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Cablegate: Investment Minister Readies for U.S. Trip

VZCZCXRO5539
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0349/01 0870007
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270007Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7476
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4490

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000349

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USTR FOR BISBEE AND CLAMAN
STATE FOR EEB/IFD/OIA GOETHERT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON OVIP PGOV VM
SUBJECT: INVESTMENT MINISTER READIES FOR U.S. TRIP

REF: Hanoi 345 (DNSA Price's Visit To Vietnam)

This cable is Sensitive But Unclassified. For official use only,
not for dissemination outside USG channels or posting on the
internet.

1. (SBU) Summary: Vietnamese Planning and Investment Minister Vo
Hong Phuc met with the Ambassador on March 26 to discuss his April 6
- 12 visit to the United States. Phuc and the Ambassador discussed
the itinerary and the issues that were likely to come up during the
visit, including concerns about human rights and backlogs in
investment licensing. End Summary.

ADDRESSING INVESTMENT DELAYS
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) Minister Phuc said that his trip was aimed at promoting
investment in Vietnam. In Houston (April 6-8), New York (April
9-10) and Washington (April 11-12), Phuc will participate at events
organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Asia Society. The
Ambassador told him to be ready for questions about Vietnam's
sometimes longwinded and muddled investment licensing process,
citing the examples of Chevron, AES and Alcoa as investment projects
that have been tied up in GVN red tape. "People will ask you: 'Why
does it take so long, what does it take to speed up the
bureacracy?'" Phuc nodded and said that he was ready to address
these questions and, using the Ambassador's example of Alcoa, said
that the GVN still intended to move forward with a bauxite mining
project with the U.S. firm.

HUMAN RIGHTS
------------

3. (SBU) Phuc said that he was also ready to face questions on human
rights, and agreed that Vietnam had a good story to tell on
religious freedom. "You know our position very well," the
Ambassador said, and raised the case of imprisoned Amcit activist
Nguyen Quoc Quan as one of the ones on which Phuc was likely to be
asked.

INVESTMENT TREATY AND ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Ambassador also told Phuc that his U.S. interlocutors
would likely want to know more about Vietnam's stance on a Bilateral
Investment Treaty (BIT) and on Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's
ambitious "Project 30" of administrative reforms. "We and others
would be interested in continuing [BIT] discussions and even setting
timelines," the Ambassador said. Although Phuc did not address the
BIT issue, two high-level MPI officials told us later that an MPI
"expert" would accompany the delegation and seek a separate meeting
with USTR on BIT. The Ambassador also told Phuc that U.S. audiences
would also be interested in how Vietnam intended to address a
possible global slowdown and domestic challenges like inflation.

SCHEDULE AND MEETINGS
---------------------

5. (SBU) The Ambassador recommended that Phuc make time to meet with
USTR and the NSC's Assistant to the President and Deputy National
Security Advisor Dan Price, who met with Phuc in Hanoi on March 21
(Reftel). The Minister said that he would try to have both
meetings, although his staff confided that it would be difficult to
accommodate these two additional meetings in his schedule, and
suggested instead that one of the members of the delegation see USTR
on his own (PARA 4). Phuc's arrangements are being made by the
Vietnamese Embassy in Washington and are thus far as follows: April
6: departure from Hanoi to Houston; April 7: free time (the Minister
has relatives in Austin and plans to meet with them); April 8:
meetings with ConocoPhilips, an address at Rice University, and a
meeting with the Houston Vietnamese community; April 9: participate
in a Chamber of Commerce - Asia Society forum, depart for NY; April
10: meeting with U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council Director Virginia Foote,
attend another Chamber of Commerce - Asia Society forum, and leave
to DC (by train); April 11: 8:45-10:50 meeting with World Bank VP
for Asia James Adams, lunch with business people and reporters
organized by the Chamber of Commerce, and meetings with USAID
Administrator Fore and at State.

COMMENT: AN IDEAL INTERLOCUTOR
------------------------------

6. (SBU) Comment: Phuc is one of our best GVN contacts, and is
well-liked and respected by the business and donor communities.
Because of this, he is well-suited to engage frankly with Washington
on issues beyond investment and economics, including sensitive ones
like human rights and government reform. End Comment.

MICHALAK

HANOI 00000349 002 OF 002

3

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