Vietnam - US WTO Talks End, Goodwill Gained

Both sides are hopeful of an early conclusion to the negotiations, Deputy Trade Minister Luong Van Tu said, describing this as the most important progress made at the Vietnam-US 10th round of negotiations on Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organisation that ended in Hanoi on January 18.

Both sides narrowed their differences considerably, Tu, who headed the Vietnamese delegation to the WTO talks, affirmed, adding that the two sides gained a better understanding of each other and exchanged a great amount of information in order to complete their negotiations in the near future.

In talks with the Vietnam News Agency after the closing session, Tu cited the 12-negotiator US team, which was comprised of two Assistant Trade Representatives and other senior specialists, as an example of the US's goodwill to support Vietnam's bid to join the WTO.

Tu said that several members of the US team, who came to Vietnam for the first time, told him that prior to their arrival in Vietnam, they thought negotiations between the two countries still faced big hurdles. However, after days in Hanoi, they recognised that differences have been narrowed and that hope the two sides will finish their negotiations soon.

During their visit, US specialists worked with leaders from the Ministries of Trade, Finance, Post and Telematics, and Agriculture and Rural Development. Through these meetings, the US side came to appreciate Vietnam's strides in market liberation, the Vietnamese official said.

He made known that the two sides achieved remarkable results in all fields relating to tax, post and telecoms, finance and banking, services, and even agricultural taxes, which is a rather sensitive issue for Vietnam.

The Vietnamese side suggested that the US side study the difficulties Vietnam has faced in its process of transformation and integration in order to try to increase flexibility in the negotiations and ensure that demands placed on Vietnam are not too high.

Especially, on taxes for agricultural products, Tu said, Vietnam asked the US to make reasonable proposals in order to facilitate Vietnam's early access to the WTO without adversely affecting the lives of the 70 percent of its population who depend on agricultural production.

Deputy Minister Tu also said that the two sides agreed to convene the next round of negotiations in March in Geneva. He added: "if negotiations with the US and other remaining partners are completed in the first half of 2006, Vietnam will finish the process of WTO entry negotiations in 2006."
"The future approaches. It is bringing many opportunities in export and foreign investment attraction so we should make preparations as early as possible," Deputy Minister Tu concluded.

Source: VNA