Viet Nam and the US reached an agreement in principle for Viet Nam to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 14. The Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper interviewed Mr. Nguyen Quoc Huy, deputy head of the Government Office, a member of the Vietnamese negotiation delegation on WTO accession.
You followed Viet Nam’s talks with the US to join the WTO. How do you comment on the outcome of the negotiations ?
Mr. Nguyen Quoc Huy: All members of the Vietnamese negotiation delegation, including Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen – the Prime Minister’s special envoy – have worked very hard and very efficiently.
Both sides were keen to show their goodwill and flexibility though occasional tension did occur during the talks. But both sides continued to work out solutions to each problem.
Viet Nam and the US reached a bilateral agreement for Viet Nam to join the WTO and even discussed multilateral issues.
What brought the results?
The negotiation delegation and relevant agencies will review and make detailed reports. There are many reasons for the results and I will tell three that I think very important.
|Workers of Natural Environment Vietnam Company in Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi District produce porcelains to export to Europe (Photo: SGGP)|
First, Viet Nam had prepared very well for this negotiation round. Viet Nam had wrapped up bilateral talks with 27 partners. With the US, the last partner, Viet Nam had negotiated in many rounds and not many problems remained unsolved before this 12th round, but they were difficult problems. For months, Vietnamese ministries and agencies had ironed out different negotiation scenario to prepare for it.
Second, the Vietnamese delegation was completely determined to reach an agreement because all members knew that it was an impossible-to-miss opportunity but this round would be very difficult. All members practiced negotiation skills, and when the round came, we divided ourselves into groups to negotiate with the US delegation in each technical issue, and concluded one at a time. The remained issues were passed to a higher level.
Before we left Viet Nam for the round, the Prime Minister given Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen carte blanche to take part in the talks. The two final days of the round were the most difficult days, so Mr. Tuyen negotiated with Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia. Then, all problems were solved in a win-win manner.
Third, the negotiation results came as part of the normalization of Viet Nam-US relations, with a milestone being Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s visit to the US in June 2005. Before the final negotiation round, the Prime Minister had sent a letter to President G. Bush, reminding him of his promises to support Viet Nam’s WTRO entry bid.
During meetings with Viet Nam’s special envoy Truong Dinh Tuyen, American statesmen and business people were keen to show their goodwill towards Viet Nam. As the two sides reached the agreement, I think President Bush’s promises have been kept.
Vietnamese companies had earlier neglected opportunities and challenges from the WTO. Now, what will the Government do to help them benefit from the WTO?
First, we will organize a ceremony to sign the agreement. The next is to prepare for the upcoming bilateral negotiation round in Geneva, where Viet Nam has to submit its detailed report for its WTO accession. The Vietnamese delegation is preparing this report with advice from international experienced experts.
The US Congress will vote to grant Viet Nam permanent normal trade relations. The agreement the two sides reached in Washington was the first step for this voting. So, Viet Nam needs to lobby the US Congress for their votes.
The most important is an action program for Viet Nam after joining the WTO. The Vietnamese will soon inform the citizens of all Viet Nam’s commitments for WTO membership so that all Vietnamese people are fully aware of what to do.
WTO talks were very difficult already but it will be far more difficult to continue developing the country after the WTO accession. Government subsidies will stop. Each business has to work out their strategies to survive in the new period, which will see stiffer competition.