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Vietnam: The excessive cost of WTO admission

International Herald Tribune
Friday, December 17, 2004

HANOI The World Trade Organization is not yet global. Twenty-five countries are currently lining up to join, some of them among the world's poorest. First, however, they are being put through a negotiating grind that makes a mockery of the WTO's commitments to development.

To join, not only must a country comply with all WTO rules, but individual existing members are allowed to ask for further concessions, known as "WTO-plus," from applicants in return for support for their application. Without the support of key WTO members, a country cannot join.

The result is a form of political tag wrestling in which the world's mightiest economies take it in turns to climb into the ring and squeeze yet more concessions, with scant regard to an applicant's development needs. Conditions often include a rapid opening-up to international investors in services and manufacturing, and the dropping of import barriers.

Vietnam is nearing the end game of a painful 10 years of entry talks. Nearly a third of its 80 million people live on less than $1 a day, but that's changing fast. The World Bank describes it as "one of the greatest success stories in economic development." The roots of the boom lie in surging exports of everything from prawns to sneakers, combined with a cautious approach to import liberalization and foreign investment, quite out of step with the "shock therapy" usually advocated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The danger is that the WTO accession process may force Vietnam to open up its economy further and faster than is desirable, undercutting domestic producers and endangering its broader national development strategy.

Agriculture is of particular importance to Vietnam's poorest people, yet the country has already been forced to offer far greater liberalization in farm products than its WTO neighbors, Even so, it is still under pressure from
Australia to further open up its sugar market and from the United States to let subsidized American corn pour into the country. Both crops are grown by millions of Vietnam's poorest farmers and an influx of cheap produce could drive them further into poverty.

Some significant damage has already been done. The bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Vietnam, ratified in 2001, is heavily "WTO-plus." Vietnam made extensive commitments on a swath of policies, including export-import rules, market access for U.S. products and services, and changes
in its intellectual property and investment regimes.

Under most-favored-nation principles, a cornerstone of the WTO, concessions granted to one country must be made available to all WTO members. This means that the terms of Vietnam's U.S. trade pact could become the starting point for its talks with other WTO members. While the terms of the pact cannot be undone without complex renegotiation, Vietnam should not be required to "multilateralize" WTO-plus concessions in its accession deal.

So why join the WTO? Rules are better than no rules, and the organization provides some safeguards against the exercise of trade sanctions. The United States is already using such sanctions to keep out Vietnamese prawns and catfish, and Vietnam particularly fears that without the protection of WTO rules, America and other countries will keep out its booming shoe and clothing exports. Reformers in the country also hope that a good WTO deal will help keep up the pace of domestic reform.

But a good deal looks a long way off, and if compromise is too painful, it could slow down Vietnam's progress and undermine support for further reform.

If the WTO is to live up to the promises of the current "development round" of global trade negotiations, it needs to overhaul the whole accession process for poor countries like Vietnam, Ethiopia and Sudan. Instead of being squeezed into excessive WTO-plus concessions, new entrants should be eased into the organization's current rules, with implementation timetables and extra flexibility that reflect their development needs.

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Vietnam Trade Min Targets $5B Apparel Exports In '05

Dec 16, 2004
Money.iwon.com

HANOI (Dow Jones)--Vietnam's Trade Ministry targets apparel exports to rise 18% to $5 billion in 2005, its deputy minister Le Danh Vinh said Thursday.


The U.S. will account for more than $2.5 billion of Vietnam's apparel exports next year, Vinh said in a posting on the ministry's Web site.

So far in 2004, apparel exports to the U.S. totaled around $2.25 billion, up 20% on year, he said.

The U.S. is now the largest buyer of Vietnamese-made apparel, Vinh said.

The European Union is the second-biggest, buying nearly $700 million in 2004, a 39% rise on year, he added.

The minister estimated that sales to quota-control markets would account for 70% of Vietnam's total apparel exports this year.

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Vietnam Airlines to fly direct to US next year

www.chinaview.cn 2004-12-16

   HANOI, Dec. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Vietnam Airlines, the country's national flag carrier, has announced that it will open a direct route to the United States late next year.
   "We would like to launch the direct route in conjunction with Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization, expected by the end of 2005," Vietnam News Agency on Thursday quoted carrier spokesman Nguyen Chan as saying.
   To prepare for the future route, the carrier has already signeda code-share contract with American Airlines, and may ink a similar deal with United Airlines, he said, adding that it has recently signed contracts for an
additional ten Airbus A321s and four Boeing 777-200ERs.
   United Airlines became the first US carrier to offer Vietnam direct services since 1975, with the inauguration of its first flight from San Francisco to Ho Chi Minh City on December 10.
   Under the Air Services Agreement approved by Vietnam in December 2003, two US and two Vietnamese passenger airlines can fly between the two countries for
  the first two years.
   By 2005, Vietnam Airlines will possess and lease 40 planes, including eight Boeing 777s, four Boeing 767s, ten A320s, seven A321, nine ATR 72s and two Fokker 70s, of which 18 will be owned by the carrier. It plans to increase its fleet to 75 aircraft, hoping to serve 10 million passengers and 190,000 tons of cargoes by 2010.
   Vietnam Airlines, which now launches international flights to 25 cities, including Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, Bangkok and Guangzhou, is expected to transport over five million passengers, including 2.4 million foreigners, and  reap an all-high revenue of more than one billion US dollars this year.

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Vietnam sees first listing of private company

Published: December 16 2004
news.ft.com

Vietnam's fast expanding private sector got a boost yesterday as North Kinh Do Foods, a maker of biscuits, cakes and confectionery, became the first company founded by a private entrepreneur to list on the country's tiny stock exchange.

The three year-old confectionery company, which has a factory in northern Hung Yen province, is a de facto subsidiary of Kinh Do Construction and Food, founded by Tran Le Ngyuen, one of a new breed of Vietnamese entrepreneurs profiting from the relaxation of state control over the economy over the past decade.

The listing of North Kinh Do, which had revenues of 210bn dong ($13.3m) and profits of 14.3bn dong in 2003, was hailed as a big step forward for Vietnam's official stock market, and an inspiration for the country's 150,000 registered
private businesses.
 
Vietnam's stock trading centre, which began operations in July 2000, still has only 26 listed companies, all of which were former state enterprises turned into "equitised" companies in which the government retained some holdings. Both former state enterprises and private companies have been wary of listing on the official exchange, due to executives' discomfort with the market's disclosure rules, and scrutiny of business operations.
 
But the decision by Mr Tran, who has been previously honoured by the Communist party with a "red star" for his business achievements, could spur others to follow suit.
 
"It's a great advance that we see a private company that seems to have fully understood what a stock market is for," said Kevin Snowball at the $10m PXP Vietnam Fund. "Hopefully, we will see Kinh Do blazing a trail for other private companies."
 
Investors, who have been disappointed at the slow pace of new listings over the last several years, are hopeful that the first quarter of 2005 will see a flurry of new listings, including some private commercial banks.
 
Although Vietnam's ruling Communist authorities began to relax state control over the economy in the early 1990s, they continued to view private businesses with suspicion, forcing many start-up companies to operate in the shadows. But in the past several years, Hanoi has begun embracing entrepreneurs as the new generation of warriors on the economic battlefield.
 
North Kinh Do, which is 48 per cent owned by its parent, did not raise new capital immediately prior to its listing yesterday, as Vietnam's stock market has yet to authorise any official initial public offerings.
 
But in April, its parent sold a 15 per cent stake in North Kinh Do to the public, raising about $1m, in the kind of unofficial offering that accounts for the bulk of equity raising in Vietnam.

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M.P., A Novel of Vietnam - Now Available in Print


December 16, 2004
www.emediawire.com

A hard-hitting and compelling story of the Vietnam War, a work of fiction based on the author's personal experiences, is available in print and electronic formats. - Author Releases First Book M.P., A Novel of Vietnam released December 7, 2004
 
Concord, CA (PRWEB) December 16, 2004 -- M.P., A Novel of Vietnam, ISBN 1 920741 18 6, was released yesterday by Writers Exchange E-Publishing. The novel, a story of a young military policeman during his tour of duty in Vietnam, is available as an e-book and as a trade paperback through Writers Exchange E-Publishing for $3.00 for direct download, $9.95 on compact disc, and $12.99 in paperback.

M.P., A Novel of Vietnam, is a fictionalized first hand account of the effect of the Vietnam War on the men who served as Military Police during the conflict.
  John Schembra draws upon his own experiences as an MP to bring the story to life. This hard-hitting and compelling account provides the reader with insight into a situation most only viewed from a distance. The story is presented as an anecdotal account of the routine daily activities punctuated by sudden outbreaks of violence. It is a soldier's story, about an ordinary man who does his duty with courage and without reservation. Filled with action from start to finish, Schembra provides his readers with a look into the camaraderie that develops between those who have faced death together.

Schembra spent a year with the 557th MP Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam before joining the Pleasant Hill Police Department, where he retired in 2001 as a Sergeant, after 30 years of service. Currently the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department, Schembra is also recognized by the State of California as a subject matter expert in Emergency Vehicle Operations. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Administration of Justice through California State University, Sacramento, and a
Master's Degree in Public Administration through California State University, Hayward.

"M.P. became a reality after sharing war stories with another sergeant, who was also a Vietnam veteran, during shift line-ups. The officers suggested that I write the stories down, that they would make a good book. So, I sat down and began writing," Schembra said.

In addition to M.P., Schembra has had several articles published in law enforcement periodicals, including, Law and Order, Police Officer's Quarterly, and The Backup. He is also a contributing author in True Blue - Police Stories by Those Who Have Lived Them, a collection of short stories released by St. Martin's Press. His second novel Retribution is awaiting publication and he is currently working on his third.

Schembra lives in Concord, CA with Charlene, his wife of 33 years. They have two children, Alexandria, 28, and Scott, 24, who both reside in the Sacramento area.