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US Diplomats Visit Vietnam's Sensitive Central Highlands

A delegation of the Ho Chi Minh City-based US Consulate General led by Consul General Seth D. Winnics has traveled to the central highlands Gia Lai province to inquire into socio-economic development and religious and ethnic issues in the restless region, which witnessed massive ethnic riots in February 2001 and April 2004.

This is the first US delegation to travel to the highly sensitive Central Highlands or Tay Nguyen this year and the third since the unrest early last year.

Provincial Chairman Pham The Dzung briefed the US guests on the province's achievements, covering the improvement of local peoples' living conditions and the sharp reduction in the number of ethnic minority people living under the poverty line.


Dzung said 95% of school age children are attending school and that all villagers have access to health care services.


Investment has been poured into building infrastructure facilities in rural areas, especially in the ethnic minority inhabited localities and extremely poor communes, to boost local economic development, the Vietnamese official noted.


Dzung also said that followers of Protestantism, Catholism, Buddhism, and Caodaism are living in harmony in the province. They all enjoy religious freedom, which can be observed through the official establishment of 17 Protestant chapters.


All religious followers are living peaceful lives with the motto of living the gospel amid the nation. Many pagodas and churches were built with the province's funding to facilitate followers' religious practices.


Dzung told the US guests that those elements who, under a religious cloak, incited local people to cause disorder in the locality, were detained and re-educated by the provincial authorities. The move, Dzung said, can be seen in any nation of the world.


The US Consul General spoke highly of the assistance the local authorities have given to ethnic minority people and expressed his pleasure at the peaceful atmosphere enjoyed by religious followers during grand festivals. He affirmed that the US Government had never supported any extreme organizations with plots to overthrow the government of any nation in the world, including Vietnam.


He also expressed his wish to have another chance to visit Gia Lai villages in order to see with his own eyes the changes to villages inhabited by the ethnic minority people.

During the two-day visit, the delegation visited the Gia Lai Newspaper headquarters and discussed with local correspondents the lawsuit against the US chemical companies filed by the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange and Vietnamese Agent Orange/dioxin victims. They also discussed information on the Central Highlands reported by western news agencies.


The delegation, which will stay in Gia Lai until March 16, plans to meet with representatives of the local Protestant, religious, and ethnic minority boards and visit the provincial boarding school for ethnic minority children.


Last year, six foreign delegations traveled to the region, which also comprises four other provinces of Lam Dong, Dak Lak, Kon Tum and Dak Nong. The delegations include foreign media representatives, Vatican officials, and foreign diplomats from the US and several other countries. The Vietnamese government tightly monitored all of the trips.


The Central Highlands is considered the most troubled area in Vietnam where most local hill-tribe ethnic people are now still trapped in poverty and are prone to being deceived by hostile forces to protest against the government and state.

Thousands of hill-tribe ethnic people in the region (loosely known as Montagnards) have fled to Cambodia following massive anti-government protests in February 2001 and in April 2004. More than 1,000 of them were already granted asylum in the US while another 750 are living in residential camps in Cambodia, according to international sources.


The Vietnamese government has repeatedly blamed Ksor Kok and his US-based Montagnard Foundation Inc. (MFI) for instigating and masterminding such reactionary activities.


However, historians and sociologists say the root of the instability in the region is a lack of land for native ethnic minorities resulting from government policies to use a large areas of fertile forestland for industrial crops and to allow many Kinh majority people to migrate into the region. (People's Army Mar 16 p8, Young People Mar 16 p2, VNA, Vietnam Panorama)

US Insurance Broker Marsh Officially Opens Vietnam Branch
Marsh Inc., one of the world's leading risk specialists and insurance brokers, has opened a full branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's economic hub, to benefit from the local insurance market, which saw annual growth of 30% during the past 11 years.
"We see real and attractive growth opportunities in Vietnam for Marsh. We are prepared to invest and capitalise on these opportunities and to provide innovative service to a wider range of clients," Marsh president William Malloy said at the opening ceremony.
Vietnam Deputy Minister of Finance Le Thi Bang Tam said Vietnam was one of the fastest growing and most stable insurance markets in the region and the world, with annual insurance revenue growth averaging about 30%.
In the past decade, the insurance market has gained steady growth, she said, adding the industry's revenues rose from 0.37% of GDP in 1993 to 1.86% (equivalent to $900 million) last year. The figure is expected to rise to 2.5% at the end this year and 4.2% by 2010.
The company opened a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City in 1998 and will open another office in Hanoi later this year, said Marsh Vietnam head Gary Leong.
In Vietnam there are currently 28 insurance companies, with six of them providing insurance broking services, Tam said, adding insurance revenues collected via brokers totaled VND580 billion ($37 million) in 2004. (Vietnam Economic Times Mar 16 p2, Saigon Times Daily Mar 15 p1, VNS Mar 16 p15, Young People Mar 15 p2)
Vietnam Cuts Down Petroleum Import Tariffs to 0%
Vietnam's Ministry of Finance yesterday signed a decision to reduce the import tax on several petroleum products to 0% from 5%, effective from today [March 16], according to local media.
The free tax items include leaded gasoline, non-lead gasoline and other light oil products.
This is for the third time this year the MoF has amended the petroleum import tariffs. It had raised the tax from 0% to 15% from January 6 and then reduced to 5% from February 6.
The reason for the tax cut is contributed to the continual crude oil price rise in the global market, Quach Duc Phap, head of the Finance Ministry's Tax Policy Department, said.
"This move also helps local petroleum importers curtail losses and ease oil price rise pressures in the local market," he added.
Phap said his ministry is controlling import tariffs so that domestic prices would keep in step with global trends without frequent adjustments.
Oil climbed 27% to $55.22 a barrel in New York yesterday, to approach last October's all-time high of $55.67 while in London Brent crude for April delivery increased by 23% to $53.89, not far off last week's record price of $54.3.
Crude oil prices are forecast to continue escalating in the coming days, Phap said.
In May 2004, the MoF also removed import duties on gasoline, condensates, kerosene, diesel, naphtha and reformate when the oil prices in the world market surged.
Vietnam, the sixth largest crude oil exporter in Asia, has to import almost all refined petroleum products to feed the national energy consumption because it has no refineries.
Vietnam plans to import 2.9 million metric tons of petroleum products in the first quarter this year, up from 2.87 million tons in the first quarter of last year.
In 2004, it was estimated to import 10.87 million of refined oil, up 9.2% against 2003. (Vnexpress Mar 15, Liberated Saigon Mar 16 p1, Capital Security Mar 16 p1, HCM City Law Mar 16 p2, VNS Mar 15 p15) 
Vietnam Becomes Fifth Largest Footwear Exporter to US
Vietnam currently ranks fifth among footwear exporters to the US, after China, Italy, Brazil, and Indonesia, with a share of around 2% of US imports, said the Ministry of Trade.
Despite accounting for 9% of Vietnam's total export turnover to the US, the footwear sector has been seeing stable annual growth rate of 40-50% since the Vietnam-US Trade Agreement became effective in 2002.
In 2002, Vietnam was the eighth largest footwear exporter to US market but now it has exceeded Thailand, Mexico and Spain to reach the fifth position with export footwear products being mainly produced by foreign-invested companies.
Vietnam has also become the world's fourth largest footwear exporter, following China, Hong Kong and Italy, with total export revenues reaching $2.6 billion last year, up 15% against 2003. The sector also exceeded its target sales by $100 million last year.
The country has around 380 leather and footwear enterprises, which are capable of annually producing around 480 million pairs of shoes and slippers and 37 million other leather products, such as handbags. Among the enterprises, 148 are foreign-invested, mainly owned by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean investors.
The country hopes to earn $4-5 billion from footwear exports each year after Vietnam becomes an official member of World Trade Organization (WTO) and $6.2 billion in 2010. (Investment Mar 16 p2)  
80 Garment Firms Denied Quotas to Supply US
Eighty Vietnamese garment exporters will be denied quotas to the US because of insufficient information, reported the Ministry of Trade last Friday.
The firms however still have a chance to receive quotas late this month for exports as long as they provide the required paperwork and are deemed, said the ministry.
Companies engaging in illegal export activities will either have their quotas revoked or cut, and also face fines.
The ministry's six import-export departments, including those in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong city, will grant quotas directly to small companies that export less than 20 dozen items or 120 kg.
Also late last week, the Ministries of Trade and Industry officially issued rules on exports to the US to clothing exporters. The Trade Ministry will spend about 5% of the total quota volume this year for group enterprises.
Vietnam is expected to earn a total of between $1.2-1.4 billion from garment and textiles exports to the US market in the first six months of this year, according to the two ministries. (VNS Mar 15 p16) 
Boeing Helps Vietnam Train Aviation Engineers
The US Boeing Aviation coordinated with the Singapore Aviation Component Manufacturing Co. (SAM) to introduce a common training program for 50 Vietnamese engineers in order to build the aviation component manufacturing industry in Vietnam.
In the 18-month program, learners will attend SAM's basic training course in Singapore and have one-month practice in Boeing's bases in the US.
The Boeing company aims to find solutions to cooperate with suppliers and other partners to help Vietnam develop this industry, said Christopher Flink, the company's executive superior.
"Human resource is the most important factor for any industry", he said. Therefore, the two companies coordinate open training courses for Vietnamese aviation engineers.
This is preparation for when they return to work in a manufacturing base that SAM will set up in Vietnam.
At present, Boeing is supplying the aircraft for Vietnam's national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines. The company also cooperates with other partners in Vietnam to develop Vietnam's aviation sector and support non-profit organizations to bring better life for Vietnamese people. (Vietnam & World Economy Mar 16 p5) 


Administration Seeks More Time for Religious Freedom Talks With Vietnam,
Eritrea, Saudi Arabia

15 March 2005
State Department

The Bush administration is asking Congress for more time to pursue talks with Vietnam, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia on improving their record on respect for religious freedom. The three countries could be subject to U.S. sanctions after being named as major violators of religious freedom in a State Department report last September.
Officials here say the Bush administration is asking Congress for a few more weeks to continue what are seen as productive contacts with Vietnam, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia aimed at resolving U.S. concerns about their records on religious freedom.
All three were added to a list of so-called Countries of Particular Concern in the State Department's annual report on the status of religious freedom around the world, issued last September.
Under the 1998 act of Congress that required the annual State Department assessments, the administration had up to six months to discuss shortcomingswith the countries cited, and to propose punitive steps against those that did not take or promise action to address U.S. concerns.
At a news briefing Tuesday, the six-month anniversary of the report, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the administration was seeking a little extra time because some important progress has been made in diplomatic contacts with the three countries.
"As you know, in September we designated Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam as Countries of Particular Concern," he said.  "Since that time, we've been actively engaged with all three in working for improvements in respect for religious freedom in those countries. We've made some important progress. I think we're close to arrangements that respond to issues raised in the report.
And we think that with a little bit more time, we can take care of some of the issues."
Mr. Ereli said the degree of progress varied among the three countries. A senior diplomat who spoke to reporters here said the most promising discussions had been with Vietnam, where the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom John Hanford held talks with senior officials last week. The government in Hanoi has recently taken steps to improve its international image including releasing at least two high-profile dissidents as part of a prisoner release to mark the Lunar New Year.
It has also said it would allow previously-banned Protestant house churches to operate in the Central Highlands region, provided they sever ties with an exile group Hanoi considers a separatist movement.
Last September's State Department report said that despite nominal guarantees for religious freedom, Vietnam significantly restricted activities of religious groups not recognized by the government.
It said Eritrea's poor record on the issue continued to worsen last year with the government monitoring, harassing and arresting members of Evangelical Christian groups.
In Saudi Arabia, the report said flatly that freedom of religion does not exist, and that freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sponsored version of Sunni Islam.
Under questioning, spokesman Ereli said he could not say that Saudi Arabia had become a more tolerant society since the September report, but he said there had been good discussions with Saudi officials, and what he termed real engagement on the issue.
The U.S. law setting up the religion reports provides for a variety of sanctions against those listed as Countries of Particular Concern, but it also allows for a waiver of penalties if the administration deems that to be in the U.S. national interest.
In September, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea were added to the list, while Iraq was removed.
Burma, China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan remained on the list, all of which are already subject to some U.S. sanctions.


U.S. seeks more time on religion report

Published March 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has asked Congress for more time on actions against countries of concern with respect to religious freedom, including Saudi Arabia.

In its September report on global religious freedom, the department designated Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam as countries of particular concern. A range of U.S. sanctions are mandated against the countries under the International Religious Freedom Act. The act allows waivers, however.

"We've been actively engaged with all three in working for improvements in respect for religious freedom in those countries," deputy department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

He cited "some important progress" of "varying degrees" with those countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed particular concern at the lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the Arab world.

Ereli noted all the countries had taken "some actions" since September.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vietnam had made the most progress. The department has asked Congress for a few more weeks, the official said, but would not elaborate.


US Urged to Target Vietnam over Religious Persecution

Mar 15, 2005
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Human rights activists are urging the U.S. government to announce punitive measures against Vietnam for religious rights violations, arguing that recent steps by Hanoi to improve its image were insufficient.
Tuesday marks the deadline for the State Department to recommend to Congress and the president actions against Vietnam, as well as Saudi Arabia and Eritrea. Six months ago the three were added to a list of "countries of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act, and the State Department has been consulting with the governments ahead of the deadline.
If Vietnam does not respond to U.S. government concerns by the time the consultation period ends on March 15, the CPC designation carries statutory penalties, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
In what has been seen as a bid to stave off sanctions, Hanoi in recent weeks released some religious prisoners and announced some concessions relating to Protestant groups' activities.

Critics are unimpressed.

"Despite a few well-timed goodwill gestures ... Vietnam has in all other respects continued its exceptionally repressive policies," said Human Rights Watch director for Asia, Brad Adams. "Vietnam is notorious for persecuting and imprisoning believers of religions who attempt to peacefully and independently practice their faith." Among the groups targeted by the communist authorities are Protestant Christians belonging to the Hmong and Montagnard ethnic minorities, Mennonites, and independent Buddhists. Several Roman Catholic priests remain in prison. Last month, Hanoi included four prominent religious rights campaigners among more than 8,000 prisoners freed in a Lunar New Year amnesty. Several weeks later the government announced new "instructions" on Protestantism. It said that Protestant churches in Central Highlands, home to the Montagnards, and the northwest provinces, where Hmong live, would now be allowed to operate,
on condition they renounced links to groups accused of organizing anti-government protests.
According to a report by the official Voice of Vietnam, the government complained that "Protestants in the Central Highlands are often incited by Fulro reactionaries while those in the northwest are superstitious followers." (Fulro is French for the United Struggle Front for the Oppressed Races, a resistance group which fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War.) The government said such "unrecognized sects" should register with local officials, and would be recognized if they met "necessary conditions." The USCIRF, an independent, statutory body set up to make policy recommendations relating to religious freedom, said the prisoner releases and guidelines onProtestant churches were "positive steps" but did not go far enough.
"The instructions remain qualified and vague and open to interpretation by local government officials and public security forces," commented commission chairwoman, Preeta Bansal. Adams said under the new directive religious groups still had to obtain permission to function, "advancing Vietnam's official stance that religious freedom is a privilege to be requested and granted by the government, rather than a fundamental human right." Vietnamese-American activists want the administration to take steps against Hanoi.
In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vietnamese-American Public Affairs Committee (VPAC) president Bing Vo said the group supported USCIRF suggestions that Vietnamese officials responsible for violations should be identified and refused entry into the U.S. It also urged the State Department to dedicate up to one million dollars in funding to programs directly promoting religious freedom in Vietnam. "These are not economic sanctions, but targeted responses that directly address the problem," Vo said. Another U.S.-based campaigner, Kok Ksor of the Montagnard Foundation, asked the administration to take "concrete action" that would send a clear message to Hanoi.
"We understand the world is complicated and politics is difficult but we just want to see that our people's voice is raised so that we are not forgotten," Ksor wrote in a letter to President Bush and Rice.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 180 Montagnard Christians have been arrested and jailed since 2001, "many on charges that they are violent separatists using their religion to 'sow divisions among the people' and 'undermine state and party unity'."
Past attempts to link U.S. aid to Vietnam to that country's human rights record ran into opposition from Sen. John Kerry.
Four years ago the Massachusetts Democrat, who was chairman of the foreign relations committee's East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee, blocked legislation that had passed the House of Representatives by a 410-1 vote, arguing that denying aid to Hanoi would be counterproductive.



Mar 15, 2005

A mass campaign to support an ongoing lawsuit against manufacturers of the defoliant used by American forces during the Vietnam War has gained widespread support in the country.
According to official figures impossible to verify, more than 11.5 million people have added their signatures to a campaign launched by the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA), and hundreds of thousands more have shown their support online. "We've received active participation from the people, from pupils to state employees", said the VAVA vice-president, Nguyen Trong Nhan.
Between 1961 and 1971, the US sprayed tens of millions of liters of herbicides over South Vietnam to destroy the vegetation that communist Viet Cong forces used for cover and food. Agent Orange was the most common.
Vietnam says many people's health problems and deformities were caused by the defoliant, which contains toxic dioxins which some say spread through the food chain, causing birth defects. The exact number of victims has never been seriously assessed.
Since the end of their war in 1975, Hanoi and Washington have managed to resolve most of the issues that divided them and most of their disputes are economic. But the painful question of dealing with the victims of defoliants used by the US military is yet to be answered.
The lawsuit, filed by VAVA on behalf of millions of Vietnamese in the US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the 37 chemical companies that produced the agent, which contains highly toxic dioxins.
The case also has an echo in the international community. A two-day international conference focusing on the long-term effects of the defoliant opened last week in Paris.
Len Aldis, of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society which created the website which has gathered 680,000 online signatures in support, regards the US Justice Department's call as "nonsensical and dangerous".
"It is clear that the [American] government is afraid. They fear the lawsuit will expose the truth.
"The companies did manufacture Agent Orange, and they knew the effects it would have. As did the US government when they bought the chemical and ordered its use on the people and land of Vietnam".
In 1984, in a class action settlement with no admission of liability, the manufacturers agreed to pay 180 million dollars to US war veterans who died or became ill after exposure to Agent Orange or other defoliants.
"We haven't calculated how much com pensation we would receive if we win the case, but no matter how big it is, nothing can compensate for the victims' ordeal", Nhan said.
"Don't be afraid of us. We will not seek revenge. But we are seriously hurt. Please, help us", Nhan quoted victims as saying.


Vietnam defoliant ruling to be appealed

March 15 2005

LAWYERS representing four million Vietnamese who are claiming compensation from US chemical companies will appeal against a ruling that the use of Agent Orange defoliant during the Vietnam conflict was not a war crime.
US forces sprayed 21 million gallons of the dioxin-laden, carcinogenic defoliant designed to deprive communist forces of jungle cover and crops between 1962 and 1971.
A federal judge ruled last Thursday the plaintiffs could not prove their illnesses were caused by exposure to Agent Orange and herbicides could not be classed as weapons and banned under the international rules of war.
Lawyers for Monsanto, Dow Chemicals and a dozen other companies argued they should not be punished for supplying products on the ultimate orders of US presidents as commanders-in-chief and that corporations were exempt from liability for alleged war crimes.
The justice department said in court a ruling against them could cripple the president's power to direct the military.
William Goodman, one of the lawyers representing the Vietnamese claimants, said the judge had made a clear error in deciding Agent Orange was not a poison and an appeal would be lodged soon.
More than 10,000 US war veterans receive medical disability benefits related to exposure to the herbicide.


Anti-dumping decision portends shakeup in global sourcing; China, Taiwan,
Vietnam look to Europe.(The statistics issue: what the numbers tell us)

1 March 2005
Bicycle Retailer

Will they or won't they? The big question mark looming over the global industry is whether the European Union will enact new anti-dumping duties on Chinese and Vietnamese bicycles.
Executives on both sides of the globe await the answer with a mixture of hope and dread.
The announcement should come some time next month. Whichever path the European Union chooses, its decision will trigger major changes in the industry. Taiwanese producers with ties to Vietnam and China have contingency plans ready. If Europe imposes high duties on Chinese and Vietnamese bikes, expect Asian production to shift toward Taiwan. If Europe imposes low or no additional duties, expect significantly greater output from those lower-cost countries and for Taiwan to concentrate even more on high-end, high-value products. Higher duties also would make the European Union's new members more attractive, and not only to European companies. Japan's Shimano has a factory in the Czech Republic, and Taiwan's Ideal has one
in Poland. Tellingly, an Ideal executive recently estimated Ideal's Polish factory workers earn about double its Chinese workers' wages but only about 60 percent of what Ideal's Taiwanese employees earn.
Moderate labor costs, barrier-free trade and proximity to a large market could help tip sourcing toward Eastern Europe.
China. Chinese bicycle factories continue to feed the world's hunger for inexpensive two-wheelers, producing an estimated 70 million to 75 million units per year. About one-third of those go to its shrinking but still significant domestic market.
Meanwhile, export numbers just keep climbing--from 35 million bikes in 2001 to 46 million in 2002 to nearly 51 million in 2003, according to figures from Chinas General Customs Office, as reported in Cycle Press magazine.
Chinese exports were on track to edge up globally again in 2004, but remained stable in the United States, China's largest customer. U.S. Commerce Department figures pegged U.S. imports at 18 million Chinese-made units in 2002 and 17.1 million in 2003, hitting 17.2 million in 2004, 94 percent of all U.S. imports.
And, in spite of current anti-dumping duties, China exported 653,000 bicycles to the European Union in 2003.
China's customs office reported that the country's exports were worth around $1.5 billion in 2003, up from $1.3 billion in 2002.
Average sales prices differed sharply by destination, ranging from under $14 to more than $45. The overall average was $28.36 per unit.
Changes may be coming, however. Higher anti-dumping duties could be the catalyst that speeds the evolution, but Taiwanese manufacturers with mainland factories already see Chinese labor costs creeping up. Furthermore, the Chinese government is now shifting its investment incentives away from traditional torch-and-metal manufacturing to high-tech electronics industries. China will no doubt remain a powerhouse in the global bicycle industry, but other Asian nations have competitive labor costs, remain open to new factories, encourage investment with various enticements, and have favorable trade relations with Europe.
Taiwan. Strategic thinking is paying off in Taiwan. 
Taiwanese manufacturers watched exports slide from a high of 9.5 million bicycles in 1996 to 3.9 million in 2003. But they bounced back to 4.4 million last year.
Especially critical to long-term plans laid out by the A-Team, an industry consortium, Taiwanese builders staked out the high-end, independent channel while cutting costs and adding value, consistently boosting their products' worth.
The total export value in 1996 was $982 million, and average sale price barely topped $100. In 2003, the total value was $583 million, but average sale price was $150. For 2004, those figures are $720 million and $164, respectively, according to the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters' Association. Taiwanese exports to the U.S. through October 2004, the latest breakout reported, reached 703,000 units with an average sales price of $203. Exports to an expanded European Union topped 2 million units, with an average sales price of $137.
Vietnam. Taiwanese manufacturers invested in Vietnam for several reasons: labor costs were lower than China's, Vietnamese government incentives, and the nation's favorable trade status with the European Union. As new factories came on line, production geared up. Europe remains its largest market, and Vietnam shipped 577,000 bikes there in 2001, 726,000 in 2002 and an astounding 1.37 million in 2003, displacing Poland
as the second largest exporter to Europe, according to COLIBI, the European manufacturers' association.
The average price of a bike Vietnam shipped to mainland Europe slipped from about $140 in 2002 to $106 in 2003, according to Bike Europe magazine. Results of the European Union's anti-dumping investigation could send Vietnam's production spiraling--up or down.
European Union. Ten eastern European countries joined the European Union's existing 15 members in 2004, increasing the EU population by some 100 million people.
Shimano Europe's analysis revealed that the new member states' consumers purchase up to 6 million bicycles annually, which will bring EU consumption to about 22 million units.
Eastern riders prefer city and trekking bikes, accounting for about half the market. Mountain bikes are the second largest segment at 25 percent. Although their economies chug along at about half that of the western EU average, they also yearn for quality products, name brands, and jobs. In 2003, the original EU countries enjoyed a busy year. Domestic production topped 10.3 million units and consumption grew by nearly 1 million to 16.6 million units, according to COLIBI and Bike Europe. The EU imported 8 million units from non-member countries. The United Kingdom, with virtually no remaining domestic industry, imported 3.28 million or 41 percent of total imports. EU exports increased 20 percent, to 5.2 million units.
Chinese Exports
of Complete Bicycles, 2003

Country                  Units      Value/$1,000   $/ASP

United States          18,624,645      537,729     28.87
Japan                   7,380,502      335,797     45.50
United Arab Emirates    1,859,063       27,873     14.99
Indonesia               1,703,696       35,458     20.81
Korea                   1,540,391       49,692     32.26
Hong Kong               1,504,772       33,198     22.06
Russia                  1,444,875       44,448     30.76
All Others             16,778,708      377,332     22.49

2003 Total             50,836,652    1,441,527     28.36
2002 Total             46,564,640    1,279,126     28.07

Sources: General Customs Office of China, Cycle Press

EXPORTS 1995-2004

Year   No. Units   Value (U.S.$)

1995   9,064,129   $1.06 billion
1996   9,503,365    $982 million
1997   8,955,424    $873 million
1998   9,388,311    $897 million
1999   7,782,869    $760 million
2000   7,534,350    $821 million
2001   4,796,148    $536 million
2002   4,219,038    $524 million
2003   3,882,835    $583 million
2004   4,385,000    $720 million

Source: Taiwan Bicycle Exporters' Association

Taiwan Exports of Complete Bicycles, 2003

Country            Units     Value/$1,000   $/ASP

United States      825,034     154,280       87.00
United Kingdom     557,149      56,164      100.81
Japan              431,081      46,047      106.82
Germany            341,929      51,428      150.41
Belgium            289,688      47,653      164.50
Netherlands        211,640      48,687      230.05
Sweden             182,094      16,182       88.87
All Others       1,044,220     162,530      155.65
2003 Total       3,883,835     582,973      150.14
2002 Total       4,219,038     523,835      124.16

Source: Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association

World Players on the Bicycle Stage

                    Production                   Imports

Area      1999   2000   2001   2002   2003    1999   2000   2001

China     42.7   52.2   51.2     63      73    N/A    N/A    N/A
Taiwan     8.4    8.0    5.0    4.4     4.3    N/A    N/A    N/A
EU        12.1   12.3   10.5   10.2   10.38    5.3    5.6    4.9
USA        1.7   0.88   0.91   0.41    0.35   16.3   20.3   16.4
Japan      5.6    4.7   4.18   3.08    2.51    4.3    6.2   7.09
Italy      3.2    3.2   2.65   2.35    2.55    0.2    0.2   0.45
Germany    3.2    3.3   2.99   3.05    3.19    1.9    2.0    1.8
France     1.0    1.9    1.6   1.42    1.49    1.3    1.4    1.1

           Imports                  Exports

Area      2002    2003   1999   2000   2001    2002    2003

China       N/A    N/A   22.7   32.8   34.94   46.09   50.84
Taiwan      N/A    N/A    7.8   7.53    4.80     4.2    3.88
EU        6.297   7.98    3.5    3.9    3.63    4.32    5.19
USA        19.3   18.2    0.2   0.18    0.14    0.13    0.09
Japan      8.33    8.7    0.4   0.56    0.56    0.65    0.87
Italy      0.45   0.36    2.1   1.75    1.41    1.38    1.56
Germany       2   1.62    0.2   0.25    0.23    0.26    0.51
France     1.45   0.16    0.3   0.33     0.3   0.374    0.53


Red tape widens in HCM City

15/Mar/2005 Saigon Giai PhongRed tape is increasing and widespread, said deputy justice minister Uong Chu Luu, deputy head of project on fighting against bureaucracy, at a seminar on situation and fight against red tape in HCM City on March 14.

A survey with seven provinces and three ministries revealed that red tape is found in all the surveyed fields. Red tape is not only found among senior officials but also those who are assigned with tasks. They all are in cahoots to harass people and seek benefit for themselves.


Intel eyes Vietnam for investment

15/Mar/2005 Thanh NienVietnam is among countries into which Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, looks to invest by setting up a production plant, a company executive said March 15. Vietnam meets every single condition Intel demands for investment, said Tran Trong Phuc, chief executive of Intel Vietnam, a subsidiary of the California-based global chip giant.

However, Phuc said Intel is waiting to know about the Vietnamese government's investment incentives for the company before making a decision.


Boeing advances Vietnam's goal of aviation manufacturing industry

15/Mar/2005 I-Newswire - press releaseThe Boeing Co [NYSE: BA] and Singapore  Aerospace Manufacturing (SAM) today unveiled a joint training programme, for select Vietnamese engineers, that will advance Vietnam 's goal of establishing an aviation manufacturing industry.

Christopher Flint, country executive for Vietnam--Boeing Commercial  Airplanes, and Jeffrey Goh, president--SAM, led their respective delegations in the announcement here.


Reporter faces wrath of health ministry over corruption allegation

14/Mar/2005 Tuoi TreIn January, a reporter from the mass daily newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) was placed under house arrest by Hanoi police. Reporter Thi Lan Anh was accused of stealing "state top secrets" of the Ministry of

Health and is now facing prosecution. The upcoming at court trial is drawing  a lot of concern of not only journalists but also civil libertarians who say there is nor reason for a trial. In 2004, the government issued a resolution calling on the press to expose corruption by officials, but perhaps this is  not what was intended.


Jica funds US$4m for intellectual property rights

15/Mar/2005 VietnamnetThe National Intellectual Property Office and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) have begun a US$$4 million application project in intellectual property rights.

The project entitled Applying IT to Intellectual Property Rights in Vietnam  would be implemented form now to 2009.