Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Call On Prime Minister Dzung

DE RUEHHI #1381/01 2161212
R 041212Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

HANOI 00001381 001.2 OF 003

(U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet

1. (SBU) Summary. In a cordial August 3 farewell call on Vietnam's
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung, the Ambassador and the Prime
Minister reflected positively on the progress in bilateral relations
over the past three years, including growing trade ties and
increased cooperation in areas such as economic reform and combating
HIV/AIDS and avian influenza. The Ambassador and Prime Minister
agreed that direct and frank discussions have enabled the two sides
to constructively deal with some differences in our relationship,
citing improved religious freedom and greater access to ethnic
minorities in the Central Highlands as examples, and expressed a
desire to see those direct interactions continue. The Ambassador
underscored that the United States hope Vietnam will engage in a
similarly constructive manner to deepen cooperation on building rule
of law and improving governance. The Ambassador also called on the
Prime Minister to help invigorate negotiations to establish a Peace
Corps program; address a growing trade imbalance, in part by closing
deals on several large commercial projects; increase law enforcement
cooperation; strengthen HIV/AIDS cooperation by expanding methadone
availability; and, work to improve Vietnam's aviation security
standards to enable direct flights between Vietnam and the United
States. The Prime Minister thanked the Ambassador for his
impressions and his "enormous personal contributions" to promoting
bilateral ties, and noted the GVN's deep interest in continuing to
deepen and broaden the relationship. End Summary.


2. (SBU) During a forty-five minute farewell call with Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung on August 3, Ambassador Marine and the
Prime Minister shared their positive reflections on the progress of
U.S.-Vietnam relations over the past three years. The Ambassador
noted that an increased exchange of the two countries' leaders has
helped to strengthen our ties in a{Z#M{Q,xQ(Cly the Ambassador's work in successfully facilitating the
visits to the United States by then-Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in
2005 and President Nguyen Minh Triet earlier this year, as well as
the visit of President Bush to Vietnam in November 2006.

3. (SBU) A hallmark of our relationship during his tenure has been
the ability of our two governments to deal frankly and directly with
one another to find constructive ways to address difficult issues,
the Ambassador said. Citing religious freedom as an example,
focused efforts over the past two years by the Government of Vietnam
(GVN) to address this issue enabled the United States to remove
Vietnam from the list of Countries of Particular Concern -- the only
country ever to be so removed. The Ambassador also expressed his
belief that the GVN's granting of greater access for U.S. and other
international observers to the Central Highlands, to the point where
the United States is now able to implement assistance projects in
this region, has changed the way the international community views
Vietnam, particularly vis-a-vis its treatment of minorities. The
clear lesson is that through frank discussion, leading to direct and
constructive engagement, the two countries have been able to reach
mutually beneficial results.

4. (SBU) The Prime Minister agreed wholeheartedly and reassured the
Ambassador that, for its part, the GVN will strive to further
broaden and deepen bilateral relations through direct dialogue.
Historical, cultural and political differences between our countries
have led to different views on issues such as human rights, PM Dzung
said, but he also stressed that out of mutual respect for one
another, the two countries must continue to listen to one another
and hold dialogues to find solutions to these problems that "both
sides can accept." He noted that the GVN looks forward to
continuing to work with the Embassy and the U.S. Government to find
suitable solutions to any differences between our countries.

5. (SBU) Since re-establishing diplomatic relations 12 years ago,
the United States has increasingly partnered with Vietnam as it
carried out and accelerated its economic reforms, resulting in last
year's granting of PNTR for Vietnam and its January, 2007 accession
to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Ambassador said. One of
the most personally satisfying achievements over the past three
years, the Ambassador continued, has been seeing USG assistance to
Vietnam increase from USD 50 million in grants to over USD 95
million today. The United States has increased its efforts on
economic reform programs through the STAR Vietnam project, is doing
more to help Vietnam fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Avian Influenza
and has now even contributed to planning for environmental
remediation programs at dioxin "hotspots." Most recently, the
United States was pleased by the GVN's positive response to Senator
Leahy's March letter proposing additional cooperation to improve
Vietnam's rule of law, governance and anti-corruption efforts, the

HANOI 00001381 002.2 OF 003

Ambassador emphasized. He told Dzung that it is now time to
transform this opportunity to reality by designing and implementing
concrete programs. The Ambassador underscored his belief that
additional assistance funds will likely be available in the future,
provided that current programs achieve concrete results.


6. (SBU) Ambassador Marine then noted that there remain areas where
our two countries should continue to work to improve relations. One
important step would be an agreement to establish a Peace Corps
program in Vietnam. Although negotiators have not yet been able to
reach a deal, the remaining gaps are manageable, assuming Vietnam
focuses and addresses them effectively. Indeed, an agreement could
conceivably be reached by the time of the Prime Minister's visit to
New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly later this year,
the Ambassador continued. Recognizing the Prime Minister's and
other GVN leaders' support of the program, he hoped that Vietnam
would once again look at its position in the interest of reaching an
agreement. Prime Minister Dzung responded that he welcomes further
negotiations on a Peace Corps program, and reported that he just
"reminded" the Minister of Education and Training of his interest in
a deal to bring the Peace Corps to Vietnam.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador acknowledged that two-way trade between our
countries continues to grow rapidly, but that U.S. exports of goods
and services have not grown as fast as Vietnamese exports to the
United States. The trade gap, while not yet a high-profile issue,
is growing larger and will begin to raise concerns in Washington and
elsewhere in the United States, particularly as so much attention is
being paid to "asymmetrical" trade relationships like many see in
our relationship with China. Over the long term, the Ambassador
expressed confidence that Vietnam will improve market access for
U.S. firms by fully implementing its Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA)
and WTO commitments. A short term solution, however, would be for
Vietnam to close deals on several commercial projects which the two
sides have been negotiating for a long time. Most notably, an
agreement for Vietnam Airlines to purchase additional Boeing
aircraft, and the granting of investment licenses for AES and Gannon
to build power plants, SSA Marine to carry out port development and
an agreement for Alcoa to help develop Vietnam's bauxite and
aluminum resources would all be significant steps.

8. (SBU) The Prime Minister replied that Vietnam wants to continue
developing bilateral trade relations, and would give "careful
consideration" to the projects the Ambassador mentioned as the GVN
places great importance on those deals. He pointed to past
purchases of Boeing aircraft and the purchase of the Vinasat
satellite from Lockheed Martin as examples of Vietnam's interests in
promoting bilateral trade and investment relations. Dzung added
that he would like the U.S. side to continue improving market access
for Vietnamese products such as apparel, catfish, shrimp and other
fishery products. Trade barriers on these products have "caused
major problems," he said.

9. (SBU) Ambassador Marine also highlighted the U.S. desire for
stronger law enforcement cooperation to combat trans-national
threats such as terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking,
which threaten both our countries. While the two sides have
effectively carried out a number of training programs and held
constructive conferences and dialogues, there has been little
progress in cooperation on actual cases. Vietnam has expressed a
will to work together in areas such as combating internet crimes and
preventing the abuse of the remittance system by drug traffickers,
but the Vietnamese legal system in its current structure does not
permit the two sides to cooperate as fully as the United States
would like. We remain interested in finding ways to work together,
the Ambassador said, expressing his hope that the GVN will look at
and re-evaluate restrictive regulations to facilitate closer

10. (SBU) Turning to HIV/AIDS, the Ambassador said that cooperation
between the two countries, supported by more than USD 65 million
from the United States this year, has done a good job of helping
provide care and treatment for those already infected. We are
losing the fight, however, in preventing the further spread of the
disease. Not just the Ministry of Health, but the many Vietnamese
agencies which work on this issue should look at ways to improve
prevention efforts. Additionally, because the epidemic in Vietnam
is still concentrated primarily among drug users, the best way to
prevent its spread to the general population is to help fight drug
addiction through medical assisted therapy, or the use of methadone.
The United States has pushed for two years to begin a pilot
methadone program, the Ambassador stated, and asked that the Prime
Minister's office help to expand this program to a broader scale in
the very near future. The Prime Minister, expressing his
appreciation for U.S. assistance in fighting HIV/AIDS, said that his
government will work to effectively implement the pilot methadone

HANOI 00001381 003.2 OF 003


11. (SBU) Finally, the Ambassador addressed Vietnam's interest in
establishing direct flights to the United States. This would be an
important step, not only symbolically, but also to accommodate the
growing air traffic between the two countries. In addition to
purchasing the aircraft to facilitate these flights, Vietnam must
upgrade its security processes to meet internationally-accepted
standards. The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
and Boeing have funded a project to help the Civil Aviation
Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) address security standards, but as
the program moves into the second phase, CAAV claims it does not
have the budget to contribute to the project or to hire training
pilots necessary to acquaint all pilots with the proper procedures.
When and if CAAV identifies the funds, it will take 18 months to
carry out the remainder of the project, meaning that it is likely
already too late to meet the target of establishing direct flights
by the end of 2008. The Ambassador encouraged the Prime Minister to
have his staff work with CAAV and provide the direction to allow
this project to move forward to a successful completion.


12. (SBU) In allowing the meeting to proceed beyond the scheduled 30
minutes, the Prime Minister demonstrated his interest in the issues
raised by the Ambassador. While he did not use the meeting to
request our help in arranging his September U.S. schedule, the Prime
Minister is clearly focused on how to make that trip a major event
in U.S.-Vietnam relations. We know via separate channels that he is
pressing his subordinates to focus on issues like Peace Corps and
commercial deals. We are also hopeful that, over the coming months,
the Prime Minister's focus on the relationship will allow us to also
stimulate interest in pushing forward on concrete programs in the
area of rule of law and good governance.


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