Deputy PM: Joining WTO Means Utilizing Opportunities

Viet Nam and the US signed a deal on May 31, removing a major hurdle in the Asian country’s bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) this year. The Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper interviewed Vietnamese Deputy Minister Vu Khoan.

Viet Nam and the US have concluded their bilateral talks. What are the main results?

Mr. Vu Khoan (L) in the interview with Sai Gon Giai Phong

Deputy PM Vu Khoan: The conclusions cover three main issues: taxes, opening of the market, and transparency of trade policies.

First, when joining the WTO, Viet Nam will enjoy low tariffs and offer low import duties. Viet Nam has negotiated with each partner every tariff line, and thousands of tariff lines with the US. It took a long period for Viet Nam and the US to conclude taxation negotiations.

Second, Viet Nam is committed to facilitate foreign companies, including US companies to do business in Viet Nam. The point here is how open the market is.

Third, Viet Nam has to make its trade policies transparent and adjust its policies in line with WTO rules.

What challenges is Viet Nam facing when joining the WTO? What are the solutions?

The point in joining the WTO is to take advantage of opportunities, not to wait for challenges, which are big. We have to remove tariff barriers and improve the business environment to attract more foreign investment. We have to adjust policies and laws subject to the WTO rules. The Vietnamese National Assembly has sought to amend different laws towards this direction. The whole country has made efforts to improve the competitive edge for four or five years, and this is a preparation to join the WTO.

The Government has tried to help enterprises be aware of opportunities and challenges when the country joins the WTO. The problem here is that they cannot know all overnight. I am certain that challenges exist but are not serious because we have done a lot of homework. However, there is still much more to do. If the WTO brought about more challenges than opportunities, we would not join the organization. I think enterprises need to compose themselves in dealing with challenges.

What would the Vietnamese economy be in the next five or ten years?

The WTO is not an object; it is just a means, a factor for growth. Other factors include reforms and renovation, and all the factors need to be combined for sustainable and fast development in the next five or ten years. Viet Nam must carry out the Party’s plans for development until 2020. There are numerous tasks to do, including joining the WTO. A target is Viet Nam will escape poverty by 2010, and this is a possible goal. I repeat: joining the WTO is not all.

Many enterprises think that Viet Nam will open and take off after joining the WTO. What do you advise them?

Don’t be so optimistic or pessimistic. I stressed that the WTO will bring many opportunities, and they will be good opportunities if we take them properly. Opportunities can be missed if we don’t make efforts to take them.

On the other hand, we have to avoid challenges properly. I cannot give specific advice, but the most important is that enterprises should make alliances to be stronger. To be able to compete with strong companies during the integration process, enterprises in the same field need to associate.

Given the deal that Viet Nam and the US concluded their WTO talks, do you think that Viet Nam will join the WTO during the APEC Summit in November 2006?

I think it is possible because Viet Nam has finished all bilateral talks, and there are just some more multilateral talks. The next multilateral negotiation round is scheduled for this July, and I believe that Viet Nam will be able to reach agreements in principle. The next step will be making documents. The WTO will have a grand meeting in October, and it is quite possible for Viet Nam to join the organization.

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By Pham Thuc – Translated by Tuong Thuy

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