|‘I am delighted to highlight Viet Nam’s new commitments’
This is the text of the opening statement by Viet Nam’s vice minister of trade and chief negotiator, Luong Van Tu, at the informal meeting of the working party on Viet Nam’s accession to the WTO, in Geneva, 20 May 2005.
It gives me great pleasure to be here again together with my colleagues in the Vietnamese negotiation team to participate this Meeting of the Working Party on Viet Nam’s Accession to the WTO.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you, H.E Ambassador Eirik Glenne, in your new capacity as the Chairman of the Working Party. We are confident that with your able guidance, substantive progress could be achieved in this Meeting — which, in our view, is a stepping-stone to Viet Nam’s bid for WTO membership.
We are committed to move our accession negotiations steadily forward and to work with Members on the first Draft of the Working Party’s Report, which was put on the table at the last Meeting. Viet Nam has demonstrated its best efforts to bring its trade regime into conformity with WTO rules at the earliest possible date as reflected in this comprehensive document. We are now confident to see most of the WTO obligations to be implemented upon accession.
At the eighth and the ninth sessions of the Working Party, Viet Nam has committed to comply with Agreements on TRIPS [trade-related intellectual property rights], TRIMs [trade-related investment measures], CVA [customs valuation], SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary measures], TBT [technical barriers to trade], Import Licensing, PSI [pre-shipment inspection] and Rules of Origin from the date of accession to the WTO. In order to demonstrate the determination of the Government of Viet Nam, in this session of the Working Party, Viet Nam continues to make some breakthrough steps. I am delighted to highlight Vietnam’s new commitments in the following areas:
(1) First, in respect of excise tax applicable to motor vehicles, a proposal made by the Government of Viet Nam is being submitted to the National Assembly for approval so as to make it possible to apply the uniform tax rates for imported and domestically produced automobiles in full compliance with Article III of the GATT 1994 upon accession.
(2) Second, with respect to excise tax rates on draft beer and draught beer, the Government of Viet Nam has also submitted its proposal to the National Assembly for approval so as to be able to equalize the excise tax rates on these products from the date of accession.
(3) Third, Viet Nam commits to eliminate export subsidies in the form of direct payment from the State budget contingent upon export performance from the date of accession.
(4) Fourth, Viet Nam accepts the commitment regarding Free zones, special economic areas that goods produced in export processing zones under tax and tariff provisions that exempt imports and imported inputs from tariffs and certain taxes would be subject to normal customs formalities when entering the rest of Viet Nam, including the application of tariffs and taxes, thus abiding by the obligations of the SCM [subsidies and countervailing measures] and AoA [agriculture] Agreements.
(5) Fifth, the TBT enquiry point will be in operation by the end of this year.
(6) Sixth, the SPS enquiry point has been officially established and will come into operation in the coming time.
(7) Seventh, regarding trading rights, the Government of Viet Nam has expanded trading rights for foreign invested enterprises. In the coming time, Viet Nam will continue to expand trading rights for foreign enterprises and individuals to be able to export and import goods, except a very small number of sensitive goods or goods falling into the category of state trading (such as petroleum, pharmaceuticals, sugar, tobacco, salt, fertilizers, rice, cultural products, etc.) in accordance with the laws and regulations on exportation and importation.
These are in addition to the extensive and new commitments we have presented in our documents sent for this Meeting in the areas of trading rights, removal of import prohibition on second hand automobiles, etc.
(8) Eighth, a detailed comparison between the provisions of the recently issued Decision of the Prime Minister on Import Licensing Regulation and those of WTO’s Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures is hereby available for circulation. It should be underlined that the new Decision is based on the WTO rules and regulations that should make our licensing regime to be in full conformity with WTO rules.
Manisfesting the determination to push up our public administration reform and to join the WTO, both the National Assembly and the Government of Viet Nam have attached the top priority to legislation and strengthening of the legal system towards transparency, conformity with WTO rules with the aim to abide by all commitments made in the terms of accession. Following the visit paid by the Chairman of the National Assembly of Viet Nam — Mr. Nguyen Van An on March 23rd, 2005 and his meeting with H.E. Mr. Supachai — General Director of the WTO and the Chairman of the Working Party, the 2005 legislative program of the National Assembly has been accelerated upon request of the Government to meet emerging requirements for approaching WTO membership. In the seventh session commencing on May 5, 2005, the National Assembly has decided to give priority to, and especially to extend the session for half a month for the discussion of adoption of the laws. It is planned that this Session will discuss and adopt 11 revised and newly-stipulated laws, which are: Civil Code (amended), Commercial Law (amended), Viet Nam Maritime Law (amended), Pharmaceutical Law, Viet Nam Railways Law, Education Law (amended), State Auditing Law, Law on Conclusion, Accession to and Implementation of International Treaties, Amended and Supplemented Customs Law, etc...
Beside, the National Assembly will be presented with and have comments on another 12 laws to be adopted in the next session in November 2005, which are: Law on Tourism, Amended and Supplemented Mineral Law, Intellectual Property Law, Law on Exercising Thrift and Anti-Waste, Law on Environmental Protection (amended), Law on Means of Transfer, Law on e-Transaction, Law on Housing and Accommodation, Law on Import-Export Duties (amended), Law on Enterprise, Law on Investment, and Law on Anti-Corruption. As a result, Viet Nam’s National Assembly is scheduled to approve more than 20 laws and ordinances to meet the requirements made by Members of the Working Party.
In respect of bilateral negotiations, our talks with Members have progressively narrowed the gaps between us on the basis of increasingly developed understanding. Viet Nam is now coming to the very advanced stage with all of our negotiating partners. Nonetheless, I would like to stress that the goodwill and the flexible and practical attitude of all parties concerned are undoubtedly a sufficient condition for a mutually satisfactory conclusion of all bilateral deals.
In order to reach close to the consensus between Viet Nam and the Working Party’s Members on remaining issues on the basis of mutual understanding, I would like to take this opportunity to again call on WTO Members to recognize not only in words but also in action the fact that Viet Nam remains a low-level developing country with a transitional economy, whereby over 70% of the population lives on agriculture, and the per capital income is just more than USD 400, hence Viet Nam is eligible for special and differential treatment granted under WTO Agreements. We would like to express our high appreciation to those Members with whom our bilateral negotiations have been concluded successfully for their taking into account of this fact and accepting to grant Viet Nam the flexibilities essential to help it get accustomed to the new and challenging environment. Viet Nam is keen to honouring its commitments once taken. Hence, we are willing to make necessary commitments when they are commensurate with the particular needs and conditions of our economic development. Viet Nam trusts that with assistance and understanding from WTO Members, we can resolve the remaining differences among us and share the expectation of a “win-win” solution in Viet Nam’s accession negotiation process.
During the last session of the Working Party, we all saw the hope of wrapping up Viet Nam’s membership negotiations expeditedly on the horizon. This goal is also what Viet Nam has been making its best efforts to achieve. Now that Viet Nam’s willingness, determination and efforts have been shown, it is our hope to see the Members’ reciprocal flexibility and goodwill. This would be a critical catalyst for helping us to finish our work and fulfill the common goal of this Working Party to bring Viet Nam into the WTO family.
Finally, I would like to express our Government’s gratitude to the WTO Secretariat for the excellent cooperation and understanding that they have always extended to this accession. My special and particular thanks go to those staffs in the Accession Division of the WTO Secretariat who have laboured tirelessly to make the necessary preparations for this meeting. I strongly believe that we all here are looking forward to a constructive and fruitful discussion.