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EU Thinks Vietnam Can Join WTO by 2005

Associated Press
07.09.2004, 11:00 PM

The European Union's chief negotiator with Vietnam says he believes Vietnam can join the World Trade Organization by 2005.

"From our point of view, we think it is perfectly possible for Vietnam to accede by the end of next year," said Raffaele Mauro Petriccione, director of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade.

"It requires considerable work. It requires a lot of goodwill on the part of Vietnam and other WTO members. Certainly we are committed to the process," he said Friday.

Petriccione was in Vietnam on a three-day trip to negotiate the EU's bilateral agreements with Vietnam during its sixth round of WTO talks.

Last month, the WTO said it wasn't optimistic Hanoi would make its initial deadline of acceding by Jan. 1, 2005.

During Vietnam's most recent round of talks with officials in Geneva, the WTO praised Hanoi for submitting a better plan for trade liberalization, but said it still needs to amend its laws and reach bilateral agreements with member states.

However, Petriccione said the EU's discussions with Vietnam were very positive, and that it was possible for a bilateral deal to be settled by year's end.

"Our experience is that countries who conclude with one of the majors, like us or the United States, see a sudden acceleration in their accession process," he said.

The 2005 deadline is particularly crucial for Vietnam, since its textile and garment industry - the country's second largest source of exports - is subject to quotas until it joins the 147-member world trade body. The quota system will be eliminated for all WTO members by the end of next year.

Vietnam first applied for WTO membership in 1995. Under WTO rules, applicants must reach an individual trade deal with any member that requests it and complete an overall package of reforms to bring it in line with international trade law.