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Vietnam less sure of WTO membership

Friday, March 04, 2005

HANOI: Vietnam said it is speeding up talks on entering the World Trade Organisation (WTO) but suggested it might not gain membership by the end of this year as it had hoped on Thursday.

Vu Khoan deputy prime minister told donors in December that Vietnam's goal was to join the WTO at its ministerial meeting in Hong Kong this December.

But trade minister Truong Dinh Tuyen was quoted this week as saying entry in 2005 might now be unrealistic since entry talks had been tough.

"We earlier expected the country to join the WTO late this year, but the current situation could make that unrealistic," Tuyen was quoted as saying by the state-run Saigon Times Daily on Wednesday. "Perhaps the country's WTO admission will take place next year."

On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung also suggested Vietnam might not meet the December target.

"We are striving with our utmost effort to enter the WTO at the earliest time and if the earliest time is the end of 2005, it is good news," he told a news conference.

Last month, the European Union, which finished its negotiations with Vietnam last year, urged the United States to wrap up talks with Vietnam and three other countries this year.

EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy told a US business group in Washington he hoped the WTO would welcome the "four important economies that remain outside" in Hong Kong in December. The four are Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

Each of the four has to conclude individual market access agreements with any of the 148 WTO members, which seek one. They also have to reach an overall agreement with all WTO members on rules for copyright and patent protection and other measures.

The foreign ministry's Dung said Vietnam had finished bilateral talks with six WTO members - the European Union, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Singapore.

It had still to complete two or three more multilateral negotiations and bilateral talks with 21 countries, including the United States, Japan and China.

The Saigon Times Daily quoted Tuyen as saying WTO members demanded Vietnam open up import/export operations to foreign firms and lift import tariffs on various products. Vietnam considered the demands unacceptable, he said.

But deputy trade minister Luong Van Tu, who just returned from talks in Geneva, said Vietnam has managed to narrow the gaps in many areas, especially on tariffs and the service sector. "It is our policy to speed the process of bilateral talks," Tu told state-run Voice of Vietnam radio on Thursday.

Vietnam's long-held goal of WTO entry has taken on fresh urgency with the expiry of quotas on textiles and garments among WTO members, especially China, at the end of 2004.

The products are Vietnam's second-most valuable export earner after crude oil. The EU scrapped textile quotas on Vietnamese imports on Jan. 1, 2005.



Mar 3, 2005

Danang, Vietnam, March 3 Reuters - Forty years after the first American troops arrived to fight in the Vietnam War, the suspected remains of a US serviceman were flown home on Thursday from the city where his comrades first landed.
The lone coffin, covered by the Stars and Stripes, sat in pouring rain for a ceremonial handover in Danang, where the first US troops landed on March 8, 1965 to fight in a war which cost 58,000 American and three million Vietnamese lives. It was then loaded onto a C-130 military cargo plane named "The Last Frontier" to be flown to Hawaii, where identification tests would be carried out.
Almost simultaneously, a chartered Miami Air Boeing 737 flew in nearly 100 new military personnel to search for more than 1,800 Americans still listed as missing in action in the jungles of the region.
Vietnam lists 300,000 missing.
Since 1973, more than 700 sets of US remains have been recovered and identified. "We could always to do more and we will do more" to find the missing, deputy US ambassador John Boardman told Reuters Television. "We need to keep looking hard".
The next searches for missing Americans were due to start on Friday, US officials said.
Only a few Vietnamese civilian and military officials were on hand to greet the new American searchers, a far cry from the welcome accorded the 3,500 marines who landed 40 years ago.
They were greeted by smiling Vietnamese women bearing flower garlands and banners welcoming the "gallant marines" arriving to defend the important Danang airbase.
Danang is home to China Beach, popular during the war with US soldiers on their recreation breaks. It now boasts glitzy resorts and direct flights from neighbouring countries.
The war ended in 1975 with the defeat of the US-backed South Vietnam by the northern communists, who will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, on April 30.
Asked about that anniversary, Boardman said the US government was looking forward to the 10th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic ties.
"We are looking forward rather than backward at this stage," he said.


Vietnamese citizens sue US chemical companies over Agent Orange

04.03.05 1.00pm

Vietnamese citizens who say they have suffered a life time of health problems after being poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam war are suing the US chemical companies that provided the Pentagon with the toxic defoliant.

The case has huge implications. If successful it could open the way for claims against companies that produce weapons such as depleted uranium-tipped munitions which have been linked to cancer.

In the lawsuit filed this week, it was alleged that up to four million Vietnamese people suffered persistent respiratory and reproductive problems as a result of being contaminated by Agent Orange. They are seeking compensation that could run to billions of dollars from 30 companies such as Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

One of the plaintiffs, Dr Phan Thi Phi Phi, told the court in New York that she had worked in an area that was heavily sprayed with the defoliant and suffered four miscarriages during the early 1970s. "We did not know what happened to us, what was the cause of it, so we were very sad because we had so many miscarriages and we could not have children," she said.

US forces routinely sprayed the defoliant to clear areas of jungle where they believed Communist forces were hiding and to destroy their crops.

Although US$300m (NZ$412m) in compensation has been paid to US troops who fought in Vietnam, there has never been any compensation paid to those Vietnamese who suffered. Scientists have stated that the defoliant can cause cancer, diabetes, birth defects and other problems.
Jonathan Moore, one the plaintiffs' US lawyers said: "the companies that produced Agent Orange knew it contained high levels of dioxin and did not carebecause "they ignored it because they figured the only people getting sprayed were the enemy."

The companies being sued have sought to dismiss the claim. This week lawyers for the corporations argued that the US courts had no power to penalise companies for executing the orders of a president exercising his powers as commander in chief. Lawyers also stated that companies normally enjoyed exemption from
criminal and civil liability for alleged war crimes.

The US Justice Department also sought dismissal of the lawsuit, arguing that opening the US courts to former wartime enemies could threaten presidential power to wage war. The US government has argued that the effects of Agent Orange are not supported by direct evidence.

District Judge Jack Weinstein questioned whether presidential orders exempted the firms, citing the actions of German corporations during World War II.

"The fact that all power was centralised under Hitler did not permit all people operating under his orders to violate international law," he said.

Dave Cline, of the veterans group, Vietnam Veterans against the War, supported the action. He said US veterans had fought for years to receive compensation for 11 separate conditions and illnesses linked to Agent Orange.

"In Vietnam they say three million people still suffer," he said.

No-one from Dow Chemical was yesterday available to comment.


Vietnam Eases Deposit Restrictions On EU-Based Banks

3 March 2005

HANOI (Dow Jones)--Vietnam's central bank has eased restrictions on European Union-based banks operating here, the second time in less than a year, allowing their deposits in the local currency to expand to 750% of their registered capital.
The relaxed ruling took effect Tuesday, an official from the central bank told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday.
In April last year, Vietnam allowed E.U. banks operating in the country to raise their dong deposits to 500% of their registered capital from 50%.
Specifically, E.U. banks can now receive from Vietnamese firms a maximum of dong deposits equivalent to 400% of their registered capital, as well as deposits worth up to 350% of their registered capital from Vietnamese individuals. Vietnam has allowed U.S. banks to receive desposits in dong equivalent to 750% of their registered capital starting 2005, up from 500% from 2004, according to the Bilateral Trade Agreement the two countries signed in 2001.
However, Vietnam still doesn't allow foreign banks to receive dollar deposits from Vietnamese firms or individuals who don't have business dealings with the banks.
Vietnam has been slow in opening up its financial market, and World Trade Organization members are urging the country to move faster in removing restrictions against foreign firms following its application to join the global trade body.
Local media quoted Vietnam's Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen as saying Thursday that the country is unlikely to be able to join the WTO in December. If Vietnam were to liberalize its market before then, "local companies can't survive foreign competition," Tuyen said.


Lecturing leads professors to Vietnam

Current Issue: Thursday, March 3, 2005

Faculty exchange allows new perspectives, ideas to enter classrooms

Ed Young, professor and chair of the department of economics, found himself lecturing on economics to university students over winter break.

That's not at all unusual - except he was lecturing at a university half a world away.

Young was one of three UW-Eau Claire professors who participated in a faculty exchange trip to the Vietnam National University-Hanoi in January, through the Education for Reconciliation and Economic Opportunity Program.

"The whole thing was just memorable," he said.

This is the third year a group of Eau Claire faculty has traveled to Vietnam. The program allows for visiting professors to hold a series of university lectures on various economic and business-related topics.

Along with Young, economics professor Rose-Marie Avin and management and marketing professor Rama Yelkur also made up this year's group of representative lecturers from Eau Claire.

Each professor lectured and discussed issues related to their areas of expertise with Vietnamese students and faculty.

Karl Markgraf, director of the Center for International Education, is the coordinator of the program and has headed the trip to Vietnam each year since the first faculty exchange in the spring of 2002.

Markgraf said the purpose of the project is to assist education and reform within the country's educational system.

"The goal is to help Vietnam develop economic policies more in line with global and western economics," he said.

Markgraf made his first visit to Vietnam in the summer of 2001, when he was initially planning the project. He picked Vietnam, he said, because he felt it was an "up and comer" in international commerce.

The reason reform is necessary, he said, is because most economists in Vietnam have been using policy that doesn't work well with economic policies in the rest of the world.

"Most policy-setters have had their training from the former Soviet Union, in Marxist economics," he said. "Teaching this to the future generation of economic students is wrong. That's the program's approach."

The faculty exchange also invites Vietnamese professors to Eau Claire. Last fall, visiting professor Mai Khu spent the semester discussing Vietnamese economics and international education with students and faculty.

This year's trip was Young's second to Vietnam, having participated in the program in 2003. He said he discussed the history and current status of the American labor movement with about 50 students and six to 10 staff in each lecture.

Markgraf said he believes the biggest impact on students at Eau Claire is that they have an emerging group of professors who have a different international outlook from what they had previously.

"(The professors) bring enthusiasm, a level of expertise, to the classroom that they didn't have before," he said.
Markgraf also said a lot of professors will probably discuss their experiences with students in their classrooms.

"It's a window on Vietnam that our professors can open up to the students in the classes here," he said.

Young agreed that students at Eau Claire will be positively affected by what the returning professors can now contribute to lectures and coursework in class.

"Since everyone cannot have the opportunity to go overseas, it helps to have professors willing to share their experiences," Young said. "It gives (students) a broader appreciation of different cultural experiences."


Mission to Vietnam explores wood products industry


Vietnam has a rapidly expanding wood products industry, which provides a unique opportunity for Pennsylvania hardwoods companies. Oak Hill Veneer, located in Troy, and Bennett Hardwoods, from Forksville, joined the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission (NTRPDC) on a trade mission to Vietnam in

According to a spokesman:
NTRPDC and the North Central Regional Planning and Development Commission organized the mission cooperatively, with a total of five businesses participating. NTRPDC obtained additional grants from the Northern Tier Hardwoods Association, Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council and U.S. Department of Commerce to help cover expenses. The mission included two days of factory tours in the region around Ho Chi Minh City, followed by pre-arranged appointments over several days with over 20 potential customers from throughout Vietnam. The USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service staff also provided assistance. "They are an excellent resource for any agriculture-related business interested in the Vietnamese market," said Chad Rimbey, export development program manager with NTRPDC. Trade missions are regularly organized to help a variety of industries develop their overseas market. For more information, please contact Chad Rimbey, export
development program manager, at 570.265.9103 or by email: rimbey@northerntier.org.


France Pledges Support to Improve Vietnam's Legal System
France will help Vietnam improve the legal system in the Southeast Asian country in lines with requirements by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Secretary of the Rights of victims for the French Minister of Justice Nicole Guedj, who doubles as co-President of the Orientation Committee of the Vietnam - France Legal Home, announced the pledge with local reporters on March 3 in Hanoi after attending the committee's 12th working session from March 2-3 to discuss an orientation for legal cooperation between the two countries.
The cooperation between the two nations is being geared to special fields such as commercial operation and legal procedures in an effort to catch up with national economic development, the secretary said. The new focus of bilateral ties is the follow-up of the progress made in France's assistance to Vietnam in legal reform such as revising the Civil and Commercial laws.
The secretary revealed that she and Vietnam Minister of Justice Uong Chu Luu also put on table the child adoption on the occasion. The two countries will jointly set up an agency specializing on the matter next year, she said.  
The Vietnam-France Legal Home (VFLH) was founded in 1993 to implement inter-governmental programs of cooperation under the guidance of the two countries' Ministries of Justice. The VFLH has so far opened training courses for over 2,000 Vietnamese lawyers and held almost 400 professional symposiums. (Youth Mar 4 p16, VNA Mar 3)

Vietnam Unsure of WTO Admission, Confirms Negotiation Progress
Vietnam is not sure of its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of this year as targeted but affirms that negotiations on its bid to the body are making progress.
"The current pace of negotiations is progressing," said Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Le Dzung in response to a question posed by reporters regarding Vietnam's chance of joining the WTO by the end of this year during the ministry's regular press briefing in Hanoi on March 3.
"The Vietnamese State hopes the upcoming talks will go smoothly, speeding up Vietnam's bid to join the WTO," he added.    
To join the global trade body, Vietnam has to hold bilateral negotiations with 27 partners and two or three more multilateral negotiations, Dzung said. To date, the country has concluded negotiations with the European Union, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Singapore.
Vietnam is scheduled to hold the 10th round of multilateral talks in April.
In recent interviews with local media, Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen also admitted that Vietnam has little hope to become a member of the WTO this year as it expected because the country is unable to meet all demands of the body's member countries. Many demands are unacceptable under the country's current circumstances, he also said.
Vietnam has so far reached agreements with 99 countries in the world to grant each other the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. (The People Mar 4 p6, Vietnam Economic Times Mar 4 p2, VNA Mar 3)
Vietnam Asks US Firms to Take Responsibility for Agent Orange Victims
US toxic chemical producers should be legally responsible for Vietnam Agent Orange victims, announced Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dzung on March 3 in response to correspondents' questions about the country reaction to the US Department of Justice's view that the court should reject the lawsuit.
"We consider it a proper course of action for Vietnamese victims," said Dzung. "Previously, American veterans who fought in Vietnam and had diseases related to Agent Orange/Dioxin also brought American chemical firms to court. This shows that those companies have liability for the Vietnamese sufferers of this toxic chemical."
The spokesman made the statement for the first time after the hearing of the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese Agent Orange victims against 37 US chemical manufacturers ended on February 28 without final conclusion.
The case is a civil lawsuit mounted by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims against the US companies, Dzung said, adding that it has drawn much attention and received warm support from the international community.
He once again pointed out that the Agent Orange/dioxin used by the US army during the war in Vietnam seriously affected people and the environment in the Southeast Asian country. More than 40 years have gone by, yet the consequences are still deeply disrupting socio-economic life in Vietnam, Dung said. This fact has been affirmed by many scientists, including US scientists, he said.
From 1961 to 1971, US troops sprayed 83 million liters of defoliants including 366 kilograms of dioxin manufactured by the chemical producers in 80,000 villages and communes in the south of Vietnam, directly affecting to four million local residents.  
As many as 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to toxic chemicals, of whom three million were affected by Agent Orange, a herbicide that contains dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to man.
One of South Korea's three biggest TVs is making a news report named "Road to Justice" on dioxin consequences on Vietnamese people. Their reporters have met with Vietnamese veterans and Agent Orange victims in the Southeast Asia country over the past month. (The People Mar 4 p8, Young People Mar 4 p2, Youth Mar 4 p1, VNA Mar 3)

Extradition warrant for Vietnamese in US

02/Mar/2005 Thanh NienA Vietnamese national suspected of embezzling 90 billion dong has been arrested in the US and will be extradited to Vietnam, Vietnam's Ministry of Police said on March 2. US Interpol informed Vietnam of the arrest of Nguyen Khac Son, 48 and former director of the HCM City branch of Hanoi-based Printing Import-Export Co (Prinmatexim) in late February.


Health minister orders medicine price measures

3/Mar/2005 Nguoi Lao DongThe health minister has sent an official letter to provincial and central city People's Committee calling for cooperation and coordination for medicine price management in 2005.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) suggests to supervise medicine producers and traders to control medicine prices. Also, departments of health are proposed to give comprehensive investigation to prevent an punish medicine speculation. Any case of speculation and price inflation must be subject to compensation to customers.


Former top war general criticises US for `shirking Agent Orange issue'

02/Mar/2005 VNAGeneral Vo Nguyen Giap on March 1 criticised the US government and chemical producers for shirking their responsibility for compensating victims of Agent Orange which they sprayed during the war in Vietnam 30 years ago.

Giap said although gunfire ended and peace was restored in Vietnam in 1975, the Vietnamese people continue to suffer from heavy consequences of the prolonged war; especially Agent Orange/Dioxin sprayed by US forces in South Vietnam.

"Many Vietnamese victims, including women and children, have died of A/O related diseases. Millions of others are suffering critical diseases while tens of thousands of children have been born with congenital deformities.

They are facing numerous difficulties in both their material and spiritual lives, and are a heavy burden on their families and on society," said general Giap.

Giap expressed his hope that the conference will make clear the responsibilities of those people who waged the chemical war in Vietnam, seriously violating international law.


Cisco to inaugurate 14th network institute in Vietnam

02/Mar/2005 VietnamnetCisco systems will open its 14th networking institute in Vietnam at the Hanoi University of Technology. Like other Cisco-recognised networking institutes, the new Cisco Bach Khoa will have international laboratories training students on networking and the internet.


SBV announces stricter debt provisioning

02/Mar/2005 State Bank of VietnamAlthough having made good preparations, many banks cannot help worrying upon issuance of Decision 127 of the central bank on February 2 concerning amendments to some articles of current lending regulations. Under Decision 127, credit quality of a number of banks will closer reflect international standards and will not be so easy for banks, especially state-run banks, to "beatify" figures.


First foreign bank launches operational lease

2/Mar/2005 Kinh Te Vietnam & The Gioi page 4The Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) in Vietnam this week will launch the service of operational financial lease. This is the first bank that has carried out this new service in Vietnam.

This service is carried out by ANZ/V-Trac, a finance affiliate of ANZ.