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WTO says next round of talks critical to Vietnam's accession bid


HANOI: The next round of talks on Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization is "critical" to the communist nation's bid to accede by the end of 2005, a deputy head of the Geneva-based body said.

Rufus Yerxa, one of four deputy director generals of the WTO, said Hanoi must demonstrate to the 147 members of the global trade body that it is serious in meeting the rules and requirements necessary for membership.

"The next meeting is going to be a very important meeting, a critical meeting in setting the right tone for completing the process," he said in Hanoi on the final of two days of meetings with the government.

"We've had seven meetings of the working party. I would describe the progress made thus far as substantial but with significant issues still left to resolve in the accession."

No date has been set for the next meeting of the working party overseeing Vietnam's accession process, but Yerxa said it could happen as early as May if Hanoi brings the right package to the table.

"My basic message (to the government) has been that I am certainly convinced from my discussions in Geneva that all of the key members of the WTO are interested in pursuing Vietnam's accession," Yerxa told reporters.

However, he stressed the Vietnamese government needed "to clarify and make more formal certain proposals about how it is going to comply with WTO rules".

Yerxa said Hanoi has "made a number of significant indications" about how it would come into conformity with the rules "but there are still seven or eight outstanding issues that have to be resolved".

He declined to elaborate on these areas of concern but experts say they include restrictive trading rights, excessive customs valuations, poor enforcement of intellectual property rights and local content requirements for manufacturers.

Yerxa, who is responsible for accession, legal affairs and rules, said WTO members were also "waiting to see further indications from Vietnam" on market opening measures, such as tariffs and access to the country's service sector.

- AFP, April 7