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They said they were much closer to agreement with Viet Nam than at
the previous Working Party meeting last December, and they supported the
Vietnamese objective of joining the WTO “as soon as possible”.
Viet Nam’s latest offers, circulated in April, include commitments to cut
tariffs to an average of about 18% (a 4-percentage point improvement over
the previous offer), and to provide some access to services in 10 sectors or
92 sub-sectors. Viet Nam has also supplied a considerable amount of
additional information in response to members’ requests.
However, working party members also said a lot of work still remains, in
continuing to negotiate market access and other terms of Vietnam’s
membership, in obtaining further clarification of Viet Nam’s regulations and
policies, and in putting into place the necessary laws and regulations.
“I believe it is my duty to emphasize to the Vietnamese delegation the
absolute need to accelerate the laws and enforcement regulations,”
chairperson Seung Ho (Rep of Korea) told the working party. “The pace of
this accession will depend on the pace at which the Vietnamese government
manages to implement these.”
In addition to seeking further improvements in the market access offers,
members also raised concerns about Viet Nam’s use of “specific” import
duties (fixed amounts per tonne, etc, instead of percentages of the value or
“ad valorem”) or combinations of specific and ad valorem rates, the use of
tariff quotas on agricultural products, proposed transition periods for
implementing parts of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement, and
apparent lack of progress on Viet Nam’s own schedule for applying the
intellectual property (TRIPS) agreement.
proper first draft working party report could now be prepared in October or
November, to be discussed at a meeting that could be held in December. This
means that Viet Nam is not going to achieve its earlier ambition to join by
1 January 2005 (see news report of previous meeting).
Instead, Trade Vice Minister Luong Van Tu spoke only of joining “as soon as
The Vietnamese delegation had already held bilateral negotiations in Geneva
with 10 members before the working party meeting, with five more scheduled
afterwards — in addition to negotiations in Hanoi and some members’ capitals
over the past few months. Cuba has become the first country to announce in
the working party that it has completed its bilateral negotiations.
Members worked through “elements” of a draft report, a revision of the
document first discussed at the
last meeting in December,
compiling information supplied by Viet Nam together with its replies to
questions posed by its negotiating partners.
Speaking through interpreters, Vice Minister Luong said: “We are encouraged
to see that members of the working party have adjusted their requests more
reasonably.” While members asked for Viet Nam to offer more, he called on
them to be even more flexible and to take into account Viet Nam’s economic
For his part, Chairperson Ho said
Viet Nam and the working party members
should “intensify their [bilateral] negotiations with a view to moving
closer to conclusion”.
Again the question of Viet Nam’s economic situation was raised, with ASEAN
(the Philippines speaking) and some other developing countries supporting
Hanoi’s argument that as a heavily indebted low-income developing country,
with a per capita income of less than $400 per year, it should be treated
leniently, and in particular should be eligible for exceptions under the
Subsidies Agreement (Annex 7).
Again, some developed countries said that while this was true, Viet Nam
should also take into account that it is a vibrant economy with strong
Among the many issues raised in the discussion:
AGRICULTURE: Viet Nam has now agreed
to eliminate export subsidies, for coffee immediately on joining the WTO,
for other products after a short transition. Several members of the
(which lobbies for agricultural liberalization) want it to eliminate export
A smaller group “plurilateral” meeting on agriculture was held the previous
day (14 June 2004). Some members reported good progress, but with a
particularly detailed discussion on domestic support.
SANITARY/PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES: Vietnam has agreed to implement the
agreement when it joins the WTO, except in three areas where it wants a
transition period until 1 July 2008 — “harmonization” (to make national SPS
measures consistent with international standards, guidelines and
recommendations), “equivalence” (recognizing exporting countries’ methods as
providing equivalent levels of protection as one’s own), and control,
inspection and approval procedures. Viet Nam says it needs this because it
lacks resources and the issues are complicated. Several members (e.g. the EU,
Australia, and Canada) said this covers a major part of the SPS Agreement
and is not necessary. They called for a smaller group “plurilateral” on SPS.
IMPORT RESTRICTIONS, QUOTAS AND BANS: Although
Viet Nam has agreed to get
rid of most quantitative restrictions, members still had a number of
questions about why some products remain on the list, such as scrap metal.
TRADE-RELATED INVESTMENT MEASURES:
Viet Nam confirmed it will comply with
the agreement when it joins, including the agreement’s ban on export
requirements in investment regulations, but it said it needs to retain
investment incentives as a means of developing, and because investors from
the major working party members demand the incentives.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: The US said this is the one area where it has seen
little progress since the last meeting. Viet Nam assured the working party
that it will comply with the TRIPS Agreement on the date it joins the WTO.
Plurilateral and bilateral meetings will continue in Geneva, the Vietnamese
delegation saying it is available until 22 June.
The chairperson aims to call this year’s second meeting in December, when
members could discuss a proper first draft working party report, if replies
to questions and updated information arrives on schedule.
WORKING PARTY MEMBERS: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria,
Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt,
European Union and member states, Honduras, Hong Kong China, Iceland, India,
Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Morocco,
Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania,
Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Turkey, United States,
CHAIRPERSON: Seung Ho (Rep of Korea)
Viet Nam’s Working Party was established on 31 January 1995. The previous
meeting of the Working Party was held on 10 December 2003. Bilateral market
access are well underway and will continue.