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ICC Note:

The news below follows last week’s announcement by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that recommends Vietnam be considered a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in its relation to human rights. The USA needs to take solid action to ensure Vietnam makes clear and measurable improvements in the area of religious freedom before signing any kind of treaty.

AsiaNews (05/09/06) – Hanoi and Washington are negotiating Vietnam ’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). For that to happen, all major hurdles must be removed by the end of May.

Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen is flying to the US capital to personally take part in the negotiations. The main issues on the table are telecommunications, motorbike imports, trade shares, and subsidies to farming and textiles.

In the telecommunications field as well as in print media (newspapers and magazines), Vietnam must change its policies and adapt its existing legislation to WTO rules.

The Vietnamese National Assembly passed new intellectual property and investment laws that are scheduled to come into force next July, but the US is concerned they may not be implemented.

Similarly, Hanoi has recently lifted a ban on importing big motorbikes like the Harley-Davidson but Washington wants to be certain that changes are real.

“I’m optimistic they will reach a final agreement this week, if not this month,” said Virginia Foot, president of the US-Vietnam Trade Council.

A deal with the United States would remove one of the largest remaining stumbling blocks to Vietnam ’s entry into the WTO.

“The two sides can solve this question,” an expert told AsiaNews. “Recently, the speaker of the lower house of the US Congress, Tennis Hastert, visited Vietnam . Former Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Văn Khải said that the governments want to conclude the negotiations this year so Vietnam can join the WTO in 2006. US business people and congressmen visited Vietnam recently and all expressed their support for Vietnam ’s entry into the WTO.”

Last week, a coalition of ten US organisations, including the US Chamber of Commerce, and 30 major US companies have stressed the importance of the negotiations.

This is the best time for negotiations to succeed, some experts said, and enable Vietnam to join the WTO before it becomes a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in November.