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Statement by U.S. Mission to the World Trade Organization Attaché Neil Beck at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Viet Nam

Statement by U.S. Mission to the World Trade Organization Attaché Neil Beck at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Viet Nam

World Trade Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
September 17 and 19, 2013

*As Prepared for Delivery*

Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to participate in Viet Nam’s first Trade Policy Review. We warmly welcome Viet Nam’s delegation, led by Tran Quoc Khanh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, and appreciate the reports compiled by the WTO Secretariat and the Government of Viet Nam, which provided us with a detailed review of recent developments in Viet Nam’s trade and economic policy. As always, we also appreciate the contributions of the discussant, Ambassador Francisco Pirez Gordillo (Uruguay).

Viet Nam is an important commercial partner for the United States. Our bilateral trade relationship has deepened significantly since the signing of the United States – Viet Nam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in 2001 and since Viet Nam’s accession to the WTO in 2007. Bilateral trade between the United States and Viet Nam has grown by more than 1500 percent since the BTA entered into force, and more than 150 percent since Viet Nam joined the WTO. By 2012, Viet Nam was the 29th largest goods trading partner of the United States with $24.9 billion in total two way goods trade. Foreign investment also has grown steadily, with stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Viet Nam totaling $1.1 billion in 2012, an increase of 10.4 percent from 2011.

The United States and Viet Nam continue to work together to further advance the multilateral trading system, as well to expand our bilateral trade relationship. In June 2007, the United States and Viet Nam signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. Additionally, in 2010, Viet Nam joined the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), representing an important next step to further enhance the trade and investment relationship between the United States and Viet Nam. Through the TPP negotiations, the United States, Viet Nam and other TPP parties seek to develop a comprehensive, high-standard, 21st-century regional trade agreement that will support economic integration across the Asia-Pacific and promote regional prosperity and stability. During President Obama and President Sang’s meeting in July of this year, the Presidents welcomed efforts to further bilateral economic, commercial, and investment ties and affirmed their commitment to opening a new phase of bilateral relations.

We recognize the economic and political reforms that Viet Nam has undertaken since the 1980s, which have facilitated Viet Nam’s integration into the international trading system. However, despite significant achievements by Viet Nam, there are certain areas in which the Government of Viet Nam could make further improvements and implement additional reforms, thereby further enhancing its competitiveness in the multilateral trading system.

For example, the United States appreciates that Viet Nam publishes laws, regulations and administrative procedures of general application in its Official Gazette. Further, Viet Nam posts full drafts of legal acts on a government website, and provides opportunities for public comment before these legal documents go into effect. However, we note that there have been several examples where Viet Nam has not posted draft measures and allowed time for comment, and has promulgated and enacted several regulations in less than the prescribed 45 day period, creating some uncertainty for traders. We urge Viet Nam to ensure that it meets the procedures and timeframes established for all draft laws, regulations and administrative measures, including notices and circulars.

While we recognize Viet Nam’s efforts to gradually open its telecommunications market in line with its GATS commitments, the United States understands that Viet Nam’s Decree 72 was implemented on September 1st, which impairs the telecommunications commitments that were made in the GATS both with respect to Internet Access Services, and packet-switched data services. We urge Viet Nam to ensure that in practice this Decree will not affect the ability of internet service providers to continue offering news and social media that sustains the viability of the commercial internet market, and that this Decree will not affect the free flow of online information necessary to support growth of electronic commerce.

We are also concerned that, as the Secretariat’s report suggests, since Viet Nam’s accession six and a half years ago, Viet Nam has not properly notified or clarified its import licensing procedures in light of the WTO Import Licensing Procedures Agreement. We look forward to Viet Nam’s complete response to the questionnaire regarding its import licensing regime prior to the upcoming annual September 30th deadline.

The Secretariat’s report also states that, according to Vietnamese businesses, the application of HS codes at the time of importation is sometimes inconsistent. The identical goods are often subject to different classification and therefore different tariff duties, and exporters and importers report that product misclassification remains a significant challenge. We ask that Viet Nam take steps to address these concerns and to ensure uniform application of all customs regulations.

With regards to SPS issues, we encourage Viet Nam to provide notifications required by the SPS Agreement at an early stage to ensure a reasonable period of time for consideration of comments prior to adoption and enforcement of final rules. We acknowledge Viet Nam’s commitment to lift its ban on imports of offal products, which has been raised by the United States at the WTO SPS Committee, and look forward to Viet Nam’s notification to the SPS Committee that the ban has been lifted.

The United States commends the commitments made by Viet Nam on intellectual property protection and enforcement, which will promote investment in the Vietnamese market. We urge Viet Nam to notify amendments to its 2008 legislation to the TRIPS council and sign the most recent treaties negotiated in WIPO and trademark procedural treaties. The United States also encourages Viet Nam to ensure the robustness of criminal decrees and circulars as an effective deterrent against intellectual property infringement.

We also recognize that Viet Nam undertook significant market opening on goods in the technology sector by joining the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) as part of its Accession. As a result, Viet Nam has become a more attractive place for foreign investment and an important link in global and regional production chains for IT products. We encourage Viet Nam to continue this liberalization trend by joining the negotiations to expand the ITA.

In closing, the United States wishes to commend Vietnam for its strong efforts overall to implement it accession commitments and make WTO provisions the main point of reference for the onward development of its trade policies. We thank the delegation of Viet Nam for its active participation in this important process, and welcome the opportunity to continue to work cooperatively with Viet Nam to further expand our bilateral relationship and to promote the multilateral trading system.