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No. 115
Wednesday June 16, 2004 Page A-25
ISSN 1523-567X
Regulation & Law

BNA - International Trade
Vietnam Outlines Latest Concessions
Aimed at Securing WTO Membership

GENEVA-- Vietnam outlined to members of the World Trade Organization June 15 the latest concessions it is prepared to make on opening its goods and services market to foreign firms in exchange for membership in the WTO.

Vietnam's vice minister for trade Luong Van Tu told a meeting of the WTO's working party on Vietnamese accession that a revised offer on goods and services circulated in early May offers numerous improvements that could be considered a "breakthrough" in many areas, according to officials who attended the meeting.

On goods, Tu said Vietnam was subjecting nearly its entire tariff schedule to tariff "bindings," meaning that tariff will not surpass a fixed ceiling. The sole exception is for petroleum products.

Vietnam has also agreed to reduce its average bound tariff rate to around 18 percent, a 4 percent from its previous offer, and to "substantially" reduce the number of products subject to tariff rate quotas, the vice minister said.

On services, Tu said that Vietnam had met most of the demands from its trading partners on opening its market and had agreed to abandon its effort to secure exceptions from the WTO's most favored nation principle in the area of financial services. In all, Vietnam is now offering to liberalize 10 general services sectors and 92 sub-sectors.

Vietnam Says its Commitments Match Others

Overall, Tu said the latest offer put forward by Vietnam contains commitments that match or go beyond those offered by other countries that have recently acceded to the WTO.

In other areas, Tu said Hanoi was prepared to commit to the elimination of all export subsidies for agricultural goods. Vietnam will immediately agree to eliminate subsidies for coffee exports upon the date of its accession (Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter after Brazil) but is seeking a three-year delay for other agricultural products.

In addition, Vietnam will fully implement WTO agreements such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs), the Customs Valuation Agreement and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the Agreement on Import Licensing from the date of its accession. Vietnam will also comply with the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures from the date of accession with the exception of "one or two" obligations, Tu said.

Trade diplomats said that the revised offer received a generally warm reception from other WTO members, including the United States, and represented a marked improvement over the previous offer presented last December.

U.S. Seeks More on Services

U.S. officials, however, said they were looking for more from Vietnam on the services side in several sectors, which they declined to identify. U.S. officials also told the working party meeting that although they were pleased with the progress made by Vietnam since the last meeting in December, efforts needed to be stepped up regarding the protection of intellectual property rights.

The United States also joined countries such as Australia, Canada, and Taiwan in questioning whether Vietnam needed transition period to fully implement existing WTO agreements.

The chairman of the working party said that a draft report outlining Vietnam's commitments on bringing its trade rules in line with WTO requirements would be circulated in October or November in advance of the next working party meeting in December.

While officials welcomed Vietnam's renewed efforts on the multilateral front, Hanoi continues to lag on the bilateral front. Although Tu said Vietnam has made "significant progress" on concluding bilateral trade deals with WTO members on market access for goods and services, the only agreement concluded so far has been with Cuba. Negotiations with the United States and the European Union, in contrast, are still far from completion.

Vietnam must conclude bilateral market access agreements with any WTO member requesting negotiations. The best concessions under these agreements will be consolidated into market access schedules for goods and services which will make up part of Vietnam's final accession package.

Vietnam has already held bilateral talks in Geneva with at least 15 WTO members over the past week and will continue discussions through June 22. Vietnam's trade minister Truong Dinh Tuyen was in Washington recently to discuss bilateral trade relations and its WTO accession efforts with U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, a meeting which observers said resulted in a U.S. pledge to step up efforts to secure Vietnam's membership in the global trade body.

By Daniel Pruzin