THIS IS AN
UNOFFICIAL SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEETING, PREPARED BY THE WTO
SECRETARIAT’S INFORMATION AND MEDIA RELATIONS DIVISION TO HELP PUBLIC
UNDERSTANDING. IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL RECORD.
Find out more:
Among the points that Viet Nam’s vice trade minister, Luong Van Tu,
highlighted in his presentation to the sixth working party session on
12 May 2003 were:
progress in bilateral negotiations, which have helped Viet Nam
by shedding light on what WTO members are seeking, and by enabling
Viet Nam to explain its position
improved market access offers in goods (in November 2002) and
services (in March 2003)
full details of the import duties Vietnam currently charges
(i.e. an “applied tariff schedule”), to be supplied soon, hopefully
before the working party’s next meeting
a document compiling agricultural domestic support and
export subsidies, achieved despite lack of statistics and
replies to questions, updates of Viet Nam’s plans for
legislation, information on non-tariff measures, and
action plans to implement a number of WTO agreements, supplied to
the working party, including:
progress in phasing out dual prices (higher prices charged
foreign consumers and businesses) — the last two remaining are
electricity and domestic air fares, which will be abolished by 2005
progress in phasing out local content policies — import tariffs
on motorcycles and parts that require the use of local content were
abolished at the end of 2002 and Viet Nam hopes to conform completely
with WTO rules by the end of 2006
efforts in complying with the intellectual property (TRIPS)
a pilot project introducing WTO-based customs valuation
progress on implementing the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
(SPS) Agreement, including setting up an enquiry point by the
beginning of 2006
new developments in restructuring state enterprises and
converting them to equity ownership, with the creation of a fund for
new investment regulations aimed at creating a level playing
field for foreign businesses — for example since March 2003, the
government has allowed up to 30% foreign ownership in Vietnamese
greater transparency in the promulgation of laws and legal
draft laws that would eliminate value-added and excise taxes
that discriminate against foreigners.
At the same time, Viet Nam reminded members that is still a poor
developing country with about US$400 per capita GDP. Therefore it is
seeking flexibility in its membership negotiations, and technical
assistance to meet the “challenging and painstaking” task that it faces.
Members generally supported Viet Nam’s desire to join the WTO quickly.
They also accepted the need to be flexible, considering Viet Nam’s
situation, a point some developing countries stressed.
However, several countries also said they felt that Viet Nam had not
done enough, both in making offers of significant market access, and in
providing enough information. A few even complained that Viet Nam seemed
to backtrack in a few issues. Several said they were still in early
stages of the market access negotiations, or only about to start them.
They said they could not negotiate market access properly until the
lists of import duties Vietnam currently charges (the “applied tariff
schedule”) is circulated.
General concern expressed, or calls for more information, were about a
range of issues: trading rights for foreigners and foreign companies,
technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures,
quantitative restrictions on imports, customs valuation, agricultural
subsidies, intellectual property, investment policies and subsidies, the
broader economic regime, and so on.
Bilateral meetings will continue in Geneva until 22 May. Some
delegations said they have bilaterals planned in Hanoi or elsewhere
later this year. The chairperson proposed the following next steps:
members to submit further questions or requests for clarification in
writing, by mid-June; he urged Viet Nam to ensure its answers are
comprehensive and fully transparent
Viet Nam to update its summaries of plans for legislation and other
action before the next working party meeting
once the inputs have been received, the Secretariat to consult with
working party members to determine whether to use the material for an
updated “factual summary” or an “elements of a draft report” (the
latter could take the negotiations into a new phase)
another working party meeting later in the year, depending on the
arrival of inputs from Viet Nam
Viet Nam and working party members should intensify bilateral and
plurilateral contacts in order to move forward on complex technical
issues such as agriculture, non-tariff measures, technical barriers to
trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
Working party members: Argentina,
Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia,
Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, EU and member states, Hong Kong,
China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Rep of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia,
Lithuania, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay,
Philippines, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia,
Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, US, Uruguay.
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 April 2002.
Bilateral market access contacts have started. Topics under discussion
in the working party include: agriculture, the customs system, import
licensing, national treatment, SPS and TBT, state trading, trading
rights and intellectual property (TRIPS).