February 12, 2003
Deputy PM Discusses World Trade Complexities
HANOI (Associated Press) -Catfish exports, textile quotas and a possible war in
Iraq are just three touchy areas Vietnam will have to tackle as it struggles to
find its place in the world economy, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan said
In a rare interview with members of the foreign press, Khoan joked that perhaps
the media should eat more catfish to help minimize the surplus following last
month's preliminary ruling by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The decision
found that Vietnamese farmers were illegally dumping fish on the U.S. market.
"The fish farmers may have had one dumping, but they could not dump the price
all the time," Khoan said. "This (bilateral trade act) has sent the wrong signal
to enterprises and farmers in Vietnam. Therefore, the act will not be good
promotion for trade and economic relations."
The trade agreement went into effect more than a year ago, and the catfish
controversy is the first major ripple in relations between the former enemies.
The ruling recommended immediate punitive tariffs of 38% to 64% on catfish
exports, forcing many U.S. importers to abandon Vietnamese products. A final
decision is expected this summer.
In spite of that trade disappointment, Khoan said he's not giving up on working
with the U.S. He said he's hopeful negotiations will go well next week regarding
quotas being placed on Vietnam's textile exports.
"We hope during the negotiations that there's an understanding on the U.S. side
about the Vietnamese market," Khoan said.
In order for Vietnam and other developing countries to open new markets, he said
they must be permitted to utilize cheap labor to produce and export goods
without restrictions. Khoan noted that several large U.S. companies also are
lobbying against the establishment of textile quotas.
Khoan said Vietnam also expects a financial hit if war erupts in Iraq, which was
the communist country's largest rice importer last year. Vietnam exports about
$500 million annually to Iraq, including tea and vegetable oil.
War will make those shipments nearly impossible because of expensive insurance
needed for boats to travel into a war zone. Khoan said Vietnam must diversify
its international markets and also work harder to sell products domestically.
"If the war on Iraq breaks out, then international relations will be more
complicated," Khoan said. "Such complexity will have impacts on all countries."