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US supports VNís WTO accession, trade: Ambassador Barshefsky

16:16' 18/01/2005 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Ė Two-thirds of Americans advocate trade with, and support for Vietnamís WTO accession said Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, Former US Trade Representative this morning in Hanoi.  

Ms Barshefsky had spent one hour this morning talking with the business community, scholars, students about the Vietnam Ė US relationship, especially after the BTA (Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement), and about Vietnamís accession process to the WTO.  

ďThe US-Vietnam economic relationship over the last four years since signing the BTA is positive,Ē said Ms Barshefsky. It shows new logistical links, symbolised by the United Airways direct route to Vietnam, and it shows people-to-people contact, with annual visits from Americans to Vietnam rising from 208,000 in 1999 to almost 300,000 this year.  

The US sees Vietnam as a market with considerable growth and export potential, and Americaís role as an export market, source of technology, and outward investor means the benefits of a normal economic relationship for Vietnam would be considerable.  

The implementation of the BTA over the last four years has brought many achievements to both the US and Vietnamese economies despite the fact that disputes, misperceptions and friction still exist.  

Most obviously, Vietnamese trade to the US has grown rapidly since BTA, with estimates showing that Vietnam could earn an extra $1.5bil per year. But in reality, Vietnamís exports to the US have risen by $4.2bil in four years. The US is now Vietnamís biggest export market, passing Japan in 2002 and level with the EU.  

The BTA, for example, has helped Vietnam sell 50mil pairs of shoes every year, making the country the fourth largest supplier to the US. Vietnamese furniture companies exported to the US 20,000 chairs in 2000 when the non-NTR (normal trade relation) tariff was 60%, and 2.6mil chairs in 2004 with 0% NTR tariff.  

The rapid growth to the US has led to the improvement of Vietnamís exports, which rose from $11bil in 1999 to $20bil in 2003, and foreign investment is also up, from $13bil then to $20bil.  

In return, the US has also gained a considerable growth in exports, rising from $330mil in 2000 to $1.2bil in the last year. Vietnam has bought aircraft to develop its air fleet, heavy trucks, and cotton for textile and apparel industry.  

Ms Barshefsky did not avoid the negative aspects of relations, which she said are part of all trade relationships.  

She said that in its negotiations, the US keeps firm view point on the intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement. The US side has expressed its concern about the serious violation of copyright.  

ďA 99% rate of piracy for music, film and computer software is unusually high even for South East Asia, and if it persists, as has been the case with China, it will likely be a continuous source of friction,Ē she warned.  

In addition to that, there have been significant complaints from US businesses about the issuance of licences for insurance companies, about the independence of the telecom regulatory agency, and the early phases of value-added telecom liberalisation.

  Vietnamese businesses also have problems with the US trade policies, namely the imposition of a textile quota in 2003 and the antidumping penalties on catfish and shrimp.

  However, Ms Barshefsky stressed that the application of antidumping law on Vietnamís products is not unusual. The law exists in every country and it must not be seen as a result of the BTA.

The law may be problematic for Vietnam since Vietnamís exports are gained from a fairly small range of products. Vietnamís top 25 exports account for two thirds of its export revenue to the US.

  Regarding accession to WTO which was the major concern of this morningís audience, Ms Barshefsky stressed that trade liberalisation would be seen as the best solution.

  Job losses and fierce competition will be big challenges for Vietnam to become a WTO member. The US, for example, has lost 15mil manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years, while the figure for China was 18mil. A similar case was reported from Japan. However, she said, the WTO membership offers large rewards, including dispute settlement rights, export opportunities, domestic reform and diversification.  

Asked about the prospect of the bilateral agreement with the US under Vietnamís accession to WTO, Ms Barshefsky said that the agreement with China has set a very high bar, that means the requirements from the US in the agreement with Vietnam would not be low, and Vietnam should well prepare for that.  

Ms Barshefsky also said she did not see any possibility of the removal of quota mechanism for Vietnam before Vietnamís official WTO membership.  

Nguyet Ha