based
on the level of the delegation's meetings, the GVN clearly assigned
significant importance to the delegation's visit and appeared
pleased with the attention paid by the ranking members of Congress.
Mission Vietnam looks forward to welcoming future visits by members
of Congress.

14. (U) This cable was cleared by the delegation.


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