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Cablegate: Ambassador Discusses Wto, Apec Conference,

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

REF: A. Hanoi 2020; B. Hanoi 1863; C. Hanoi 1888; D. Hanoi
1941; E. State 145437; F. Ho Chi Minh City 816; G. Ho Chi
Minh City 818; H. State 139288; I. Hanoi 1624

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met August 8 with a senior
official in the Prime Minister's office and used the
occasion to highlight key points relating to Vietnam's WTO
accession, the proposed joint U.S.-Vietnam APEC conference
on export controls, human rights and religious freedom and
the ongoing effort to acquire land to build a new Embassy
compound. The Vietnamese official mostly listened, although
he offered a few general observations on the WTO and human
rights/religious freedom points. The Ambassador also raised
the issue of U.S. treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees (Ref
A). End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador met Vice Chairman of the Office of
the Government Nguyen Quoc Huy August 8. (Note: the Office
of the Government is the Ministerial-level agency tasked
with supporting the Prime Minister and Vietnam's three
Deputy Prime Ministers. It is roughly equivalent to the
Executive Office of the President in the United States. End
Note.) Huy, who had accompanied the Prime Minister on his
June trip to the United States, agreed with the Ambassador
that the visit was successful and that it had generated much
follow-up work.

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3. (SBU) The Ambassador affirmed that the United States
strongly supports Vietnam's bid to join the World Trade
Organization (WTO), but noted that the process is taking
longer than Vietnam would like. To keep the process moving,
the Ambassador has met with Vice Minister of Trade Luong Van
Tu (Ref B) and Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan (Ref C), and
the two sides established a mechanism so that their
negotiating teams can interact informally but intensely.
The U.S. side is looking for Vietnamese flexibility on
certain matters, he added, including bilateral market access
issues, financial services, telecom services, trading and
distribution rights and tariffs. Multilaterally, the
Ambassador said, all parties are actively preparing for the
Working Party session in September in Geneva. The key to
making that meeting a success will be the degree to which
the Working Party is able to review draft versions of WTO-
related legislation under consideration in Vietnam's
National Assembly. And finally, Vietnam's record in
implementing the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) will be
considered carefully by the U.S. Congress as they debate
Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Vietnam.

4. (SBU) Huy said the GVN is concerned that "something
unusual" is occurring in the way the USG is addressing
Vietnam's WTO bid. In the Prime Minister's meeting with
President Bush, the two sides agreed to have a meeting in
July. However, when the GVN tried to set it up, they
discovered it was not possible. Huy said he appreciates
very much the efforts the Ambassador has made to move this
issue forward. The two sides can accomplish a great deal by
exchanging information and documents through informal
channels, he acknowledged, but it is only possible to reach
agreement in formal negotiation rounds. The GVN hopes to
see the next round scheduled soon. (Note: the GVN's
concerns on the WTO issue and the perception that the USG is
reneging on promises made by President Bush are explained in
detail in Ref D. End Note.)

5. (SBU) The Ambassador said he participated in the last
formal round of negotiations and was concerned at that time
because the two sides were not specific about the timing of
Vietnam's accession to the WTO or the next negotiation
round. The United States had indicated that July was not
possible, but perhaps not clearly enough. He agreed with
Huy that the deal can only be closed during a formal
negotiation session. However, if the next round is to be
the final round, both sides have to be ready to make it

6. (SBU) Another issue of importance, the Ambassador said,
is APEC. Vietnam will host APEC in 2006, which offers a
tremendous opportunity for Vietnam. President Bush is
looking forward to his visit to Vietnam in conjunction with
that meeting. One problem, however, has surfaced: the
planned Export Control Conference for APEC Economies and
Transshipment Centers scheduled to take place in Hanoi
October 3-6 (Ref E). The USG welcomed Vietnam's
announcement of its agreement at the second APEC Senior
Officials meeting May 31 to co-host the conference and
understands that the Prime Minister committed personally to
host this conference on export controls for all APEC members
with the United States, the Ambassador said.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador advised that the USG has learned
that one APEC economy may be pressuring Vietnam on issues
related to this conference in an attempt to reverse
commitments that all APEC economies made in Bangkok and
Santiago. It is inappropriate, he continued, to hold a
conference on APEC issues that excludes any APEC members,
including Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong. APEC members cannot
compromise the vitality of APEC by allowing one member to
prevent others from implementing APEC commitments or
inviting all APEC economies to participate in discussions
relating to the implementation of these commitments, he

8. (SBU) The USG and GVN should not backtrack from APEC
Ministers' commitments, the Ambassador said. Last year,
APEC Ministers specifically committed to "continue work in
APEC to unite economies and the private sector to facilitate
the flow of goods to legitimate end users while preventing
illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, their
delivery systems, and related items." Backing off because
of one APEC member's unwarranted pressure would not reflect
well on the GVN.

9. (SBU) The United States needs to move forward on the
planning and preparation and is deeply concerned that any
additional delay will result in a poorly attended conference
that will not serve the goals of the U.S. and Vietnam
governments or of APEC, the Ambassador explained. If the
Embassy is unable to confirm by Wednesday, August 10, that
Vietnam is committed to both co-hosting this conference and
inviting all APEC economies, and is actively working with
the United States on the conference logistics, the United
States will be compelled to change the venue. Export
controls are an important issue for all APEC economies and
transshipment centers. Limiting this conference is simply
wrong. The Ambassador expressed the hope that the GVN will
move forward quickly and support a successful conference for
all APEC economies.

10. (SBU) Huy said Vietnam is taking APEC very seriously,
and that the Prime Minister has set up an organizational
board of senior GVN officials from all agencies with an
active role in planning or implementing the APEC summit. He
took note of the Ambassador's concerns on the APEC Export
Controls Conference and said he would discuss the USG's
concerns with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the
Prime Minister.


11. (SBU) The Ambassador raised the issue of the USG's
efforts to negotiate an agreement on a location and lease
for a new Embassy compound (NEC). A USG team had come to
Vietnam in July to meet with the GVN. Both sides worked
hard for a week and reached agreement on the site and on the
necessary procedures to move forward. At the last minute,
however, the GVN side said it had to obtain wider approval
for the plan and then was unable to do so. When Hanoi
People's Committee Vice Chairman Do Hoang An can agree to
the signed minutes of the July meeting, it will be possible
for the two sides to work together on a lease. The USG is
eager to reach that point, as the GVN should be, because the
GVN wants to move ahead with plans to address its own space
needs in Washington. Huy said he had only just learned that
the USG had found a new possible site for the NEC and needs
to learn more about the situation.


12. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that human rights and
religious freedom are issues where the United States and
Vietnam have differences that could impede the development
of bilateral relations. The Ambassador believes that the
real human rights and religious freedom story should be the
positive changes in conditions in recent years, but it is
not because human nature is to focus on specific incidents
rather than the whole picture. Examples of specific cases
currently inhibiting the world's recognition of Vietnam's
progress include Than Van Truong (Ref F), a patient who is
in a mental hospital despite the fact that he is not
mentally ill. This case attracts considerable attention in
the United States. Another key case is Nguyen Dan Que (Ref
G), who was amnestied during the 2005 Vietnamese New Year.
Que intends to apply for a passport and travel to the United
States to visit his family. The USG understands the
sensitivity of the case, the Ambassador said, but hopes the
GVN will permit him to travel and to return to Vietnam after
his journey.

13. (SBU) On religious freedom, the Ambassador said he is
"optimistic and pleased" by developments in the last six
months as a result of the new legal framework on religion.
The new framework has given people new opportunities to
practice their religion. However, there still are reports,
particularly from rural areas, that local officials either
are not aware of, or ignore, the new legal framework. The
USG hopes to see a greater effort to help all officials
understand and publicize the new regulations. Committees on
Religious Affairs at all levels need to be responsible for
communicating with officials and believers. There remain
some disappointments, the Ambassador noted. One example is
the Mennonite Church in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City that
has had problems operating without interference (Ref H).
This church, founded by the jailed Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang,
has its services broken up every week. This creates the
wrong impression of religious policy in Vietnam.

14. (SBU) On the issue of ethnic minorities in the Central
Highlands, the recent visit by UNHCR's Bangkok
representative was a real success (septel). The Ambassador
told Huy that he had met with the UNHCR representative and
that the UN official had lauded the effort and cooperation
shown by GVN officials during his trip. The handling of the
high-profile issue of the returned migrants will be
important to bilateral relations, the Ambassador said. In
this light, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in Ho Chi
Minh City plan to undertake a joint trip to the Highlands to
visit the returned migrants.

15. (SBU) The family members of ethnic minorities from the
Central Highlands who went to the United States as refugees
are also of interest to the USG. These family members are
eligible to join their spouses and parents in the United
States, but they have not been able to go because they
cannot obtain the passports they are entitled to. The main
problem involves Dak Lak Province, the Ambassador explained.
This kind of local interference with legal processes creates
bad will and bad publicity.

16. (SBU) Huy thanked the Ambassador for raising the
sensitive issues of human rights and religious freedom,
particularly those involving the Central Highlands. He
stated that the GVN has "no restrictions on religious
freedom or human rights." However, he noted, in Vietnam,
human rights must be considered along with social stability
and security. It is not acceptable in Vietnam for anyone to
act in the name of human rights or religious freedom to
challenge or abuse national security. He drew a parallel
between "necessary constraints for security purposes" and
the USG's requirement that visa applicants submit to
fingerprinting. "Many people initially rejected the
fingerprinting as a violation of their rights, but they
ultimately submitted to it because they understand that it
is necessary for national security and for their own
personal safety." The Vietnamese Government and the
Vietnamese people recognize that there is a difference
between legitimate religious acts and those that are
conducted for the purposes of undermining national security.
Local officials have the responsibility to enforce the law,
but the GVN has "no tolerance" for local officials who
violate laws or policies themselves, Huy said.

17. (SBU) The Ambassador delivered Ref H points on the U.S.
treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Huy thanked the
Ambassador for the points, and observed that the United
States had received criticism for its treatment of the

18. (SBU) Closing the meeting, the Ambassador asked Huy
about any lingering effects from the assault he had suffered
during the Prime Minister's visit in June (Ref I). Huy
rolled up his sleeve to demonstrate a still visibly swollen
elbow, but said that the injury is healing. The Ambassador
assured him that the criminal case against his assailant is

19. (SBU) Comment: One of the biggest challenges in
advocating on issues of importance to the USG in Vietnam is
generating the necessary high-level pressure on line
Ministries and agencies to compel them to cooperate and
implement GVN policy. Thus, although the meeting with Huy
did not generate specific agreements or commitments, it was
useful in bringing our key issues to the attention of the
Prime Minister and ensuring that the main messages are not
diluted en route to the Head of Government. End Comment.


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