Vietnamese officials involved in upcoming market access negotiations with future WTO applicants are preparing to look after local enterprises, but have said they will not be tabling “groundless and illogical requirements.”
Heading towards a modern north-south railway system “Since suffering from quite a few strict requirements during its accession negotiation process, Vietnam sympathises with and supports the applicants to become WTO members soon,” said Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen, the current commander-in-chief of all of Vietnam’s international economic integration activities.
Tuyen told Vietnam Investment Review that Vietnam’s negotiating policy was to seek flexible solutions for each relationship while still ensuring market access rights for its businesses.
Vietnam’s WTO negotiations lasted more than 11 years and officially brought the country into the global trade club on January 11, 2007. The 28 countries and territories applying for WTO membership include Afghanistan, Algeria, Andora, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belarus, Butan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lybia, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Yemen.
Tran Quoc Khanh, deputy chief of the Vietnam negotiation delegation and head of the Ministry of Trade’s Department of Multilateral Trade Policy, said: “We will manage to protect the interests of business circles as much as possible, but Vietnam will not table groundless and illogical requirements.”
In early February 2007, Vietnam announced its intention to completely exempt bilateral negotiations with Laos, the first to enjoy Vietnam’s exemption.
In the post-WTO entry era, the nature of Vietnam’s WTO negotiations shifted from defense to offence. Vietnam previously needed to show its offers, which were bargained by WTO members in a manner favorable to their enterprises. Since January 11, 2007, Vietnam has the right to consider the offers of WTO candidates and pose requirements to widen its access to the candidates’ markets.
In a move to maximise the efficiency of the country’s upcoming WTO talks, the Ministry of Trade last week launched a public opinion poll on its website, seeking consultancy for the country’s talks with 28 countries and territories which are applying for WTO membership.
Khanh said that effectiveness and bilateral relations were two factors that needed to be considered when raising an issue on the negotiating table.
“If there are only some small trade problems that can be solved amicably and smoothly through bilateral processes, there will be no need to push them onto the negotiating table,” said Khanh.
A big question that will need time to be answered and has caught the attention and anxiety of the business circles is whether Vietnam will play an active role and be a persuasive voice in WTO negotiations. “Our force of negotiators is insufficient while we have a huge amount of work to do in Geneva such as taking part in the Doha round, following up dispute settlement cases and trade policy reviews of WTO members and so on.
“Perhaps, we need some time to strengthen the organisation and to establish the good mechanism of information exchange between Hanoi and Geneva before playing a full role of a WTO member. We also need to strengthen the coordination among ministries and agencies and decision-making process in order to catch up with the WTO’s working speed and to complete our WTO works”, said Khanh.
With regard to this issue, Tuyen believed it would not take Vietnam long to play its role in WTO’s negotiations, since the country had accumulated good negotiating experiences as well as knowledge of the WTO’s current goals and issues, especially the Doha round.