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Trade Minister Rejects Statement that Vietnam Gives up 2005 WTO Target
Vietnam Trade Minister has denied media reports that his country had desisted from participating in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in late 2005.
"I has never said that Vietnam should give up its target to join the WTO late this year," Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen said on the sidelines of a weekend meeting.
Tuyen made the statement when a local newspaper quoted the minister at a national trade conference February 28 as saying that Vietnam would likely become a WTO member in 2006, not in end-2005 as targeted. Many foreign news agencies and papers then said the country left its ambition to enter the WTO for late 2005.
In the days that followed, Tuyen said, the ministry continuously received phone calls from international organizations and embassies to ask for the ministry's confirmation.
The minister informed he only warned local businesses of difficulties in negotiations at the trade conference and said it would be difficult, but not impossible, for Vietnam to conclude negotiations for WTO entrance at the global trade body's ministerial conference in Hong Kong in December this year.
Last week, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Le Dzung confirmed that negotiations on the country's bid to the global trade body are making progress. He, however, did not mention the exact time that the country may join the organization.  
Vietnam is now preparing for the 10th bilateral negotiation round to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, later this month.
To join the global trade body, Vietnam has to hold bilateral negotiations with 27 partners and two or three more multilateral negotiations. To date, the country has concluded negotiations with the European Union, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Singapore.
The nation is expected to conclude bilateral negotiations with the US in June or July on occasion of Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's trip to the US. (Vietnam Women Mar 7 p11, Thanhniennews.com Mar 5)

Vietnam Invites More Talks with US on Religious Issues
Vietnam and the US should promote the exchanges of information on religious issues for better mutual understanding and the former will create conditions for officials of the US Embassy to make fact-finding tours in the Southeast Asian country, said Vietnam Deputy Police Minister.
Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Huong made the statement when talking with roving ambassador of the US State Department on religious issues, John Hanford, on March 6 in Hanoi.  
Huong, who is a member of the Party Central Committee, told the visitor that the US collected wrongful information about the religious situation in Vietnam from bad elements to accuse the government of religious suppression. The fact the US included Vietnam in the list of 'countries of particular concern' regarding religious issues showed that several US organizations still lacked goodwill towards the building of fine relations between the two countries.
There are no 'religious prisoners' in Vietnam, Huong said in response to Hanford's comments that the US is interested in the so-called 'religious prisoners', the strict implementation of the PM decree in localities, the organization and registration of those people who want to follow Protestantism and several figures described as 'maltreated' by the US.
Vietnam has not prosecuted anyone who desired to follow a certain religion, the deputy minister confirmed, adding that those described as 'religious prisoners' by the US were religious followers who violated Vietnamese laws.
For Protestantism, Huong added, "during the past years, the Vietnamese State has issued many preferential policies and created favorable conditions for Protestants to get involved in poverty reduction programs and religious activities". "The number of Protestants in the country has increased from several tens of thousands before 1975 to more than 600,000 at present", he pointed out.
The Vietnamese official also asked the US government to take action to prevent reactionary Vietnamese forces residing in the US, particularly terrorist Nguyen Huu Chanh, from carrying out sabotage acts against Vietnam.
In response, the roving ambassador informed that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation launched probes into Nguyen Huu Chanh's activities and gathered important information regarding his activities. He asked Vietnam to supply more information about Nguyen Huu Chanh and other reactionary organizations.
Early last week, Vietnam once again strongly rejected the US State Department's Human Rights Report from 2004 which included religious matters.
The Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Le Dzung pointed out that the Vietnamese government has issued many legal documents providing conditions for different religious groups to carry out their activities, in particular the Prime Minister's recent instructions about the Vietnam Evangelical Church. (People's Police Mar 8 p1, VOV Mar 8)

Vietnam May Raise Foreign Stake Holding Ratio at Local Firms
Vietnam's Ministry of Finance (MoF) recently submitted to the prime minister a plan ot increase the capital contribution ratio and the stake holding of foreign investors in local enterprises, said Deputy Finance Minister Le Thi Bang Tam.
Prevailing laws stipulate that foreign investors in some fields are allowed to contribute capital or buy stakes in Vietnamese businesses at the maximum rate of 30% of total chartered capital.

In the short-term, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) is expected to announce a list of specific fields which allow foreign investors to take a maximum 30% equity stake in domestic businesses.
In addition, the MoF will propose the prime minister amend current regulations in order to allow foreign investors to buy an unlimited volume of shares and work as strategic shareholders for Vietnamese businesses, which are not subject to the aforementioned list. (VietStock Mar 7) 
Vietnam Approves More Sensitive Songs for Public Use
The Vietnamese music authority has announced a list of 99 more songs composed by musicians living in the US-backed regime in Southern Vietnam in the pre-1975 period and overseas Vietnamese to be permitted for public use in the country.
The decision brings the total number of songs by such composers to 850, according to the Performance Arts Department under the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Among the newly approved songs are many compositions that have become popular among both overseas and domestic citizens. These include songs such as: Duong xa uot mua (Long Road in the Rain); Nguoi tinh tram nam (Lifetime lover) by Duc Huy; Con duong mau xanh (Blue Road) by Trinh Nam Son; Muoi sau mat nai (Na´ve 16-year-old); Nho me Viet Nam (Missing Vietnamese Mother) by Jimmi Nguyen; and Niem khuc cuoi (Last Prayer) by Ngo Thuy Mien.
The new list also includes two songs by late renowned songwriter Trinh Cong Son.
In an interview with local Tien Phong newspaper, Le Ngoc Cuong, head of the Performance Arts Department, admitted that the number of songs allowed for public performance is tiny compared to the total songs composed by such two groups of musicians. Unofficial statistics count approximately 30,000 songs written by southern Vietnamese songwriters before 1975 and tens of thousands others by overseas colleagues.
Cuong emphasized, however, that many songs with anti-government and unhealthy content would not be permitted for publication.
Vietnam currently bans the publication of biographies and careers of musicians and song composers living in the US-backed regime in the southern part of the country in the pre-1975 period as well as works by those living abroad whose political stance is not clear.
The Communist-ruled administration is constantly blamed for such bureaucratic, conservative and discriminating attitudes, which strip local audiences off the right to enjoy many musical masterpieces.
Many say the Vietnamese authorities are still trapped in a wartime prejudice, although nearly 30 years have passed since the war ended with the reunification of North and South Vietnam under the Communist rule in April 1975. (Pioneer Mar 7 p9, Vietnam Panorama) 


Four laws to be passed for WTO bid

7/Mar/2005 Tuoi Tre page 1The 26th session of the NA Standing Committee met on March 4, chaired by chair of the National Assembly Nguyen Van An to hear the government's report on adjusting and supplementing some law and ordinance projects into the legislation programme for World Trade Organisation membership negotiations.

The government requested the NA Standing Committee to offer opinions on some other laws, including the revised Law of Appeal and Denouncement, Law on Lawyers, Law on Personal Income Tax and Law on Securities and issue the two ordinances on standardisation and forex this year, rather than in 2006 as planned.