27 March 2006

Viet Nam’s talks now ‘well into final stages’

With Viet Nam announcing it has almost completed the two remaining bilateral deals, and following a rush of new laws and multilateral work, the membership negotiation has now pushed “well forward into its final stages”, the chair of the working party said on 27 March 2006.

The working party of over 40 WTO members (counting the EU as one) will now accelerate its discussions with Viet Nam with the aim of producing a revised report in the next few weeks or months. No date has been set for the next meeting, but chairperson Eirik Glenne (Norway’s ambassador) has asked for suggestions in writing in two weeks, which he described as half the usual time.

“This is a reflection of the fact that this accession is now entering an intensive phase,” he said.


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Bilateral market access negotiations 

Earlier this year, Viet Nam concluded bilateral market access negotiations with New Zealand and Australia, and in the past few days with Honduras and the Dominican Republic, the Vietnamese delegation told the working party.

The only remaining agreements are with the United States and Mexico, said Viet Nam’s Trade Vice-Minister and chief negotiator Luong Van Tu (see statement below). Following talks with the US over the weekend, “we’re very close to the final deal,” he reported.

The US agreed that there had been “substantial progress”. Mexico also confirmed that it only had a few minor differences left in its bilateral talks with Viet Nam.

At the last meeting in September, Viet Nam had already reported agreement with Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cuba, the EU, El Salvador, Iceland, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey and Uruguay.


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Multilateral issues: the rules 

The bilateral market access talks are only part of the picture. The working party also has to agree on a report covering the new member’s actions, obligations and commitments under all WTO agreements. A second revision of the draft report was circulated on 21 February, and the working party spent most of this meeting going through the latest draft section by section.

Several commented that the draft will need further revisions because over 20 laws were passed in June, November and December 2005, with a number awaiting approval later this year. They also had questions on the implementation of several of these laws for example the impact on subsidies, foreign ownership of banks, export requirements for investors, and the timetable for regulations to implement the new intellectual property law.

Viet Nam has reported that laws and ordnances already passed or amended include those on international treaties, enterprises, complaints and denunciations, value-added tax, excise tax, foreign exchange, investment, commerce, tendering, maritime services, tourism, railways, electronic transactions, education services, pharmacy services, import and export duties and other customs valuation issues, the civil code and intellectual property.

Expected in May or June this year are laws and ordnances on securities, lawyers, settlement of administrative cases, standardization, and court judgement enforcement, the Vietnamese say.

Viet Nam asked for two sections of the draft report to be removed: textiles and core labour standards. The textiles agreement has expired and labour is not a WTO issue, Viet Nam said. One member said it wants the two sections to remain. Both sections are purely descriptions of the situation but contain important information for concluding the membership negotiation, it said.


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Chair’s conclusions 

The chairperson did not announce the date of the next meeting in order to leave time for revised draft schedules (i.e. market access commitments in goods and services, which will be revised to take account of the bilateral deals), and a revised working party report to be prepared.

But he indicated that the negotiations will intensify and described the meeting as useful in bringing work forward.


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Working party members: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, 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 20 September 2005, with an informal meeting on 20 May 2005. Bilateral market access talks are reported to be close to completion.


Statement by H.E. Mr. Luong Van Tu, Vice Minister of Trade and chief negotiator

At the 11th Session of the Working Party on the Accession of Vietnam to the WTO


Geneva, 27 March 2006

Excellency Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very glad to see our friends, colleagues and counterparts again in this meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Viet Nam to the WTO. It is our strong belief and expectation that this session shall constitute the last paving stone on the long road of our bid for looming WTO full membership.

As you may all aware, Viet Nam has made significant strides since the last meeting of the Working Party in September 2005. We have formally wrapped up bilateral trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia early this year, and we have finished negotiations with Honduras and Dominican Republic just before this session of the Working Party. The Viet Nam — U.S. bilateral negotiation regarding Viet Nam’s entry into the WTO was especially fruitful with the demonstration of constructive spirit and practical actions from both sides and we have moved closely towards the destination. Furthermore, the narrow gap between us and Mexico have been nearly removed. Apparently, we are now on the track towards the end game to join the WTO after a huge amount of work has been done. We hope that other Members who have yet concluded their talks with us would be more realistic in pushing their too stringent demands on Viet Nam, which are even higher than what required by the WTO rules and what the Viet Nam’s economy can suffer, taking into account our low level of development and pertinent nature of an economy in transitional period.

In 2005, our National Assembly has recorded a quite extraordinary achievement by amending and issuing 29 legislations including those of great significance to Viet Nam’s full integration into the multilateral trading system including the Commercial Law, Investment Law, the Intellectual Property Law, the amended Law on Complaints and Denunciations, the Law on Enterprises. The Law on Import Export Duty, the Law on Excise Tax, the Ordinance on Foreign Exchange which has met the obligations under Article VIII, Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the IMF's Articles of Agreement and many other legislations.

Viet Nam is one of a few countries which have a complete legal system, which is consistent with the WTO Agreements before becoming a member of this organization. According to the World Bank, Viet Nam is 1 of 12 countries in the world which has implemented a comprehensive legal reform. This is a huge effort of the National Assembly and the Government of Viet Nam, however, is also a big challenge for Vietnamese business circle.

For the purpose of this meeting, Viet Nam has submitted several documents, including a new and updated Notification on Industrial Subsidies covering the period of 2003-2004 and an additional notification for State trading enterprises for circulation among the Working Party in February 2006. It should be highlighted that in its latest SCM Notification, Viet Nam has committed to abolish, upon its accession to the WTO, the legal documents granting its prohibited subsidy programmes. Those investment incentives which have been provided for in the Certificate of Eligibility of Domestic Investment Incentives or Investment Licences issued prior to the WTO accession shall also be terminated within 5 years as from the time of Viet Nam's accession to the WTO. We do look forward to further understanding from the WTO Members in taking due regards of Viet Nam’s situation and WTO’s practice to accept these very constructive commitments made by Viet Nam.

On this occasion, I would like to express our high appreciation to all Members having concluded bilateral negotiations with Viet Nam and kindly request the other remaining negotiating partners to be more flexible and practical to achieve our common goal of bringing Viet Nam into the WTO family at the soonest possible. We trust that our deals shall be “win-win” solutions for all in Viet Nam’s accession negotiations.

My last, but not least words, shall be great thanks to the WTO Secretariat for their excellent cooperation, as always, in making all documents ready in time and for their helpful comments and contributions during our negotiation process. I believe that when all minds and hands are together towards the same target, our today’s session shall bridge the remaining short distance and be most fruitful for all of us.

Thank you for your kind attention!