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Vietnam Vows to Push for WTO Accession By January 2005, Puts Forward New Offers

BNA, International Trade Reporter
o. 239 Friday December 12, 2003     Page A-5
ISSN 1523-567X, Regulation & Law 

GENEVA--Vietnam will accelerate efforts to complete its World Trade Organization accession negotiations so that the country can become a member of the global trading body by 2005, the country's top negotiator promised Dec. 10. Speaking at a meeting of the WTO's working party on Vietnamese accession Dec. 11, Vice Minister for Trade Luong Van Tu also outlined to WTO members his government's latest offers for opening its goods and services markets to foreign exporters and investors. Tu, who serves as Vietnam's chief negotiator on WTO accession, said the proposals include an offer to reduce average tariff rates by 4.5 percent to 22 percent on average and to make market access commitments in ten service sectors and 92 sub-sectors. No details were given on which sectors would be open to foreign firms.

Tu said in order to accelerate both the multilateral and bilateral negotiating process, Vietnam wanted the working party to hold three negotiating sessions in 2004 so that the country could join the WTO at the start of 2005.

The working party session was the seventh to be held since Vietnam applied for WTO membership in January 1995.

 Legislative Action Plan
Vietnam provided WTO members with a legislative action plan, under which some laws needed to bring its practices in compliance with WTO requirements would not be adopted until 2007. Quizzed by the United States and other WTO members how it could join the WTO in 2005 while necessary legislation was still pending, Vietnamese officials said the government was prepared to ensure its actions would comply with its WTO commitments, even if it conflicted with existing laws, according to officials who attended the meeting. U.S. officials expressed concerns about missing information from Vietnam concerning its existing trade practices and questioned whether members should continue drafting a working party report in light of the absent details. The report, outlining a country's current trade practices and steps it will take to ensure compliance with its WTO commitments, is one of the key elements of the final accession package.

 Clash Over Commitments
Vietnam clashed with a number of WTO members over some of the commitments it said it was willing to make. Vietnam said it wanted to retain the right to provide export subsidies for agricultural goods, while members of the Cairns Group of farm exporting countries insisted that Vietnam agree to the elimination of such subsidies. The United States, the European Union, and others complained about Vietnam's application of import bans on some products that are being sold domestically, as well as additional duties and charges on imports other than tariffs. Several members also raised concerns about Vietnam's claim that it should be classified as a low-income/highly indebted country and that it should therefore be able to take advantage of special provisions for such countries under the WTO agreements, such as the right to subsidize exported industrial and consumer goods. The EU, however, said that Vietnam's accession terms should reflect both its current competitiveness on the global market as well as its future potential.  


By Daniel Pruzin