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Cablegate: Dhhs Secretary Leavitt Focuses On Product Safety, Influenza

VZCZCXRO9540
RR RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB
RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHHI #0508/01 1260604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050604Z MAY 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7733
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4663
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 3325
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5871
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1433
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0894
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0358
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 1600
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//USDP/ISA/AP//
RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC//J2/J3/J5//
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DHO-3//
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5//
RHEFAFM/DIRAFMIC FT DETRICK MD//MA-1A//
RUEHSUN/USUN ROME IT

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HANOI 000508

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AMBASSADOR MARK DYBUL
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, INR, OES/STC, OES/IHA, OGAC
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE AND GH
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO OGHA (WSTEIGER/LVALDEZ/CHICKEY/KMCLEAN),
SAMHSA, FIC/NIH (RGLASS), AND FDA (MLUMPKIN/MPLAISIER)
CDC FOR COGH (SBLOUNT/JGERBERDING/MCOHEN/DBIRX)
BANGKOK FOR REO (JWALLER), USAID (RWHELDON/CBOWES/MACARTHUR/MBRADY)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KPAO KFLU KHIV VM
SUBJECT: DHHS SECRETARY LEAVITT FOCUSES ON PRODUCT SAFETY, INFLUENZA
AND HIV/AIDS DURING VISIT TO HANOI

HANOI 00000508 001.2 OF 004


1. (SBU) Summary. During his visit to Hanoi, U.S. Health and Human
Services Secretary Michael Leavitt successfully advocated for the
United States and Vietnam to draft a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) on product safety in preparation for the upcoming visit to the
United States by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. In
meetings with the Government of Vietnam (GVN) and with Vietnamese
public health students and the American Chamber of Commerce in
Hanoi, Secretary Leavitt emphasized the need for Vietnam, with U.S.
assistance, to take proactive measures to protect the "Made in
Vietnam" brand. In meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture and
Rural Development (MARD), the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the
Prime Minister, Leavitt thanked Vietnamese Government for its
continued sharing of animal and human samples of the H5N1 strain of
highly pathogenic avian influenza and urged the GVN to maintain this
posture. Secretary Leavitt also advocated for Vietnam to adopt
rapid testing for HIV confirmatory diagnosis, and urged the GVN to
ensure that its new drug law allows for the use of
medication-assisted therapy for injecting-drug users. Vietnamese
and foreign journalists closely followed the Secretary Leavitt
visit, and media coverage, both domestically and internationally,
was extensive and positive. End Summary.

Secretary Leavitt Stresses Food Safety at MARD
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) During his meeting with MARD Vice Minister Bui Ba Bong,
Secretary Leavitt focused on the need for the GVN to protect the
"Made in Vietnam" brand, particularly for the country's growing food
exports. Secretary Leavitt explained that recent publicity in the
United States surrounding sub-standard products from the People's
Republic of China and Honduras have caused concern among American
consumers, and affected exports from those countries. He stressed
that the United States wants to work with Vietnam on joint efforts
to heighten vigilance on food safety, while assisting the country to
upgrade and improve its food-safety laws. In light of Prime
Minister Dung's planned visit to the United States, Secretary
Leavitt suggested the two nations set up a working group to craft an
MOU on product safety, which would focus on Vietnamese exports of
food, drugs, medical devices, and (possibly) animal feed. The
Secretary proposed that he and the Vietnamese Minister of Health
could sign the MOU during the Prime Minister's visit to Washington
in June. Secretary Leavitt also outlined President Bush's Action
Plan for Import Safety and stated that the USG planned to focus on a
systems approach, which increasingly could rely on the independent
certification of compliance with international standards as a means
to streamline the entry of imports, while maintaining food-safety
protections that the American public expects. As this process
develops, the Secretary explained, the United States will give
priority to imports independently certified as safe, perhaps by
entities accredited, but not operated, by the USG. Vice Minister
Bong, who noted that 20 to 25 percent of Vietnam's agricultural
exports go to the United States, agreed with the Secretary's
suggestions on independent certification and the desirability of an
MOU.

3. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt stressed U.S. appreciation for Vietnam's
transparent and regular sharing of animal and human influenza
samples of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza,
which are crucial to international efforts to prevent a pandemic.
Vice Minister Bong reaffirmed the GVN's commitment to share samples
and acknowledged strong assistance from U.S. Agency for
International Development and HHS to Vietnam's efforts to combat
avian influenza, particularly its attempts to develop a sustainable,

HANOI 00000508 002.2 OF 004


long-term strategy. Vice Minister Bong also reviewed the GVN's
goals to increase biotechnology, including an Agricultural
Biotechnology Program for 2006 to 2015, and the Prime Minister's
recent approval of guidelines for field trials of biotech crops.

Secretary Leavitt Focuses on Quality Assurance
With American Chamber of Commerce
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt again stressed the need for building
quality and safety into every step of the supply chain in a
presentation to the Hanoi Chapter of the American Chamber of
Commerce. Reviewing China's recent problems, and the immediate
impact on consumer perceptions in the United States of Chinese
products, the Secretary urged the Vietnamese Government and industry
to take a proactive stance on product safety, to avoid letting one
or a few adverse events define the nation's exports and damage the
"Made in Vietnam" brand. The Secretary stressed the issues of
product safety are not unique to the United States or Vietnam, and
emphasized that the USG continues to work with our partners in the
global market to ensure adequate food supplies within a sustainable
safety system. Instead of focusing on border controls, he
indicated, governments need to work with the private sector to build
quality into every step of the process, including by using
independent certification to streamline the export process and speed
products into U.S. markets.

Secretary Leavitt Reviews Product Safety, Sample-Sharing, and Rapid
Testing for HIV with Minister of Health
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (SBU) At the Ministry of Health, Secretary Leavitt again
emphasized the importance of product safety, especially in the
context of the rapid growth in trade between the United States and
Vietnam. The Secretary stressed the United States wanted to work
with the GVN and Vietnamese industry to protect the reputation of
Vietnamese exports. In the context of Prime Minister Dung's
upcoming visit, the Secretary suggested an MOU between the two
countries to promote the safety and quality of food, drugs, medical
devices, and animal feed. As a starting point, the Secretary
proposed that both nations could identify working teams to begin
developing this agreement as soon as possible.

6. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt praised Vietnam's great progress in the
fight against HIV/AIDS, and highlighted the rapid growth of
assistance to the country under the President's Emergency Plan for
AIDS Relief, which in funding has increased from USD 17 million in
FY 2004 to USD 88 million in FY 2008. The Secretary noted USG
support for the provision of methadone to injecting-drug users, to
reduce heroin consumption, limit the exposure to and transmission of
HIV, and assist in addiction treatment. He advocated for the GVN to
draft its new drug law to ensure it permits medication-assisted
therapy and a comprehensive, community-based approach to addiction
treatment.

7. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt also suggested that the GVN allow the use
of rapid testing technologies to confirm HIV diagnosis, which, in
response to a question from Minister Trieu, the Secretary described
as reliable, accurate, and more likely to result in referrals of
HIV-infected individuals to care and treatment. Minister Trieu
agreed to support methadone programs, while MOH senior staff in the
Ministry agreed to cooperate with the United States on rapid
testing, though they focused on its potential for screening in

HANOI 00000508 003.2 OF 004


national blood-donation campaigns. (Comment: the Secretary's appeal
on rapid testing prompted a long colloquy between the Minister and
members of his senior staff. In responding to Secretary Leavitt,
Minister Trieu made a point of mentioning needle-exchange as a
method of prevention he was encouraging, a dig at the inability of
the USG to fund such programs. End comment.)

8. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt noted the similarity between Vietnam's
health priorities and U.S. goals. The Secretary reinforced his
earlier message to Vice Minister Bong at MARD and congratulated
Minister Trieu on GVN's policy to continue to share all samples from
all human cases of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza -- a major
contribution to the global success in containing the dangerous virus
so far. The Secretary pointed to the GVN's ability to enforce its
new mandatory helmet law and its swift response to outbreaks of
avian influenza as demonstrations of its commitment to progress in
health. To further boost health cooperation between the two
countries, Secretary Leavitt invited Minister Trieu to visit the
USNS Mercy during its June 2008 port call in Nha Trang, during which
time Vietnamese and American doctors will provide a wide variety of
health-care interventions to approximately 10,000 local patients
over 11 days. Minister Trieu accepted the offer to visit the USNS
Mercy and the proposal to provide training on new technologies.

9. (SBU) Noting that the GVN had assigned the MOH to manage food
safety, Minister Nguyen Quoc Trieu agreed on the necessity of
completing an MOU on product safety, which he judged as consistent
with the GVN's plans for substantial investments in food safety to
meet international standards and to meet the expectations of its
trade partners. Minister Trieu praised U.S. health assistance to
his country pursuant to the bilateral Agreement on Health and
Medical Science his predecessor and Secretary Leavitt signed in
Washington in July 2006, and he singled out HHS efforts on
influenza, along with activities by U.S. non-governmental
organizations, Operation Smile (on the surgical repair of persons
with cleft palates) and the Atlantic Philanthropies (on dengue).

Secretary Leavitt Engages Vietnamese
Public Health Students
------------------------------------

10. (U) At the Hanoi School of Public Health, Secretary Leavitt
spoke to a diverse body of several hundred students about the
commitment of the United States to health in Vietnam and expressed
his belief in their country's ability to develop an effective system
to manage the threat of infectious diseases in the context of
increased globalization. In an hour-long question-and-answer
session, several students posed queries about the U.S. health-care
system, the characteristics of a successful public-health strategy,
U.S. dioxin-related assistance to Vietnam, and Secretary Leavitt's
goals for this visit. (Comment: The session was remarkably open,
personal, and candid. Unexpectedly, Minister Trieu attended and
stayed for the whole session. Several members of the audience
asked, with a mix of wonder and curiosity, why the Secretary wanted
to speak with students. Other young people in the crowd, which was
approximately 80 percent female, inquired about the Secretary's
family, and sought career advice from him. When the secretary told
the students he had five children, the crowd waited for the reaction
of Minister Trieu, and applauded enthusiastically after he began to
clap. End comment.)

Secretary Leavitt and Prime Minister Dung
Agree on Product-Safety MOU

HANOI 00000508 004.2 OF 004


---------------------------

11. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt and Prime Minister Dung agreed their two
governments should begin work on an MOU on product safety, and Prime
Minister Dung tasked Minister of Health Trieu to work with HHS to
prepare a draft agreement for signature during his June visit. Both
the Secretary and the Prime Minister agreed on the importance of
proactive steps to maintain the reputation of the Vietnamese brand
as bilateral trade continues to increase. Secretary Leavitt again
thanked Prime Minister Dung for Vietnamese leadership on the sharing
of influenza samples. The Prime Minister noted his appreciation for
support under the President's Emergency Plan to Vietnam's response
to HIV/AIDS and asked for continued U.S. support for people affected
by dioxin contamination (Note: some local press outlets reported
this inaccurately as a request for continued assistance to "Agent
Orange Victims.")

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) On major health issues, the United States and Vietnam are
on the same page, and Secretary Leavitt's visit helped ensure we
remain so. The Secretary and his Vietnamese counterparts noted the
many areas of ongoing cooperation, particularly HIV/AIDS and
influenza. Vietnamese officials agreed to Secretary Leavitt's
proposal to negotiate an MOU on product safety, which the GVN sees
as a means to protect the country's growing food exports to the
United States and to improve capacity to assure the safety of food
products, both for exports and for those destined for domestic
consumption. Such an MOU would supplement ongoing U.S. assistance
to the GVN as it drafts a new food-safety law and would build upon
negotiations between the HHS Food and Drug Administration and MARD
towards an exchange of letters to create a protocol for safe exports
of Vietnamese fish and seafood to the Untied States.

13. (SBU) Additionally, the Secretary can claim two successes in the
Ministry of Health's positive responses to the Secretary's advocacy
on behalf of rapid, confirmatory testing for HIV infection and the
need to ensure that the new Vietnamese drug-control laws permit
medication-assisted therapy and community-based treatment for
injecting-drug users. Follow-through will be important, but, as
with the Secretary's advocacy during his last visit to Vietnam, in
October 2005, of the use of generic anti-retroviral drugs (a
position the GVN subsequently adopted), these conversations
demonstrate the value of high-level U.S. Government interventions on
public policy here. End comment.]

14. (U) Secretary Leavitt's delegation has cleared this cable.

MICHALAK

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