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Vietnamís Ministry of Trade hosted Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Josette Shiner, and Director for Southeast Asia & APEC Affairs, Elena Bryan, in Hanoi July 21-23.  The delegation from USTR were in Hanoi to discuss BTA implementation and Vietnam's WTO accession.   The U.S. side recently conducted bilateral and multilateral talks with Vietnam in June 2004 in conjunction with Vietnamís 8th Working Party meeting in Geneva.   The next round of bilateral negotiations is expected to be held in October 2004. 

In preparation for these meetings, USVTC has prepared an updated issues paper  and USVTC Report - "The U.S.-Vietnam BTA: Survey of U.S. Companies on  Implementation Issues"  (last updated 10 May 2004) for USTR's consideration. 

Associated Press
U.S. Offers to Back Vietnam's WTO Bid
07.24.2004, 07:32 PM

Vietnam has made strong progress in its efforts to join the World Trade Organization and Washington has offered to support its membership bid, a senior U.S. trade representative said on Saturday.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Josette Sheeran Shiner, on a four-day official visit to Hanoi, said Vietnam's latest trade liberalization offer to Geneva-based WTO last month was a good sign of its commitment.

"Vietnam put forward a very serious offer," she said. "It definitely advanced the process."

Hanoi has repeatedly stated its goal of joining by 2005, though WTO officials have said it won't make the Jan. 1 deadline it initially set.

On Saturday, Shiner said the timing was "in the hands of Vietnam."

"We understand their interest in getting this done as soon as possible, and have offered technical assistance and responsiveness to meet their goals," she said.

The 2005 deadline is particularly crucial for Vietnam, since the country's textile and garment industry - a major component of its exports - is subject to quotas until it joins the 147-member WTO.

The quota system will be eliminated for all members by the end of this year.

Vietnam first applied for WTO membership in 1995. The world body requires applicants to reach bilateral deals with any member that requests them, and to complete overall reforms to bring it in line with international trade law.

Shiner said that Vietnam's "impressive record" in following through with a landmark 2001 bilateral trade agreement with the United States is a key sign that it's serious about WTO membership.

The wide-ranging pact required Vietnam to liberalize its market access and meet international standards on investment, trade and financial transparency.

"For Vietnam, the critical issue is one of demonstrating the ability to implement its commitments," Shiner said.

"With the (U.S. bilateral trade agreement), they have done a good job in a number of areas," she said. "But of course, there are areas we'd like to see stronger implementation, more effective implementation, more timely implementation."

Saying she'd had "good productive talks" during the week with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and other senior Vietnamese leaders. Shiner announced that the next round of U.S.-Vietnam trade talks would be held in October.

Trade between the two countries has boomed since the December 2001 trade deal. Vietnam's exports to the United States leaped by 90 percent in 2002-2003, and were worth US$4.6 billion.

However, tensions have risen over a number of recent trade spats, with Vietnam accusing the United States of protectionism.

Shiner played down the recent tariffs levied by the U.S. Department of Commerce against Vietnam's shrimp and catfish industries for allegedly undercutting the market, saying they were part of the ups and downs of a normal trade relationship.

"The deeper the trade relationship, the more often you have difficulties arising from that," she said. "What needs to be looked at is overall trade vitality."


U.S. Embassy Press Release on Ambassador Shiner's Visit (July 24)

Other Related Articles on Ambassador Shiner's Visit:

U.S. Says It Will Support Vietnam's WTO Bid (AFP, July 25)
U.S. Trade Official Supports Vietnam's WTO Bid (Channel News Asia, July 25)
U.S. Works with Vietnam on WTO Entry (Thanh Nien, July 24)

Other Updates on Vietnam's WTO Accession