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Cablegate: Vietnam: Ny Life Hosts Seminar On Wto Accession

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: On August 5 in Hanoi at a seminar on Vietnam's
WTO accession hosted by New York Life (NYL), Charge
expressed strong support for Vietnam's efforts to accede to
the WTO while also emphasizing the heavy workload Vietnam
must complete in order to meet this goal. Opening the
seminar, DPM Vu Khoan expressed his support for
international integration and asked the international
community to support Vietnam's accession efforts. Minister
of Trade Tuyen questioned the fairness of the accession
process and said Vietnam could not accede "at all costs."
Over the course of several sessions, Cato Adrian, the WTO
Secretariat official in charge of Vietnam's accession,

provided key guidance on what how Vietnam should manage its
accession process, including its bilateral negotiations with
key trading partners. End Summary.

2. On August 5-6 in Hanoi, New York Life, in conjunction
with the Ministry of Trade and support from the U.S.-Vietnam
Trade Council (USVTC), hosted a seminar on Vietnam's WTO
accession. Speakers included the Charge, Deputy Prime
Minster Vu Khoan and Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen.
The seminar covered a range of topics including a review of
Vietnam's accession to date; case studies of recent
negotiations, strategies for Vietnam's bilateral
negotiations, the Doha Development Agenda, a comparison of
the U.S Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and WTO
accession requirements and the status of GATS negotiations.
The seminar was relatively small (about 150 people) but
included participation of officials from a wide range of
ministries, government think tanks and universities.

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3. In his opening remarks, DPM Vu Khoan highlighted
Vietnam's commitment to international economic integration
and stated that WTO accession is the next important step for
Vietnam. To prepare for this, DPM Vu Khoan said, Vietnam is
working to improve the competitiveness of domestic
enterprises, perfect its legal framework, and reform its tax
system. He also noted that Vietnam is committed to widening
market access according to a "reasonable roadmap." While
Vietnam does not need to meet "all necessary conditions"
before joining the WTO, it does need to continue preparing
for accession and accelerate the negotiations. DPM Vu Khoan
noted that the GVN needs three kinds of support from the
international community: 1) help in highlighting the
benefits of international integration to Vietnamese
enterprises 2) efforts to negotiate bilaterally with Vietnam
in accordance with its level of economic development; and 3)
technical assistance for the entire process of economic

4. In his remarks, the Charge expressed strong support for
Vietnam's efforts to accede by 2005, while clearly
highlighting how much work the GVN has ahead of it. Charge
identified the BTA as a good starting point for Vietnam's
accession, but noted that the pace of reform established in
the BTA is neither broad enough nor fast enough to meet
Vietnam's goal of entering by 2005. Vietnam will need to
commit to much greater access for both goods and services,
including, at minimum, making commitments on 100 percent of
its tariff lines and multilateralizing the services
commitments it made in the BTA. Charge reiterated Vietnam's
Working Party Chairman's statement at the 6th Working Party
in May this year that Vietnam needs to make a "quantum leap"
in its preparations in order to meet its own goal of
accession by 2005.

5. Minister Tuyen, who spoke during the second morning
session on August 5, laid aside his prepared remarks and
spoke off-the-cuff. He questioned the fairness of the WTO
accession process, arguing that newly acceding countries are
asked to meet higher standards than current members and
noting that Vietnam is ready to provide the same level of
market access that other developing countries have been
asked to provide. Minister Tuyen said the question of
"fairness" in the WTO is his "constant torment."
Ultimately, Tuyen added, Vietnam cannot "accede to the WTO
at any cost." If opening its market will be so good for
Vietnam, why did it take China 15 years to accede and why is
Russia still not a member, he asked rhetorically. Vietnam
needs to enter the WTO because this is a critical step for
advancing Vietnam's economic "renewal," but accession must
be on the basis of Vietnam's own needs. Minister Tuyen
asserted Vietnam would have a good offer for the next
working party including: a clear legislative action plan,
the applied tariff schedule, and a good offer on services.
The Minister concluded by stating he hoped Vietnam would be
a WTO member "soon."


6. A number of key sessions lead by Cato Adrian, the
Counselor for Accessions at the WTO, focused on the nuts and
bolts of Vietnam's accession and negotiating strategy.
During Mr. Adrian's sessions he provided a detailed review
of the status of Vietnam's accession; identified the
negotiations that are necessary for accession, separating
issues into those that are "negotiable," "non-negotiable,"
and "optional"; looked at case studies of three recent
accessions (Cambodia, Lithuania and Macedonia); and provided
a broad strategy for Vietnam's bilateral accessions with key
trading partners. (Note: In addition to his participation
in this conference, Mr. Adrian also spent more than two full
days with the GVN's WTO negotiating team going over the
accession process in detail. End note.)

7. In addition to Adrian, a number of other experts also
participated in the conference. Ambassador Mike Samuels
(former DUSTR and U.S. Ambassador to the GATT) gave a
luncheon presentation on the "Political Evolution of the WTO
- from GATT to Doha." David Hartridge, Senior Director of
White & Case in Geneva (and former Special Advisor to the
Director General of the WTO) gave several presentations on
the impact that the Doha Development Agenda and ongoing GATS
and financial services negotiations could have on Vietnam's
accession. Additionally, Demetrios Marantis, USVTC's Chief
Legal Advisor, compared Vietnam's commitments under the BTA
with WTO accession requirements.

8. Comment: Since the 6th WP in Geneva in May, the GVN has
been actively promoting Vietnam's bid to accede to the WTO
by 2005. There have been numerous seminars, workshops, and
meetings highlighting the importance of WTO accession, as
well as significant press coverage on this issue. This
campaign may be an effort to develop popular support for
accession outside of the core WTO negotiating team. This
seminar stands out both for the level of substance and the
quality of the presentations. Mr. Adrian's separate
meetings with the GVN negotiating team should go a long way
in helping the GVN push forward with its preparations for a
seventh working party, possibly before the end of the year.
We remain skeptical, however, that there has been a
significant change in the GVN's belief that it will be
allowed to accede in 2005 without a demonstrable commitment
to meet the benchmark levels of liberalization and market
access established by recent accessions.

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