Cablegate: Congressman Chabot Meets with Foreign Ministry,

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
SUBJECT: Congressman Chabot Meets with Foreign Ministry,
National Assembly Representatives

1. (SBU) Summary: Congressman Steve Chabot met separately
December 13 with Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang and
National Assemblyman Vu Xuan Hong. Representative Chabot
thanked Vietnam for its efforts in the fullest possible
accounting of MIA's and urged the GVN to take further steps
to advance this cause; described the problems U.S.
businesses have with sudden increases in Vietnam's taxes and
tariffs, the inability to get business licenses and a lack
of intellectual property rights protection; and underlined
the importance of human rights and religious freedom to
Americans. Responding in familiar terms, VFM Bang and
National Assemblyman Hong described Vietnam's efforts to
reform its economy; stressed that Vietnam is making progress
in the area of human rights and religious freedom (with VFM
Bang promising "positive developments" soon); and urged
Congressman Chabot to vote in favor of Permanent Normal
Trade Relations for Vietnam. End Summary.

Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang

2. (SBU) Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) had separate
meetings December 13 with Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang
and National Assembly Foreign Relations Committee Member Vu
Xuan Hong. DCM, Pol/C and Control Officer (A/PAO) also
attended both meetings. VFM Bang opened his meeting with
Congressman Chabot by observing that Asia in general and
Southeast Asia in particular are growing in importance to
the United States. Vietnam's desire is for the United
States to pay "sufficient" attention to the region. With
several regional groupings and formulations in play, such as
APEC, ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit, both China and Japan
are jockeying for position. Coordinating the various
developments and problems in Asia requires leadership, and
Vietnam believes that the United States "can play a
constructive role." Ultimately, the most important thing is
to "keep things stable and peaceful." To that end, ASEAN
seeks to become an engine of growth and development in the
region, VFM Bang said.

3. (SBU) U.S.-Vietnam relations, in spite of the two
countries' "inherited history," are moving ahead positively,
such as in the areas of economics, humanitarian cooperation,
diplomacy and security. Vietnam's Minister of Defense
visited Washington, D.C., in 2003, and there have been two
U.S. Navy ship visits to Vietnam over the past year.
Vietnam is looking forward to sending its Prime Minister to
the United States on the occasion of the tenth anniversary
of normalization of relations. This will be cause for
"celebration." Vietnam also hopes that the United States
will strengthen even further its support for Vietnam's WTO
accession. Finally, Vietnam is aware that the United States
has some "requests" related to human rights and religious
freedom. For its part, Vietnam pays attention to these
issues and America's concerns, and VFM Bang expressed his
hope that there will be "good news" in these areas.

4. (SBU) The United States would welcome a visit by the
Prime Minister, Congressman Chabot responded, and creating
the right atmosphere for the visit requires continued
progress in a number of areas. For example, the American
people consider the fullest possible accounting of those
killed during the war to be of the utmost importance, and
anything the GVN can do to continue forward would be greatly
appreciated. The GVN has done a great deal so far, and
these efforts have gone a long way towards improving
bilateral relations, the Congressman said.

5. (SBU) Trade relations are also heading in the right
direction, Representative Chabot continued. Some 20 percent
of Vietnam's exports go to the United States, and this sort
of trend is good for both the United States and Vietnam.
However, some American businesses have difficulties getting
licenses, face sudden increases in taxes and tariffs or
cannot protect their intellectual property rights. These
kinds of issues will cause U.S. companies to think twice
about investing in Vietnam. VFM Bang responded that,
through the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA), and Vietnam is
moving forward with legal reform and is "more or less" on
the right track, VFM Bang said.

6. (SBU) Human rights and religious freedom are two other
areas in which Americans have a great deal of interest and
concern, Congressman Chabot continued. Although there have
been improvements in Vietnam, there is room for further
improvement. VFM Bang promised that there would be "more
positive developments" in these areas. For example, Vietnam
will "soon" have the implementing regulations for the new
Ordinance on Religion, the Vice Foreign Minister said.

7. (SBU) Vietnam and the United States share many interests.
For example, both nations are concerned about where China is
going. Furthermore, among the 1.5 million ethnic Vietnamese
living in the United States, some want to return to Vietnam
to "help with its development," and this is another factor
drawing the United States and Vietnam closer together. VFM
Bang concluded by asking Congressman Chabot's support for
Vietnam's Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) when it
comes up for a vote before Congress.

National Assemblyman Vu Xuan Hong

8. (SBU) During a separate meeting December 13 with Vu Xuan
Hong, a member of the National Assembly's Foreign Relations
Committee, Congressman Chabot raised the issues of tariffs,
difficulties in getting business licenses and lack of
protection for intellectual property rights as impediments
to increasing U.S. investment. Hong responded that Vietnam
has made the important -- and difficult -- decision to move
from a planned economy to a free market economy, and it will
take time to see improvements in every area. However,
Vietnam can only go forward; it cannot go back. Although
there will be "gaps" between Vietnam's will and ability to
implement this will, the GVN is trying to create a better
environment for investors. Vietnam is grateful for the
support of the United States and other donor countries in a
myriad of projects to help the country to develop further,
Hong said. Vietnam hopes that the United States will be
able to play an even greater role and provide more
assistance, Hong said.

9. (SBU) Responding to Representative Chabot's thanks for
and comments about fullest possible accounting cooperation,
Hong said that Vietnam's leadership understands the
importance of this "sensitive humanitarian issue."
Vietnam's support for these efforts will continue not for
political reasons but because of the "humanitarian

10. (SBU) On the subject of human rights and religious
freedom, Hong responded to Representative Chabot's concerns
by noting that these are also important "values" for the GVN
and Vietnamese people. However, because of Vietnam's
history and traditions, Vietnam has a different way of
looking at these issues. The best way for the United States
and Vietnam to overcome their differences is to increase
understanding through dialogue. Efforts by the U.S.
Congress to pass human rights legislation make the
Vietnamese "nervous" and "surprised." In addition, the
United States never seems to be concerned about Communists
who are in jail, but when a Buddhist monk or Protestant
believer is imprisoned for "breaking the law," it becomes a
bilateral issue. Hong expressed his hope that Americans and
others understand better the situation in Vietnam, and, for
its part, Vietnam wants to use dialogue to increase mutual
understanding. Hong concluded by noting that the National
Assembly is making efforts to strengthen its role in
society, but that this will take time. In the meantime,
efforts by both the National Assembly and U.S. Congress to
increase visits and exchanges between the two can help to
deepen understanding and improve relations.


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