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.
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.
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%
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
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
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.
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.
accession to WTO which was the major concern of this morningís audience, Ms
Barshefsky stressed that trade liberalisation would be seen as the best
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
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.
also said she did not see any possibility of the removal of quota mechanism
for Vietnam before Vietnamís official WTO membership.