Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Call On Newly-Elected Oog Chairman

DE RUEHHI #1438/01 2221724
R 101724Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

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

1. (SBU) Summary. At his August 9 farewell call with Ambassador
Marine, newly-elected Office of the Government (OOG) Minister
Chairman Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that PM Dzung has decided that he
will retain responsibility for oversight of foreign affairs within
the OOG. In that role, he looks forward to a continued close
dialogue with the in-coming Ambassador with regard to major
bilateral issues. In particular, he will continue working on a
Peace Corps Agreement, land for a New Embassy Compound (NEC) and
closing deals on outstanding commercial projects. Phuc agreed with
the Ambassador that the two sides should focus on these areas as
potential deliverables for the Prime Minister's planned trip to New
York in September, noting specifically the PM's interest in reaching
a Peace Corps deal "by August 30." Phuc said he will likely
accompany the Prime Minister to New York. On human rights, the
Minister Chairman reaffirmed Vietnam's interest in maintaining open
dialogue and cooperating on rule of law, anti-corruption and good
governance programs. He intends to keep the OOG in a position to
serve as a "clearinghouse" for cross-cutting, inter-ministerial
issues of importance to the bilateral relationship. Phuc will also
serve as Vietnam's Chairman to the U.S.-Vietnam TIFA Council, with
International Relations Department Director General Bui Huy Hung
serving as Secretary General. Phuc's interest and direct engagement
on these issues, and his evident willingness to cultivate a strong
personal relationship with senior USG officials, make it likely that
he will remain a key Embassy contact within the OOG. End summary.

2. (SBU) During an August 9 farewell call, newly-elected Office of
the Government (OOG) Minister Chairman Nguyen Xuan Phuc thanked
Ambassador Marine for his contributions to the bilateral
relationship over the past three years. He specifically noted the
Ambassador's personal involvement in the success of the series of
high-level leadership exchanges beginning with then-Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai's 2005 visit to the United States, the conclusion of
the U.S.-Vietnam agreement on Vietnam's accession to the World Trade
Organization (WTO) and the recent signing of the Trade and
Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). He also opined that the
image of the United States Ambassador visiting "distant locations in
Vietnam" as part of MIA recovery efforts and trips was something
that had contributed positively to the bilateral relationship in the
minds of the Vietnamese people.

Phuc's New Position and the Role of the OOG

3. (SBU) Ambassador Marine congratulated Phuc on his recent
elevation from vice chairman to the position of OOG "Minister
Chairman," describing the move as a good omen for the future of
U.S.-Vietnam relations. The Minister Chairman will be at the heart
of the government process in Vietnam, the Ambassador continued. He
also expressed confidence that Phuc will continue to be a valuable
interlocutor for the U.S. Government on issues in which we will need
to remain focused to continue the trend of improved relations. He
also expressed the hope that the OOG, along with the five Deputy
Prime Ministers, will continue to serve as a "clearinghouse" for
cross-cutting and inter-ministerial issues. Adoptions, intellectual
property rights (IPR) protection and increased cooperation on law
enforcement efforts and HIV/AIDS are a few examples of areas which
the Ambassador asked OOG to remain involved and serve as a catalyst
for positive outcomes.

4. (SBU) The Minister Chairman agreed that the OOG must continue to
play the central role in moving complex issues including the ones
the Ambassador raised to a positive conclusion. Phuc reported that
Prime Minister Dzung had decided that, as chairman, he would retain
responsibilities for foreign affairs within the OOG. In that role,
he looks forward to working constructively with Ambassador Michalak
to develop further the bilateral relationship. (Note: Phuc said
there will be "multiple" OOG Vice Ministers under him, though he did
not provide a specific number or any names. End note.) The PM also
designated Phuc as Chairman of the Vietnamese element of the TIFA
Council and OOG International Relations Department Director General
Bui Huy Hung will serve as the Vietnamese committee's Secretary

PM Dzung's Upcoming Visit to New York

5. (SBU) While no final plans have been determined, Phuc expects he
will accompany the Prime Minister to New York for the opening of the
United Nations General Assembly in September. The Government of
Vietnam (GVN) is "very focused" on this trip, he said, highlighting
that this will mean Vietnam's two top leaders will each visit the
United States within months of one another. The Ambassador
underscored that this trip will be a good opportunity to advance
further our relations, and that both sides should focus energy in
the next month to explore ideas for projects that we can move

HANOI 00001438 002.2 OF 003

forward to present as deliverables.

...Presents an Opportunity to Conclude Commercial Deals
--- --------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) Noting the Prime Minister's expressed interest in meeting
with U.S. business leaders while in New York, Ambassador Marine
urged Vietnam to consider how to make the most of this opportunity,
including the possibility of reaching a breakthrough on commercial
deals that the two sides have been discussing. Signings with Boeing
on aircraft purchases; Gannon and AES on power plant development
projects; SSA Marine on developing Vietnam's ports; and, agreement
for Alcoa to partner with Vietnamese enterprises to develop bauxite
resources here would be good for Vietnam and symbolically important
to our relationship, the Ambassador said. Furthermore, these
signings would help address the growing trade gap between our
countries. Referencing a recent news article reporting that
Vietnam's global trade deficit is growing, the Ambassador noted that
Vietnam is obviously buying from overseas, but not enough of its
purchases are the world-class goods and services that U.S. firms
have to offer. He continued that given Vietnam's interest in
building a better relationship, he is confident that this will
change. Minister Chairman Phuc replied that all senior GVN
officials have the list of potential commercial deliverables
"memorized by heart," and reported that the OOG has been pushing the
relevant Vietnamese parties to soon conclude these deals.

...And a Peace Corps Agreement and Land Deal for the NEC
-- --------------------------------------------- --------

7. (SBU) Conclusion of a Peace Corps agreement for Vietnam would
highlight how the relationship has deepened and become richer in
recent years, Ambassador Marine said, and should be considered as a
potential deliverable for the Prime Minister's visit. Phuc
responded that the Prime Minister wants the two sides to conclude
the negotiations successfully, and has informed GVN officials that
he is interested in completing negotiations by August 30. (Note: In
a follow-up conversation, an MFA official told us that the MFA would
share a GVN draft of a country agreement on August 14. While he
hoped that we would make progress, he added a spin to Mr. Phuc's
remarks, saying that he saw August 30 as a date to report back to
the Prime Minister on the results. End note.)

8. (SBU) The Ambassador also suggested that a breakthrough on
negotiations over land in Hanoi for a new U.S. Embassy could be an
important announcement during PM Dzung's visit. The United States
has offered a price for the land, and the Ambassador called on
Vietnam to make a counter-offer in order to begin serious
negotiations. The Minister Chairman agreed that the current Embassy
is not befitting of our relationship, and tasked the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (MFA) Americas Department Deputy Director Nguyen
Hoanh Nam, in attendance at the meeting, to look into the matter.
He reported that the Prime Minister assigned the MFA to take the
lead on negotiations, which Phuc opined are "not a big problem and
should be concluded soon."

Human Rights

9. (SBU) An additional issue to work on over the longer-term, and
one that will certainly be on President Bush's mind should he meet
with the Prime Minister in September, is improving our ability to
work together on the issue of human rights, the Ambassador said.
Ongoing work through the Human Rights Dialogue is an important,
albeit slower and less visible, answer to this challenge, he
continued. One constructive and more visible solution would be for
the GVN to accept the USG's offer of assistance, expressed through
Senator Leahy's March letter, to work together on rule of law,
anti-corruption and good governance programs. Vietnam's recent
positive response is a welcome step, but now the two sides should
transform that commitment into concrete programs that both countries
support. The Ambassador said while the programs could take many
forms, such as training for judges or journalists, one specific idea
would be for the GVN to provide the support necessary for the
American Bar Association to move forward with its grant to
strengthen the capacity of the Vietnam Lawyers Association. Such a
move would be a strong signal to the U.S. Congress that Vietnam is
open to these types of activities. The U.S. and international
business communities would also welcome these programs, the
Ambassador noted, as they would work to make Vietnam a more
attractive destination for investment.

10. (SBU) Phuc responded by saying that as Vietnamese President
Nguyen Minh Triet told President Bush, the two sides have a
different understanding of the human rights issue. Vietnam is,
however, committed to continuing the dialogue and remains interested
in working to strengthen the rule of law here. He pointed to a
recent OOG delegation to the United States to study U.S. laws and

HANOI 00001438 003.2 OF 003

administrative procedures as evidence of that commitment.

Conclusion and Comment

11. (SBU) As the meeting concluded, Minister Chairman Phuc again
reflected warmly on the Ambassador's contributions, and expressed
his confidence that both the U.S.-Vietnam relationship and their
personal relationship would continue to develop. Phuc's openness
and frequent availability to meet on issues of bilateral interest
were important in successfully preparing for the recent visits to
the United States by Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Pham Gia
Khiem and President Nguyen Minh Triet. Because of this direct
engagement and his obvious willingness to cultivate a strong
personal relationship with senior USG officials (Senator James Webb
is a personal friend), Phuc is certain to continue as an important
and valued contact in the OOG, including in his new role in the


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