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WTO: 2005 NEWS ITEMS

20 September 2005
VIET NAM MEMBERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS 15 SEPTEMBER 2005

Working party examines first revision of membership report

Viet Nam’s membership negotiations have taken a substantial step forward with the working party looking in detail on 15 September 2005 at the first revision of the document that is a core part of the deal.

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The point-by-point examination of the first revision of the Working Party Report represents a substantial step forward in the 10-year-old negotiation. The revision, circulated on 5 September 2005 was made possible as a result of comments in an informal meeting in May, and the tremendous efforts and progress Viet Nam has made since then.

Nevertheless, a lot remains to be done. Members said a number of issues still require further clarification, in particular, trading rights and the functioning and status of state trading enterprises. Viet Nam did not mention its original hope of reaching agreement by the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December, simply stating that it is eager to end the negotiation soon.

Norwegian Ambassador Eirik Glenne, who chairs the working party, said that “we still have work to do” and left open the dates of the next working party meeting pending consultations with delegations and the Secretariat.

The latest discussions took place in the 10th meeting of Viet Nam’s Accession Working Party in Geneva. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Trade Vice-Minister and chief negotiator Luong Van Tu (see statement below).

Since the last (informal) meeting in May, Vietnam has held a number of technical and bilateral meetings with members. Ambassador Glenne said these “have helped move the process visibly forward”.

Vietnam submitted several documents for the working party to consider, including replies to additional questions in various areas of concern, updated information on the implementation of the Customs Valuation Agreement, and details on new or amended legislation. A new revised questionnaire on import licensing and domestic support tables on agriculture were also circulated.

  

Bilateral negotiations back to top

Work on bilateral agreements with the members of the Working Party has intensified in the last few months and copies of ten bilateral agreements have been submitted to the Secretariat.

“We have now concluded bilateral market access negotiations with Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, European Union, El Salvador, Iceland, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay,” Vice Minister Luong said. “We have achieved positive developments with such counterparts as Australia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Mexico, New Zealand and the US.”

In his speech, the head of the Vietnamese delegation urged “some” WTO members to be more flexible for the conclusion of the bilateral negotiations.

“In that spirit,” said the vice minister, “we strongly wished members not to press Vietnam to undertake ‘WTO-plus’ obligations or be subject to double standards which are too high for our economy to be able to resist.”

“On this occasion I kindly request remaining members (the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Honduras and Dominican republic) to take due regard of Vietnam’s difficulties and show reasonable and flexible requirements in order of conclusion of our bilateral negotiations.”

Asean, Cuba and India also asked for members not to make excessive or undue demands on Vietnam.

However, some bilateral partners said there is still “distance to bridge” and that they consider their core interests have not yet been met.

  

Multilateral issues back to top

Vice Minister Luong also updated members on Viet Nam’s legislation. The seventh session of the National Assembly, held in May and June this year, passed 15 laws, four more than scheduled, he said.

These included the amended Civil Code, the amended Commercial Law, the Law on State Auditing, the Law on signing of, Accession to and Implementation of International Treaties, the amended Customs Laws, the amended Law on Export and Import Duties, the amended Mineral Law and the amended Law on Complaint and Denunciation.

The National Assembly also voted to speed up its legislation programme in an attempt to achieve the goal of promulgating within 2005 important laws concerning WTO membership.

The agenda of the next session of the National Assembly, which is scheduled for 18 October, includes discussing and possibly adopting 14 Laws and one resolution, including the Law on Intellectual Property, the Law on Electronic Transactions, the (uniform) Enterprise Law, the (common) Investment Law, the amended Law on Value Added Tax, the amended Law on Special Consumption Tax, and others.

The discussion of the first revised working party draft revealed a number of issues still requiring further clarification, in particular, trading rights and the functioning and status of the state trading enterprises, considered by the US as “a central issue” in this negotiation, and which attracted a lot of questions from US, Switzerland, Australia and the EU. Areas of concern also included subsidies, the investment regime and the taxation policies.

  

Chair’s conclusions back to top

The chairperson concluded that “It is clear that some more work is needed on the various sections of the Report”.

Nevertheless, the chairperson also said that on the bilateral front, the market access negotiations are advancing very well and he expected that for the next meeting Vietnam would have concluded all its remaining market access negotiations in goods and services.

The chairperson asked members seeking factual and other changes in the text of the report to send their comments and drafting suggestions in writing to the Secretariat by 6 October and he also asked Vietnam to submit updated information with respect to legislative developments and a revised legislative action plan before next meeting.

  

Next back to top

A plurilateral technical meeting (i.e. a sub-group of the working party) on domestic support and export subsidies in agriculture was scheduled for Friday afternoon 16 September. Bilateral meetings will continue around the world and in Geneva. No date has been set for the next working party meeting.

  

Background back to top

Working party members: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, European Union and member states, Honduras, Hong Kong China, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Uruguay


Chairperson: Ambassador Eirik Glenne (Norway)

Viet Nam’s Working Party was established on 31 January 1995. The previous formal meeting was on 15 December 2004, with an informal meeting on 20 May 2005. Bilateral market access talks are well underway and will continue.

 

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Vice Minister’s statement

STATEMENT
BY H.E. MR. LUONG VAN TU, VICE MINISTER OF TRADE AND CHIEF NEGOTIATOR
at the 10th Session of the Working Party on the Accession of Vietnam to the WTO
Geneva, 15 September 2005

  

Opening statement

We are so pleased to come back to Geneva and attend this special meeting, which is graciously convened just after the summer break — a period that was not at all a holiday for many of us. But the good thing is that these efforts have not been in vain.

So please allow me, on behalf of the Vietnamese delegation, to express our sincere gratitude to our counterparts, to those who are here and to those who have worked tirelessly throughout the months, for their immense efforts. My special thanks also go to the staff of the WTO Secretariat whose great work has meant that we have all the necessary documents ready in our hands. Needless to say, their competence and whole-heartedly hard work are invaluable to us, especially at such critical time as present.

Firstly, I am pleased to inform the Working Party that, since early this year, we have made vital progresses in bilateral negotiations with all partners. We have now concluded bilateral market access negotiations with Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, EU, El Salvador, Iceland, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay. We have achieved positive developments with such counterparts as Australia, Honduras and Dominican Republic, Mexico, New Zealand and the US and reached to the final stage with some of them. The headway made in the bilateral market access negotiations has undoubtedly provided an impetus to conclude the whole process of Vietnam’s accession to the WTO.

I would like to recall that in his concluding remarks made at the last Meeting on 20 May, Mr Chairman stressed it was our interests to have a truly comprehensive and up-to-date revised draft report for examination at this Meeting. We are glad that, with the hard work from all sides, especially assistance by the Secretariat, a new — and greatly improved — version of the Draft Report has been completed and circulated to all members of the Working Party. We strongly believe you all here realise significant strides and goodwill that Vietnam has demonstrated in most issues of concern of the Members of the Working Party. In addition to a significant amount of new information supplemented, Vietnam has also accommodated in substance many requests in a wide range of issues. We have been and will continue to work constructively and resolutely with all Members of the Working Party in order to reach a fair, realistic and mutually acceptable solution to the remaining issues.

With respect to our domestic legislative updates, the Seventh session of the National Assembly of Vietnam which has been held during this May and Jun, has impressively passed 15 laws — four laws more than scheduled, notably the amended Civil Code, the amended Commercial Law, the Law on State Auditing, the Law on signing of, Accession to and Implementation of International Treaties, the amended Customs Laws, the amended Law on Export and Import Duties, the amended Mineral Law and the amended Law on Complaint and Denunciation. The National Assembly also voted for the expedition of its legislation program in an attempt to achieve the set goal of promulgation in 2005 of important laws serving its early WTO accession. According to the agenda of its next session, which is scheduled for 18th October, the National Assembly will discuss and possibly adopt 14 Laws and one Resolution, among them are the Law on Intellectual Property, the Law on Electronic Transactions, the (uniform) Enterprise Law, the (common) Investment Law, the amended Law on Value Added Tax, the amended Law on Special Consumption Tax. As such in 2005, the National Assembly of Vietnam has and will adopt all laws that are necessary to the implementation of WTO Agreements and Vietnam’s accession commitments. This is a highlight, active and different from all previously acceding members. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all Working Party’s members for their much needed technical assistance and timely comments during our legal drafting process. These comments have been reflected upon and, to the most extent possible, incorporated into the legislative documents. This reflects our determination to adjust legal framework to comply with WTO regulations.

However, while we are working intensively for WTO membership, we urge further flexibilities from some WTO members to conclude our respective bilateral negotiations. In that spirit, we strongly wish members not to press Vietnam to undertake “WTO-plus” obligations or be subject to double standards which are too high for our economy to be able to resist.

The Government of Vietnam presents its determination of early accession to the WTO on the basis of the balance between legitimate rights and clearly defined obligations. The early accession of Vietnam to the WTO will not only further strengthen WTO’s power and credibility but benefits Vietnam’s trade development and other WTO members who have trading relations with Vietnam as well. Vietnam up till now has committed to implement upon accession the following agreements: TRIPS [intellectual property], TRIMs [investment measures], CVA [Customs Valuation Agreement], TBT [technical barriers to trade], SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary measures], ILP [import licensing provisions], A/D & C/V [anti-dumping and (subsidies and) countervailing measures], ROO [rules of origin].

With regard to the SCM [subsidies and countervailing measures] exclusively, as being put forward in last working party, due to the fact that Vietnam is still a poor country with GDP per capita of around US$400, it is requested that Vietnam be eligible special and differential treatment for developing countries at a comparable level of development. Vietnam wishes to receive positive responds from WTO members, especially in this final stage of the negotiation process. We thank members for their high political supports during our accession, and we wish negotiators to promptly turn these into realistic actions to conclude our negotiations.

On this occasion, I kindly request remaining members (the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Honduras and Dominican Republic) to take due regards of Vietnam’s difficulties and show reasonable and flexible requirements in order of conclusion of our bilateral negotiations.

I would like to thank the US, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Korea, China and Australia for their technical assistance extended to Vietnam so far.

I once again wish to express our heart-felt thanks to all Parties involved in our accession process. I do hope today’s session will most be constructive and productive for all of us.

  

On the bilateral negotiating process

The bilateral negotiating process witnessed an acceleration and intensification of negotiations with highlighted developments achieved over the past 8 months.

As you may all be aware, we have concluded our respective bilateral market access negotiations with almost all partners of concerns. They include Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, EU, El Salvador, Iceland, India, Japan, Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay.

Vietnam has so far wrapped up bilateral negotiations with all its European and Asian trading partners.

We have also been working hard to narrow gaps to conclude our bilateral negotiations with the remaining Members that are Australia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand and the US.

Just a few weeks ago, our negotiation team visited and worked at Wellington and Canberra. We will continue our work both in capital and Geneva to bring these negotiations to successful ends.

During the past few months, we also have several meetings with Mexico, Dominican Republic and Honduras which produced remarkable mutual understandings. Results from these meetings will serve as good basis for us to finish up remaining differences.

With the US, we have had a very important meeting back in June when the Prime Minister of Vietnam made a historical visit to the US. Leaders of the two countries have hailed the meeting as a success, which produces significant progress on all fronts. Our two delegations will continue to hold meetings of all aspects as soon as the Working Party finishes with a view to further accelerate accorded achievements and to conclude the negotiation.

Vietnam has committed its market access liberalisation at a level higher than that of most newly acceeded countries and far beyond than commitments made by WTO Members of similar development level. We therefore call upon our remaining partners to show their viewpoint and approach which are reasonable and suitable to such low level of development as of Vietnam in its transition, based on the general WTO standards so that we can finish the process of accession negotiation of Vietnam.

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