Third TIFA meeting: progress in VN-US trade relation

(VNA) A ministerial meeting of the Vietnam-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council closed in Washington on May 23 with an agreement on access to each other’s market for several mutually-supplementary agricultural products.

Answering a Vietnam News Agency correspondent in the US, Minister of Industry and Trade (MoIT) Vu Huy Hoang, Vietnamese President of the TIFA Council, said this is an important initiative as the two sides’ agricultural products are not in competition with each other.

The US side will allow the import of litchi, longan, mango and star apple from Vietnam in addition to the already licensed dragon fruit and rambutant while the Vietnamese side will import pear, apple, grape and cherry fruit from the US.

Hoang said at his meeting with US Minister, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, that the two sides drew out experience and assessed arising problems during the past cooperation process as well as discussed measures and orientations of cooperation in the future.

Prior to the ministerial meeting, between May 19-20, the TIFA Secretariat held five preparatory sessions on market access, intellectual property, telecommunications, government purchase and agriculture, and a plenum to review the results of bilateral cooperation and discuss future cooperation orientations.

The two sides agreed on positive results in bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, intellectual property, information technology, services and agriculture and commercial dispute.

Two-way trade between Vietnam and the US attained 18 billion USD in 2010, 13 times higher than that of 2001 when the Bilateral Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed. The US has become the largest and most important market of Vietnam’s key export items.

The US’s pledged investment reached 16 billion USD, ranking sixth among 92 countries and territories investing in Vietnam.

In addition, the US is now home to around 13,000 Vietnamese students and postgraduates.

The two sides affirmed that the Vietnam-US TIFA Council is an effective bilateral cooperation channel while emphasising the need to further strengthen TIFA Secretariat-level cooperation, including the mechanism of “early warning” of newly emerging difficulties.

The two sides set the target of reaching 20-25 percent in annual two-way trade growth and creating a suitable bilateral trade balance.

Through the TIFA cooperation framework, the two sides are negotiating on the Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which are expected to be important agreements to raise the Vietnam-US cooperation to a new height.

Existing differences between the two sides were also put on table during the meeting.

Minister Hoang stressed the positive point of the meeting that the two sides discussed measures to address quarantine, food safety and hygiene in order to open up a new trade channel for fruit.

The two sides agreed to solve existing commercial disputes in order to create a fair trade environment, he said, adding that Vietnam has suggested the US build a fair trade competition environment in line with WTO regulations.

The US side proposed that Vietnamese authorised agencies should strengthen intellectual property protection for music and cinema works and software.

The two sides also touched upon several issues relating to TPP negotiations such as government purchase, access to industrial, agricultural and telecom markets, intelectual property protection, labour and trade union.

The Vietnamese side asked the US and other partners to support and work out suitable agreements for Vietnam during the TPP negotiation process as the country is still facing many difficulties as a developing nation./.