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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan

WTO Seminar, Hanoi Aug 5-6, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all, on behalf of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, I would like to highly appreciate the initiative of New York Life International and U.S. – Vietnam Trade Council, and other significant Vietnamese agencies, to cooperate in organizing this seminar on the relevant topic of Vietnam acceding membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Nowadays, the term “international economic integration” has become popular in Vietnam. Not only can this term be found in use in official documents, by public policy promulgators, enterprises, and mass media but also by the common mass. This trend shows the consent of society regarding the necessity of Vietnam’s integration to the world economy in order to accelerate development, regardless of many challenges that have been occurring. In my personal opinion, this is an important element of the Vietnam’s integration to the world economy.

In reality, since the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1945, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have adopted an open economy policy, however, it was not our fault that the Vietnamese economy was isolated from the global economy for a long time. With the launch of the Doi Moi in 1986, Vietnam has clearly delivered to the world our message of an open policy and integration into the international economy. And in fact, the Vietnamese economy deeply integrates into the global economy. The exemplary evidence is our export turnover accounts for more than half of GDP, and of the total social investment value, FDI and ODA accounts for a significant proportion, up to 40%. Vietnam has been actively implementing AFTA and APEC commitments, and negotiating with ASEAN members on an ASEAN – China free trade area, and trading arrangements with other trading partners.

The next step that has the most important impact on Vietnam is to soon become a member of the WTO. For that purpose, we are quickly implementing various measures to reorganize domestic production and conduct bilateral and multilateral negotiations with our trading partners.

Our government’s view is that the most important factor is to improve the competitiveness of products, enterprises, and the entire country. We are doing our best but it is not an easy task.

To perfect our legal framework is another essential factor.  I would like to emphasize that in this regards we do not stand on bare land, since the early years of the Doi Moi, the Vietnamese legal framework has been built and enhanced quite comprehensively and clearly with particular attention paid to the current international trade and business laws. We will of course have to do many things and we will speed up our legislative process in compliance with the WTO rules.

 Tax reform is a big task. This problem does not only lay in the adjustment of tax rates but in the reorganize the fundamental of the Vietnamese taxation system in line with international standards, tariffication of non–tariff measures, and restructure of the state budget which has been largely dependent upon import duties, etc.

Market access is an inevitable requirement of the WTO accession. In fact, Vietnam has been actively and gradually opened our market in order to adapt to the competitive environment. We commit to following this path under a reasonable roadmap. 

In summary, the accession to the WTO is the systematic restructuring of international trade regime and the whole national economy. This process is not simple at all especially for a country in transition with a modest economic development level in a changing and fierce competitive world. This requires us to take appropriate steps. We don’t think we need to obtain all necessary conditions before joining the WTO but need to carry out two interactive processes: doing preparation works and accelerating negotiations.

Taking into account such a difficult and sophisticated process, we look forward to receiving supports from the international community, at least in three ways: 

  • First, to contribute to persuading Vietnamese producers and enterprises in relation to the benefits resulted in by the international economic integration by opening market, avoiding incorrect signals of unfair competition or setting up disguised protection barriers which will make millions of people and their families jobless.
  • Second, to table reasonable requests comparable to the economic development level of Vietnam under a reasonable roadmap, because even if we wish we could jump over our head, we could not and could not make adverse effects on the economy and the society as a whole.
  • Third, to provide technical assistance in the preparation to accede to the WTO. I mean not only are international supports necessary for the negotiation process, but more importantly, for the entire process of restructuring the economy, improving the competitiveness, and training human resources.

I wish this seminar brought about a great deal of helpful ideas for that purposes. Bearing these in mind, I hope the seminar is successful, and you all are healthy and successful.