Cablegate: Staffdel Flickner's Trip to Vietnam

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: During Staffdel Flickner's visit to Vietnam
January 10-15, the delegation met with the Office of the
Government (OOG), during which its Vice Minister
expressed his appreciation for U.S. assistance, requested
continued support, and asked for continued dialogue on
human rights and religious freedom. The Staffdel also
visited USAID development partners and projects in Hanoi,
Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. END SUMMARY.

2. A Congressional staff delegation from the House
Appropriations Committee (HAC) led by Charles Flickner,
Clerk of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, visited
Vietnam January 10-15 to review U.S. foreign assistance
programs. The delegation also included John Blazey, HAC
Professional Staff Member, and Paul Kelly, Assistant
Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. The stop in

Hanoi followed a visit to Da Nang and preceded a separate
stop in Ho Chi Minh City, where they visited assistance
projects. In Hanoi, the Staffdel met with OOG Vice
Minister Nguyen Quoc Huy, as well as representatives of
USAID-funded projects, the American Chamber of Commerce,
the United Nations Development Program, and the Vice
Chairwoman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs

3. After commenting on the recent improvements in the
U.S.-Vietnam relationship, OOG Vice Minister Huy
recognized the active participation of the U.S. Congress
in this positive development. He further stated that he
appreciated U.S. technical assistance, which he termed
"efficient." Among other responsibilities, VM Huy chairs
the GVN steering committee for the USAID-funded Support
for Trade AcceleRation (STAR) project. This program,
which assists forty-two central and local government
offices to implement the GVN's commitments under the U.S.-
Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA), works on a
demand-driven basis, with the steering committee
prioritizing requests for assistance. Although this
process could become burdensome, VM Huy praised its
efficiency. (Note: Through the STAR project's assistance
to the GVN in implementing the BTA, it is helping to
write or re-write Vietnamese laws and, among other
things, increase the system's transparency, improve rule
of law, and create a level playing field for U.S.
companies. For further discussion on this subject, see
septel on Staffdel McCormick. End Note.)

4. Given the success of this program, the GVN has
requested that it be broadened and deepened, he said.
Specifically, during Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan's
recent meeting at USAID Washington, to which VM Huy
accompanied him, a preliminary agreement was reached to
extend STAR to 2005 and create a new project on accession
to the World Trade Organization (WTO). According to VM
Huy, Vietnam's seventh WTO working party was successful,
with many participants supporting Vietnam's accession
bid. (Note: VM Huy attended the working party, as did
Econ/C. End Note.) VM Huy assured the delegation of
Vietnam's active preparation for the next round and
reasserted Vietnam's stated goal of acceding to the WTO
in 2005. Towards this goal, VM Huy requested technical
assistance in WTO negotiations and Congressional
influence on the USTR to have sympathy regarding
Vietnam's bid as a developing country. He further stated
that the GVN would like the U.S. to send a delegation to
Vietnam for WTO bilateral negotiations. Following
accession, the GVN would ask for U.S. assistance in
implementing its WTO commitments, including work on
amending the country's legal system.

5. Maintaining that the GVN values all U.S. assistance,
VM Huy suggested two specific next steps for cooperation.
First, he asked that a Bilateral Agreement for Economic
and Technical Cooperation be signed between the U.S. and
Vietnam. Second, he suggested that U.S. and Vietnam
negotiate an agreement that would outline a long-term,
stable future for the relationship including official
exchanges and consultation between officials. Such a
mechanism would encourage the development of an enduring,
deep trust and the formation of common strategies. The
delegation responded that it would forward these
suggestions to the appropriate officials in Washington.
(Note: Embassy is about to beginning negotiations with
the GVN on a bilateral agreement on economic, technical
and humanitarian assistance.)

6. The Staffdel also highlighted the need to resume a
dialogue on human rights and religious freedom in order
to ensure continued U.S. technical assistance. In
response, VM Huy stated that the GVN wants an open,
"equitable" discussion with the USG on these issues as
well as more Congressional visits in order to compare
actual conditions with reports. He asserted that Vietnam
has twenty million religious believers and that the
number of followers is increasing. However, those who
"abuse" religion for other purposes must be punished, VM
Huy said.
7. In Da Nang, the delegation had the opportunity to
visit World Concern Development Organization's (WCDO)
vocational training for adolescents with disabilities
program. WCDO has been operating in Vietnam with USAID
assistance since the mid 1990's. The members traveled to
three informal training sites, where employers receive a
small stipend and support to train adolescents with
hearing and mobility impairments in various vocations.
The visits included one seamstress who is hearing
impaired, one hairdresser/makeup artist who was paralyzed
from polio, and two disadvantage youth who are learning
TV repair. The very employers who have trained these
young students often hire them.

8. In Ho Chi Minh City, the delegation met with
representatives of the city's HIV/AIDS Committee. They
described a situation where cases were rising
dramatically, with nearly 1 percent of pregnant women at
the city's primary maternity hospital testing positive
for HIV and 3.4 percent of new military recruits. These
numbers are much higher than for the country overall.
They noted that while the local committee was bringing
together various agencies to try to deal with the
problem, their resources were extremely limited. For
example, no funding was currently available for anti-
retroviral drug treatments for HIV-positive individuals.

9. The delegation also visited a rehabilitation center
for young drug addicts where 1500 youth are serving two-
year terms. While the group did not tour the entire
facility, the areas that they saw were clean and well
maintained, and they observed residents working and
engaging in various vocational training activities. The
delegation indicated that for a group of drug addicts,
the residents looked surprisingly healthy. Not
surprisingly, HIV/AIDS is an issue here as well.
Officials estimate that about 50 percent of the center's
population is HIV positive. Testing is done on a random
basis and residents are not advised of their status.
Local officials claim that they follow this policy
because they worry that anyone known to be HIV positive
would have trouble integrating into the center's
population and eventually into society. When asked by
the delegation if condoms were provided to the young
residents of the facility, the warden answered that since
sexual activity was not permitted at the center, condoms
were not distributed and were unnecessary.

10. This cable was cleared by Charles Flickner.

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