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Cablegate: Personnel Changes Afoot at Ministry of Trade

VZCZCXRO6298
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1224/01 1900731
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090731Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5794
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3339
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE USD FAS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001224

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, INR/B AND EB/TPP/BTA/ANA
STATE PASS USTR FOR DBISBEE
USDA FOR FAS
USDOC FOR 4430/MAC/ASIA/OPB/VLC/HPPHO

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON VM
SUBJECT: PERSONNEL CHANGES AFOOT AT MINISTRY OF TRADE

(U) THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. DO NOT POST ON THE
INTERNET.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Prime Minister promoted two Ministry of Trade
(MOT) officials to replace two of the four recently retired Vice
Ministers on June 6. Vice Minister Nguyen Cam Tu, the former
Director General of MOT's Americas Department, will be responsible
for trade policy with the Americas. Vice Minister Nguyen Thanh
Bien, MOT's former Chief of Staff, will be responsible for import
and export policies as well as trade with the Asian and Pacific
markets. With a strong academic background and significant business
experience, Tu is a solid choice for the position and, in the
short-term at least, is unlikely to make major policy shifts in
bilateral trade policy. Trade Minister Tuyen has been absent from
the public spotlight recently due to health problems, although a
recent newspaper interview suggest that he is feeling better. In
any event, Tuyen is expected to retire later this summer. The July
Communist Party Plenum's decision on whether to merge the Ministries
of Trade and Industry will influence the Prime Minister's decisions
on who will replace Tuyen and the two remaining vacant Vice Minister
positions. End summary.

NEW TRADE VICE MINISTERS
------------------------

2. (U) On June 6, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung signed a decision
to promote Director General of the Ministry of Trade's (MOT)
Americas Department Mr. Nguyen Cam Tu to Vice Trade Minister. The
decision came just days before Tu traveled to the United States with
President Triet in place of Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen, who is
reportedly having health problems. While in the United States, the
new Vice Minister signed the Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA) on June 21 on behalf of the Government of Vietnam
(GVN). Reliable contacts within the Ministry informed the Embassy
that VM Tu has been charged with responsibility for activities and
policies relating to trade with the American markets as well as
domestic trade issues.

3. (U) The Prime Minister also promoted MOT's former Chief of Staff,
Nguyen Thanh Bien, to Vice Minister in the same decision. Vice
Minister Bien will be responsible for import and export policies as
well as trade with the Asian and Pacific markets. Vice Ministers
Bien and Tu are stepping in to fill two of the four Vice Minister
slots vacated within the past month due to the retirements of VM
Phan The Rue, VM Tran Duc Minh, VM Do Nhu Dinh and VM Luong Van Tu,
who served as the senior interlocutor on World Trade Organization
(WTO) negotiations with the United States and often chaired the
Vietnamese delegation in recent U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade
Agreement (BTA) talks.

4. (SBU) While the June 6 Prime Minister's decision made these
personnel moves official, sources within MOT told us that the
internal ministry decision was made earlier this year in a vote
among the then-sitting five Vice Ministers. One surprising outcome
from this internal vote is that Director General of MOT's
Multilateral Trade Policy Department Tran Quoc Khanh was not chosen
for one of the VM spots. A number of officials within the ministry
and in other GVN agencies told us they were taken aback by this
result, as many considered him a very strong candidate given his
critical role in Vietnam's WTO negotiations. An official familiar
with the situation in MOT speculated that Khanh's "personality
conflict" with his former boss and one of the five voters, VM Luong
Van Tu, may explain his failure to secure one of the open spots.

VICE MINISTER TU
----------------

5. (SBU) Born in 1956 in the north-central province of Nghe An, Mr.
Tu is the son of former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
Nguyen Manh Cam. An MOT source confided to the ECON Section that
there is a rumor within the ministry that Tu's promotion is a
pay-back of gratitude by Trade Minister Tuyen to former DPM Cam. In
February of 2000 (after agreeing in principle to the terms of the
BTA), then-Minister of Trade Tuyen was sent to Nghe An Province as
Party Secretary. In 2002, it was then-DPM Cam, a Politburo member
and senior GVN official responsible for foreign affairs, who pushed
to bring Tuyen back as Trade Minister. The following year, Nguyen
Cam Tu came to MOT as Director General of the Americas Department
from his position as Director of the MOT-owned Intimex Company, one
of Vietnam's leading agricultural export companies. According to
the same MOT source, even in 2003, many believed that the DG
position was only a stepping stone to a more senior role within the
ministry.

HANOI 00001224 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) In addition to his family connections, Tu brings to the
position a strong academic background in economics and management
and significant business experience. He holds two Masters Degrees -
a Master of Arts in Economics and Foreign Trade from the Foreign
Trade Academy in Moscow (during the Soviet times) and a Master of
Arts in Management from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at
Northwestern University. The new Vice Minister has spent his entire
working career at the Ministry of Trade or MOT-owned companies. The
one knock against him, according to GVN sources, is that despite
serving for nearly four years in the DG position, he has not been
overly engaged on detailed trade issues and lacks extensive policy
making experience.

7. (SBU) Comment: Post assesses that Vice Minister Tu is a solid
choice as Vice Minister, and MOT officials close to Tu inform us
that for the time being, he can be expected to "stay the course" on
our bilateral relations. Despite serving as Director General of
MOT's Trade Department since 2003, the Embassy has had limited
interaction with him. He has almost exclusively delegated meeting
requests from the Embassy and visiting USG officials to one of his
two deputies - Nguyen Hong Dzuong (the USG's primary interlocutor on
TIFA negotiations) and Dr. Nguyen Van Binh. He has also failed to
attend any of the numerous Embassy functions to which he has been
invited. In recent months, this can in part be explained by his
attendance at a mandatory political course at the Ho Chi Minh
Academy. He has also reportedly had some recent health problems
including eye surgery and high blood pressure. In our limited
contacts, however, he has demonstrated an easy-going demeanor, and
his colleagues describe him as relatively mild-mannered and cautious
to not "break too many eggs." End comment.

Minister Tuyen's Health
-----------------------

8. (SBU) In recent months, reported health problems have kept Trade
Minister Tuyen from the public spotlight. He sent new Vice Minister
Tu to accompany President Triet during his June visit to the United
States and to the July 3-4 APEC Minister Responsible for Trade (MRT)
Meeting in Cairns, Australia. A contact in MOT's Multilateral Trade
Department informed EconOff that his health problems are due to a
recent stroke that the Minister suffered. On July 4, a senior MOT
official informed EconCounselor that the Minister is now doing fine,
but he is busy tending to his ailing mother. Thanh Nien Newspaper
published an interview with Minister Tuyen on July 6 (in which he
comments on prospects for a Japan-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement),
perhaps corroborating the story that the Minister is once again
feeling better. In any case, Minister Tuyen is expected to retire
later this summer.

Future of the Ministry
----------------------

9. (SBU) Decisions on who will replace Minister Tuyen and fill the
two open Vice Minister slots are pending the outcome of the upcoming
July Communist Party Plenum, at which it will be decided whether MOT
will merge with the Ministry of Industry (a rumor widely reported in
local press). Our contacts in MOT largely expect that the decision
will favor a merger. We understand that one of the outstanding
issues is whether the MOI's Department of Energy will become an
independent organization, which if this happens, would clear the way
for a merger between the two ministries. Several MOT officials
speculated that if the merger moves forward, current Minister of
Industry Hoang Trung Hai would stay on as minister of the
newly-merged ministry.

MARINE

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