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Vietnam Says It Still Hopes For WTO Entry In 2005

June 24, 2004 9:46 a.m.

HANOI (AP)--Vietnam on Thursday downplayed the World Trade Organization's assertion that it wouldn't be ready to join the body by the start of next year, saying its goal is to join sometime in 2005.

"Vietnam strives to join the WTO as soon as possible, in 2005 if possible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said. "In the past, Vietnam has set the target of joining WTO by 2005, but it does not necessarily mean Jan. 1."

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

"Vietnam is not going to achieve its earlier ambition to join by Jan 1, 2005," the WTO said in a written summary of the meetings released last week.

Hanoi has offered to reduce its average import duties to 18%, but several countries still are concerned that it subsidizes some exports and restricts the amount of imports it will accept.

Negotiators plan to meet again in December. It is still possible for Vietnam to join in 2005 if it completes all its procedures.

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 dropped for 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.