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Codel Gillmor Discusses WTO, Human Rights, Fullest Possible Accounting with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and National Assembly Leaders

     
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Reference ID: 06HANOI179
Created: 2006-01-20 10:22
Released: 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Origin: Embassy Hanoi

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SUBJECT:  Codel Gillmor Discusses WTO, Human Rights, Fullest
Possible Accounting with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and
National Assembly Leaders
 
HANOI 00000179  001.2 OF 006
 
 
1. (U) Summary and Comment:  Members of Codel Gillmor met
January 17 with National Assembly (NA) Foreign Affairs
Committee Chairman Vu Mao, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan
and National Assembly President Nguyen Van An to discuss
bilateral relations, including Vietnam's WTO aspirations,
trade relations, human rights and fullest possible
accounting for MIAs.  DPM Vu Khoan urged the Congress to
grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Vietnam and lift
Jackson-Vanik.  The Codel expressed gratitude for GVN
assistance in MIA accounting activities and pressed for
permission for U.S. Navy ships to take part in underwater
recovery activities and to continue activities in the
Central Highlands.  Codel members also urged Vietnam to
improve its human rights record and address specific trade
concerns of the United States, such as dairy and catfish
products.  Although the meetings were generally positive,
National Assembly President An struck a discordant tone with
his criticism of "too-high U.S. WTO conditions."  End
Summary and Comment.
 
National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vu Mao
--------------------------------------------- --------------
 
 
2. (SBU) Representatives Paul Gillmor (R-OH), Sam Johnson (R-
TX), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Kay
Granger (R-TX), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Bobby Jindal (R-LA),
together with accompanying Codel staff, met January 17 with
National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vu Mao.
Vu Mao brought several other members of the U.S.-Vietnam
Friendship Caucus of the National Assembly with him to the
meeting.  The Ambassador and PolOff were also present.
Congressman Gillmor thanked Vietnam for the contributions
the GVN and the Vietnamese people made to the American
victims of Hurricane Katrina, and complimented Vu Mao on the
"vibrant development" he noticed in Hanoi since his previous
visit several years ago.  Vu Mao said Vietnam is proud of
the economic development results it has achieved in the 20
years since the beginning of its "Doi Moi" (renovation)
policy and is in the process of reviewing those achievements
in preparation for the Tenth Communist Party National
Congress.  Vu Mao said the National Assembly is playing a
greater role in the governance of the country and has moved
beyond being "the people who only say yes."  He highlighted
the National Assembly's oversight role, pointing out that
the NA now conducts Question and Answer sessions with
ministers on live television.
 
3. (SBU) Vu Mao volunteered the information that the NA
"pays much attention to human rights and democracy," stating
that the first requirement of human rights is to provide the
basic necessities of life for the population.  "First," he
elaborated, "we must provided subsistence and social equity
to the people."  He said Vietnam is proud of its human
rights successes, such as protecting the rights of the
disadvantaged.  On the question of religious freedom, Vu Mao
said that in Vietnam "religious freedom is stipulated in the
Constitution.  People are guaranteed the right of belief and
nonbelief, as well as religious practice."  He said that an
example of Vietnam's religious freedom can be found in the
highway connecting Ho Chi Minh City and Dalat.  In 300
kilometers, there are more than 64 houses of worship,
including those of Catholics, Protestants, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao
and other faiths.  Vu Mao professed to be surprised that
international critics could find fault with Vietnam's
protection of religious freedom when such clear
contradictory evidence is available "for viewing with your
own eyes."
 
4. (SBU) The NA Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman
approached the issue of the Vietnam War head on.  He said
"the war has not faded away in the hearts of the Vietnamese
people, but it is in the past."  Vietnam appreciates the
"humanitarian spirit" of American veterans, he added, citing
the return of the diary of Dr. Dang Thuy Tram by U.S.
veteran Fred Whitehurst as an example of that humanitarian
spirit.  "In the same way," he continued, "we welcome the
visit of Congressman Sam Johnson, and are glad of his
goodwill."  (Note: Congressman Johnson was a fighter pilot
during the Vietnam War and was captured after being shot
down in 1966.  He spent almost seven years at the Hoa Lu
Prison, aka the Hanoi Hilton.  End Note.)
 
5. (SBU) Congressman Gillmor thanked Vu Mao for his words,
and highlighted that the United States and Vietnam have
 
HANOI 00000179  002.2 OF 006
 
 
interests in common, including trade.  He said that trade is
"good for both sides" and encouraged Vietnam to make
progress in its negotiations with the United States on
Vietnam's accession to the WTO.  Vietnam should be aware, he
advised, that the U.S. Congress would have to approve any
trade agreement signed with Vietnam, and that approval would
be based on a range of factors, not just economics.
Vietnam's human rights and religious freedom record, for
example, will be considered when Congress votes on Vietnam's
entry into the WTO.
 
6. (SBU) Congressman Johnson thanked Vu Mao for the efforts
the GVN has made to assist with the humanitarian effort to
account for all U.S. personnel missing during the Vietnam
War, which represents "a great opportunity to help
families."  He praised Vietnam as "much easier to deal with
than China or Russia."  Congressman Costello asked Vu Mao to
urge the GVN to grant the U.S. request to use U.S. Navy
vessels in underwater MIA recovery work.  Vu Mao noted that
the issue of GVN cooperation with the United States on MIA
issues is sensitive for his constituents, who "always pose
the question to me why the GVN doesn't put all of the
attention and the resources into searching for Vietnamese
MIAs."  Vu Mao said that he and the GVN recognize that MIA
operations are a humanitarian effort.  The use of U.S. Navy
ships for recovery efforts is a "technical issue for our
agencies to work out," he said.  One of Vu Mao's colleagues,
NA Member and Chairman of the Vietnam Union of Friendship
Organizations (VUFO) Vu Xuan Hong, added that Vietnam is
grateful for the efforts by U.S. NGOs and veterans in
assisting with the efforts to account for Vietnamese MIA
personnel.
 
7. (SBU) Congressman Kucinich, turning to the question of
trade agreements, asked Vu Mao what he thinks of trade
agreements that promote the privatization of public
services.  Vu Mao said that in principle, Vietnam does not
agree with agreements that force the privatization of public
services, but in practice, Vietnam is engaged in a process
of liberalization and development of a market economy.  That
process, he said, involves "the reform of all sectors,
including State-owned enterprises and collectivized
industries."  Vietnam is mostly concerned with finding the
appropriate pace for modernization and reform, he said.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan
------------------------------
 
8. (SBU) Immediately following the meeting with Vu Mao, the
Codel met with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan.  Congressman
Gillmor opened by welcoming the progress and improvements in
U.S.-Vietnam relations.  Economic ties, particularly since
the Bilateral Trade Agreement went into effect, are also
positive, with many Vietnamese products now on sale in the
United States.  The ongoing bilateral trade negotiations,
aimed at Vietnam's WTO accession, are important for both
countries.  Both the USG and the Congress are involved in
these matters, and agreement between and within these
branches is not always a foregone conclusion, Congressman
Gillmor said.
 
9. (SBU) This congressional visit, last week's visit by EAP
Assistant Secretary Christopher R. Hill and the ongoing
trade negotiators' visit underscore the rapid pace of
development in the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, DPM Khoan
said.  More importantly, during these meetings, both sides
take part in a candid and open dialogue that deepens mutual
understanding.  Ultimately, Vietnam's interests are having
good foreign relations and bringing itself out of
underdevelopment and poverty.  In terms of its foreign
relations, Vietnam now has normal ties with all of the major
powers, including the UN's P-5.  The GVN attaches great
importance to the relationship with the United States
because it understands the important role America plays in
the international arena and market.  Since normalizing
bilateral relations, both sides have made great efforts to
expand relations in many areas and now have significant ties
in politics, trade and economics, science and technology,
and security.  Now, stabilizing the overall bilateral
relationship requires mutual cooperation.
 
DPM Khoan:  We Need the Cooperation of Congress
--------------------------------------------- --
 
10. (SBU) In terms of political cooperation, Vietnam looks
 
HANOI 00000179  003.2 OF 006
 
 
forward to further bilateral exchanges, both in the
executive and legislative branches, DPM Khoan continued.
This year, the most important task is achieving a successful
visit to Vietnam by President George W. Bush.  Secondly,
there must be an early conclusion to the bilateral WTO
negotiations, which will bring U.S.-Vietnam economic
relations to a new height.  Vietnam's WTO membership is in
the interest of Vietnam, but it also will benefit the United
States.  This year, both sides must also reach cooperative
agreements in several areas, and the GVN will work closely
with the Ambassador and the U.S. Executive Branch to carry
this out.  Finally, this year the United States and Vietnam
must address their differences in such a way that they do
not become obstacles to a successful visit by the President.
To do all this, Vietnam "desperately requires the
cooperation of the U.S. Congress," DPM Khoan stressed.
 
Please Grant PNTR and Lift Jackson-Vanik
----------------------------------------
 
11. (SBU) As legislators, the members of the U.S. Congress
must have a far and broad vision, and in their actions they
must take into account U.S. interests and make decisions
that benefit bilateral ties, DPM Khoan said.  The United
States and Vietnam will not always agree, but they can share
the same goal of maintaining good ties.  In terms of
Vietnam's WTO aspirations, Vietnam needs both a positive
Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) vote and a waiver of
the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, both of which it hopes to
achieve soon.  A Jackson-Vanik waiver would also benefit the
United States by making it easier for U.S. businesses to
invest in Vietnam.
 
The Next Five Years
-------------------
 
12. (SBU) By maintaining a growth rate of eight percent per
year, Vietnam hopes by 2010 to leave underdevelopment behind
and raise per capita GDP from its current USD 640/year to
USD 1,000/year, DPM Khoan explained.  Over the next five
years, Vietnam also hopes to reduce poverty, perfect the
market mechanism, promote administrative reform and the rule
of law, fight corruption and maintain social stability.  In
terms of foreign relations, Vietnam attaches greatest
importance to its neighbors, namely China, Laos and
Cambodia.  Relations with China have been better than ever
since normalization in 1991.  Following ties with these
neighbors is Vietnam's relationship with ASEAN, and third in
priority are Vietnam's relations with Asia-Pacific
countries, including the United States.  Vietnam will
concentrate its efforts on the successful hosting of APEC
2006, but will maintain its foreign policy principles of
openness, independence and sovereignty.  Vietnam recognizes
that the United States is a strong pole in foreign relations
and looks forward to congressional support for a long-
lasting and stable bilateral relationship.
 
China:  Need Peaceful Coexistence
---------------------------------
 
13. (SBU) In response to Congressman Gillmor's question on
China's military modernization program, the DPM reiterated
that Vietnam-China relations are the best ever since 1991.
Quoting a Vietnamese proverb, he said that, "one can choose
friends, but not neighbors," and Vietnam has to live
peacefully with China.  This was true over one thousand
years ago and it is true today.  Vietnam understands the
significance of a good relationship with China, a sentiment
that Canadians feel towards the United States, DPM Khoan
surmised.  China's development is the story of the 21st
century.  China is now the world's factory and will soon be
the world's market.  Like it or not, the Chinese will pursue
their path to development, so it is best to try to work with
them.  Although Vietnam and China have different views on
some issues, such as territorial matters in the South China
Sea, Vietnam, China and ASEAN reached a Code of Conduct on
maintaining the region's status quo.  Vietnam hopes that the
United States will support its view in this regard, DPM
Khoan said.
 
Fullest Possible Accounting and Human Rights
--------------------------------------------
 
14. (SBU) Thanking DPM Khoan for the cooperation of the GVN
in our fullest possible accounting activities, Congressman
 
HANOI 00000179  004.2 OF 006
 
 
Costello raised the USG request for U.S. Navy ships to
participate in underwater recovery activities and asked for
favorable consideration of this.  On WTO, he noted that,
when considering PNTR, the Congress will not only look at
the economic angle, but also at other matters, such as human
rights and religious freedom.  These are issues of
importance to Americans, and many citizens and members of
Congress wonder why activist Dr. Pham Hong Son remains in
prison.
 
15. (SBU) Fullest possible accounting cooperation is a
humanitarian issue.  Vietnam will work in a consistent
manner with the United States on this, even though Vietnam
has many missing of its own, DPM Khoan responded.  To
address technical issues such as that raised by the
Congressman, there is a Joint Committee, and through it both
sides can work together to find a mutually agreeable
solution.  The question of WTO is purely an economic issue,
but some Congressmen are interested in tying other matters
to it.  An Assistant Secretary of State for human rights
(DRL A/S Lowenkron) will soon visit to participate in the
Human Rights Dialogue, and both sides should be able to sit
together and find an appropriate answer to matters of
concern.  The United States and Vietnam have different
approaches to this issue, but Vietnam fundamentally cares
about its own people and would never do anything to harm
them.  "This would be like shooting yourself in the foot,"
DPM Khoan explained.  Members of Congress may have bad
information that has led to misunderstanding, which is why
exchanges such as these are so important, DPM Khoan said.
 
Dairy Products
--------------
 
16. (SBU) Congressman Walden noted that Nike, headquartered
in his state of Oregon, has a good working relationship with
Vietnam, and he welcomes this.  American dairy producers,
however, do not appear to enjoy the same benefits as
domestic Vietnamese ones.  As the Congress looks at WTO,
Jackson-Vanik and PNTR, issues of concern to agricultural
producers will certainly be taken into consideration, Mr.
Walden said.  DPM Khoan responded that Vietnam seeks to have
good relations with individual states and would welcome
future delegations.  Because Vietnam is an agricultural
nation, agriculture is a major issue, but, as a poor
country, it does not subsidize farmers the way the Europeans
do.  Vietnam is willing to open its agricultural market, but
the issue of agricultural tariffs is not a matter to be
addressed in the current WTO negotiations.  Dealing with
them in a Free Trade Agreement may be a next step.
Australia and New Zealand have similar concerns about dairy
products' market access, and if Vietnam can satisfy their
worries, then it can satisfy U.S. worries as well, DPM Khoan
explained.
 
Agriculture Policy
------------------
 
17. (SBU) Responding to Congressman Kucinich's question
about GVN agricultural policy, particularly how Vietnam
seeks to maintain its agricultural traditions, DPM Khoan
noted that 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas
and that agriculture makes up 28 percent of GDP.  Rural
development is Vietnam's highest priority, and the quick
pace of urban migration is a big issue.  Vietnam's policy is
to discourage farmers from leaving their home regions, and
to that end the GVN is making efforts to promote
agricultural processing, such as poultry and dairy products.
U.S. cooperation in this area would be welcome, and one U.S.
firm has had some success in helping with cocoa planting,
DPM Khoan said.
 
Shrimp and Catfish
------------------
 
18. (SBU) Congressman Jindal opened by thanking the GVN and
the people of Vietnam for their generosity in responding to
the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  DPM Khoan conveyed his
sympathies and noted that, with the large numbers of ethnic
Vietnamese directly affected by the hurricane, it was as if
Katrina had hit Vietnam too.  On the subject of the catfish
and shrimp dumping cases, Mr. Jindal welcomed the handling
of these cases through normal mechanisms and urged Vietnam
to continue to work with the United States on ways to solve
their differences.  DPM Khoan said that whatever actions are
 
HANOI 00000179  005.2 OF 006
 
 
taken should not damage the confidence in free trade of
those who participate in Vietnam's aquaculture industry.
They are already very disadvantaged and receive no money
from the GVN, DPM Khoan said.
 
19. (SBU) Congressman Gillmor concluded by noting that,
although the United States and Vietnam have a number of
differences, there are many more areas in which the
countries are in agreement.
 
National Assembly Chairman An
-----------------------------
 
20. (SBU) Welcoming the delegation later in the day,
National Assembly President Nguyen Van An (who was joined by
Vice Minister of Trade Tu and Assistant Minister of Foreign
Affairs Hung) described 2005 as marking an important
milestone in the development of U.S.-Vietnam relations, with
the two countries celebrating significant anniversaries.
2006 will also be important, particularly because of
President Bush's scheduled visit in November.  Congressman
Gillmor noted the great progress the two countries have made
in developing their relationship, particularly in the area
of trade.  The BTA had succeeded in bringing the United
States and Vietnam closer together economically, and two-way
trade is on the rise.  With bilateral WTO negotiations
taking place, both sides are keenly aware of the importance
of Vietnam's WTO accession.  When a deal is finally reached,
a majority of Congress must give its approval.  In the case
of a trade agreement, it must be clear that it benefits both
sides, and the clearer this is, the easier it will be for
Congress to pass it.  The goal of the U.S. Congress is to
have long-term and friendly relations with Vietnam, and
Congress hopes to see a trade agreement that will help to
advance the relationship.
 
Fullest Possible Accounting:  Central Highlands
--------------------------------------------- --
 
21. (SBU) Representative Johnson described the importance of
continuing cooperation in fullest possible accounting and
thanked Vietnam for allowing activities to take place in the
Central Highlands.  Cooperation between the militaries of
both countries is very good, and he urged Vietnam to
continue to allow access to that region.  President An
responded that Vietnamese cooperation in accounting
activities reflects the love and tolerance of the Vietnamese
people and leadership, and GVN policy is for these
activities to continue.
 
WTO
---
 
22. (SBU) Responding to Congressman Kucinich's question
about how Vietnam views the WTO and its role and influence
in the world, President An said that global economic
integration and WTO accession are the great aspirations of
the Vietnamese people.  The U.S.-Vietnam BTA is an important
foundation of the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations with
the United States.  Vietnam has concluded its bilateral WTO
negotiations with 22 partner countries, and only six remain,
of which the United States is one.  Every country wants to
protect its interests, and the United States and Vietnam are
no different, but there is no reason for the United States
not to conclude its talks with Vietnam when the EU, Japan
and South Korea have already done so.  The biggest obstacle
is that the United States is mandating tougher requirements
for Vietnam than in the BTA or with other countries during
previous negotiations.  President An requested that the
Codel return to the United States and tell the American
people and Congress that American conditions are too high.
There is no reason for the United States to set such high
conditions, which are even higher than those set by the EU
and others.
 
23. (SBU) In the past, the Vietnamese people always believed
that Americans were beautiful people, particularly after the
First and Second World Wars, President An continued.  Only
after the United States sent troops to Vietnam did that view
change.  Vietnam will always highly regard the American
Revolution.  After all, Vietnam's own Declaration of
Independence has a direct quote from the American
Declaration of Independence.  Vietnam respected the decision
of Congress during the Vietnam War to withdraw troops.  That
was a wise decision
 
HANOI 00000179  006.2 OF 006
 
 
 
24. (SBU) U.S.-Vietnam political relations are very
important, as are relations in the areas of trade and
economics, education, science and technology, defense and
security, President An said.  Vietnam hopes that both sides
will work together to build a strong relationship not just
for the sake of the two countries, but also for regional and
global peace and stability.  Historically, Vietnam has never
sent troops to the United States, but of course the United
States has sent troops to Vietnam.  After 1975, the U.S.
embargo policy against Vietnam was wrong and slowed down the
development of bilateral relations.  The United States seems
to be taking the same slow steps by setting high conditions
on Vietnam's WTO entry, President An surmised.
 
Dry Milk Protein Standards
--------------------------
 
25. (SBU) In response to Representative Walden's question
about why Vietnam's treatment of U.S. dry milk protein is
stricter than that of Japanese dry milk protein, Vice
Minsiter of Trade Tu explained that Vietnam and Japan have
negotiated a General System of Preferences (GSP) agreement
on the basis of reciprocity.  However, there is no GSP in
the U.S.-Vietnam BTA.  Perhaps in the future the United
States and Vietnam could sign a GSP agreement, VMOT Tu
observed.
 
Vietnam Would Like To See Increased Exchanges
---------------------------------------------
 
26. (SBU) Vietnam and the United States should continue to
work to develop new and better relations, President An said.
Vietnam will never threaten the security of the United
States or even Vietnam's own neighbors.  It will always
respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of those
around it and will listen to the views of others while
staking its own place in the world.  To promote greater
bilateral trust, Vietnam and the United States should
increase the number of their exchanges and contacts, both
between leaders and average citizens.  This should include
cooperation and exchanges between the U.S. Congress and the
National Assembly.  President An also requested U.S.
assistance in promoting Vietnamese "human resource training"
to allow Vietnam to adapt more easily to the global
knowledge economy.  Vietnam still suffers from the
consequences of the war, including Agent Orange, and hopes
for greater U.S. cooperation in addressing this.  Vietnam is
already very grateful for U.S. support in combating and
preventing HIV-AIDS and avian influenza.  Representative
Gillmor pledged to carry President An's ideas and requests
back to Washington and closed by noting that, although
bilateral differences remain, the areas of agreement between
the two countries are far greater.
 
Comment
-------
 
27. (SBU) Although the overall atmosphere of these three
calls was positive and cooperative, National Assembly
President An's strident hectoring of the United States
struck a discordant tone.  With the Communist Party's
Central Committee Plenum beginning to wrap up, and the Party
Congress only a few months away, it is possible that
President An's audience was somewhere outside the room.  End
Comment.
 
28. (U) Codel Gillmor cleared this message.
 
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