|Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien (R)receives martyr Dang Thuy Tram's mother (C) in Washington DC (Photo: Tuoi Tre)|
Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Nguyen Tam Chien is in Viet Nam to attend the 10th National Party Congress and get to know more about American companies that have invested in Viet Nam. The Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper had an interview with him about Viet Nam-US relations and Viet Nam’s bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Sai Gon Giai Phong: You have been the Vietnamese Ambassador to the US for five years. What do you think of the progress of the relationship between the two countries?
Mr. Nguyen Tam Chien: The two countries have continually made progress in their relations, especially in investment and trade. Bilateral trade has grown by more than five times from US$1.4 billion to US$7.6 billion last year since the Viet Nam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement took effect in 2001. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from the US has also risen strongly, and the US ranked first in terms of FDI in Viet Nam last year.
Vietnamese leaders have visited the US to consolidate relations between the two countries. Deputy Prime Minister visited the US in 2001, followed by the visit by Defense Minister Pham Van Tra in 2003. Notably, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s historic visit in June 2005 marked a new period in the two countries’ relations 30 years after the Viet Nam War. It was a significant move forward while Viet Nam is seeking to diversify diplomatic ties with other partners like China, the European Union, Japan and Southeast Asian nations.
Viet Nam’s talks with the US on joining the WTO are at the final stage and appear complicated. What do you think about this?
I would stress that Viet Nam has to negotiate to join the WTO for the sake of national development. During the final negotiation, the US asks Viet Nam to open the market wide and early, ahead of the current development of the Vietnamese economy. During bilateral talks, Viet Nam asks the US to equally open its market. This year is an election year in the US so bilateral talks are more complicated, but there are only a few problems left and both sides have seen the ways out.
Trade disputes have taken place between the two countries, including American companies’ anti-dumping claims against Vietnamese companies. What’s your opinion?
Americans often talk about fair and free trade. Recent statistics shows that the US earns hundreds of billions of dollars from international trade. But a fact is that when an industry in the US faces stiff competition from outside, a tendency arises to protect that industry and a favorite tool is to use the unfair anti-dumping tariffs. The other countries, including Viet Nam, have to pursue the anti-dumping cases or the US will impose very high tariffs, perhaps over 200%. Unfortunately for other countries, American rules on these cases are complicated and are unfavorable. When joining the WTO, Viet Nam will be treated with international rules.
How about problems like Agent Orange, religions and human rights?
They are complicated problems and both sides need to negotiate. Whether the US takes responsibility conscientiously and helps Vietnamese Agent Orange victims. Viet Nam has asked the US to take more actions. The lawsuit by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims against US chemical producers has drawn much attention from the international community and the US cannot ignore.
Regarding human rights and religions, Viet Nam has decided to put up bilateral talks to the vice ministerial level. Recent talks have made progress, which is positive for both sides. Beside official negotiations, Viet Nam supports other meetings for further developing mutual understanding and respect. Many Americans say the US should not and cannot equate American values with the rest of the world’s values.
What’s your forecast of Viet Nam-US relations in the future?
I think Viet Nam, with achievements in developing its economy and diplomatic ties, is in favorable position to make further progress. Viet Nam and the US still have more a lot more room for bilateral ties to grow. I believe that after Viet Nam has joined the WTO, the two countries will further increase bilateral trade and the figure will approach billions of dollars soon.
Please tell us about Americans of Vietnamese origin in the US.
There are more than 1.4 Americans of Vietnamese origin in the US, almost half of the total of Vietnamese living overseas. The majority of Vietnamese Americans support the normalization of Viet Nam-US ties. They back Viet Nam’s solidarity policies stated in Resolution 36 of the Politburo. The Vietnamese community in the US is growing and their role in developing the two countries’ relations is getting more and more important. Overseas Vietnamese are an integral part of Viet Nam, so communications and cultural exchanges between them and Vietnamese back home are very important for the prosperity of the Viet people.