Cablegate: Vietnam Postpones Megaports Mou Signing Over "Technical


DE RUEHHI #1318/01 3421118
O R 081118Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnam Postpones Megaports MOU Signing over "Technical


1.(SBU) Summary: The GVN has postponed signing the Megaports MOU
due to "technical concerns" over what it considers a lack of
specificity in the MOU text regarding the name and location of the
Vietnamese port. Despite repeated interventions with Customs, the
Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister - and new
language from DOE that addresses the GVN's technical concerns - the
GVN is holding firm and will not sign the MOU on December 10, as
previously agreed. We can't rule out that non-technical, political
factors - including a desire to sign the agreement in Washington
during the Prime Minister's April visit - might be behind the GVN's
change of heart. The decision to sign - and when - reportedly
rests with the Prime Minister himself. Post and DOE will use DOE's
meetings with Customs and Foreign Ministry officials on December
9-10 to try to flush out the current GVN position, reiterate our
concerns, and encourage the GVN to sign the MOU. End summary.

2. (SBU) Vietnamese Department of Customs - DOE's main counterpart
on the Megaports Initiative - informed Embassy officers on December
2 that the Government of Vietnam had decided against signing the
MOU on December 10, as previously agreed. When pressed, the
Customs officials claimed that the Ministry of Finance preferred to
wait to sign the MOU during a high-level visit to Washington,
possibly in conjunction with the Prime Minister's visit in April to
attend the President's Nuclear Summit. Embassy officers pushed
back that Washington and Hanoi had reached an agreement to sign the
MOU in Hanoi on December 10, noting that DOE officials were en
route to attend the ceremony and discuss next steps. Customs then
changed course, saying that the Prime Minister's office had minor
"technical concerns" regarding the MOU. According to these
officials, the Prime Minister's office, in reviewing the MOU,
expressed concerns that the text did not clearly spell out the name
and location of the port due to receive the equipment under the
Megaports Initiative (Note: Not including this level of detail in
the text of the MOU is standard DOE practice, and was previously
agreed upon by the GVN during the MOU negotiations. End note.)
The PM's office sent the MOU back to Customs with instructions to
have this information included.

3. (SBU) On December 3, A/DCM called on Custom's Deputy Director
for International Cooperation Le Xuan Hue to reiterate our concerns
and press for a December 10 signing. Hue reiterated that the PM's
office had held up the MOU signing for technical reasons, assured
A/DCM that Customs was committed to the Megaports Initiative, and
expressed an interest in moving forward with the program after the
MOU was signed. Political Counselor took advantage of a December 4
meeting with MFA/Americas Deputy Director Le Huy Hoang to reiterate
our concerns about the delay and encourage the Foreign Ministry to
intervene with Customs and the PM's office to adhere to the
December 10 signing. Hoang agreed it was in both countries'
interest to sign the MOU soon, confirmed the decision rested with
the PM's office, and encouraged Political Counselor to contact the
PM's Office.

4. (SBU) Drawing upon guidance obtained from the traveling DOE
delegation, Political Counselor telephoned Bui Huy Hung,
International Relations Department Director of the Office of the
Prime Minister, December 4 to express our concerns that further
delays could jeopardize the program. Bui Huy Hung replied that the
GVN welcomed the Megaports Initiative, and was committed to signing
and implementing the MOU. However, it was important that the MOU
be implemented "effectively," and to do so it must clearly spell
out the port(s). Political Counselor asked if the two sides could
sign the MOU on December 10 if the GVN's technical concerns were
addressed. Bui Huy Hung replied that in his "personal opinion, we
need to wait for more guidance from our leader (the Prime
Minister)." Political Counselor then asked if the GVN was holding
out until the PM's visit to Washington. Bui Huy Hung said he was
not aware of such a plan. He acknowledged the risk in delaying the
signing the MOU, but expressed his hope that "good political will"
between the two countries would allow the U.S. and Vietnam to sign
the MOU soon.

5. (SBU) On December 7, the Embassy provided Customs DOE-cleared
language to address Vietnam's technical concerns. Post and DOE

will follow up during their meetings with Customs and MFA officials
December 9-10.

© Scoop Media

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