begin to hit trade stride
(Viet Nam News, 19-01-2005)
Workers process cashew nuts for export at the Binh Phuoc Cashew Trading
and Agriculture Products Enterprise. Cashew is one of Viet Nam's major exports
to the US. - VNA/VNS Dinh Hue HA NOI - Viet Nam-US trade normalisation was the
principal economic step that not only opened up business opportunities for both
nations but that also, despite some remaining frictions, consummated both
nations' post-war reconciliation, said a former official of the US Trade
Visiting Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, who was on the US team in negotiations
leading up to the signing and ratification of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA)
four years ago, spoke at a meeting yesterday that
gathered members of the local business community, diplomats and students in
Ha Noi. The meeting was hosted by Vu Tien Loc, Chairman of the Viet Nam Chamber
of Commerce and Industry.
Barshefsky, a senior international partner with the firm of Wilmer Cutler
Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, said that the BTA, within the past four years, has
accelerated Viet Nam's economic reforms, set a foundation for its bid
for WTO membership and made the US into Viet Nam's largest export market.
"It shows rapid growth in trade and investment," she said. Viet Nam exports to
the US have risen by US$4.2 billion, from $800 million to $5 billion in just
four years, especially in agricultural products such as fruit, cashew nuts
and coffee, and in light manufacturing of such products as furniture and
Barshefsky said she was impressed with the penetration of Vietnamese goods into
the US market.
"Vietnamese furniture companies sold us 20,000 chairs in 2000 when the
non-Normal Trade Relations (NTR) tariff was 60 per cent and 2.6 million chairs
in 2004 with the zero NTR," she said.
After ratification of the BTA, Viet Nam's general export growth has risen from
$11 billion in 1999 to $20 billion in 2003, and the country has become one of
the world's most rapidly growing exporters. Foreign investment is
also up from a stock of $13 billion to $20 billion.
Viet Nam has become an important market for American civil aircraft, and the
country purchase of $60 million in American cotton and $30 million in American
scientific and medical equipment last year were among a few examples, she said,
of the progress of the relationship. However, Barshefsky warned, both
sides should work to ease some trade frictions and disputes giving concern in
Viet Nam's justice ministry should take greater efforts to improve the
transparency of legal and regulatory systems, including more frequent and timely
publication of regulations and acceptance of comments, she said.
The high rate of piracy is also a likely deterrent to high-quality investment by
information technology businesses and hi-tech firms, she added.
According to Barshefsky, American businesses complain about the issuance of
licenses for insurance companies and the independence of the telecommunications
Likewise, Vietnamese businesses have shown frustration with US trade policies,
especially in the well-publicised catfish - and shrimp-dumping cases that
American farmers filed against Viet Nam.
The Viet Nam-US BTA was ratified in November 2001 after the nations' governments
had worked through a series of difficult emotional issues including search for
and recovery of American soldiers missing in action. -