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    Viet Nam Integrates Trade Defence into its Policy

     

     
     
    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2007, © International Trade Centre

    For successful trade defence, business and government need a shared system and understanding. ITC worked with the newest WTO member to set up the foundations.

    In January 2007, Viet Nam became the 150th member of the World Trade Organization, after 11 years of preparation, including eight years of negotiation. At the time, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy commented on the "remarkable efforts" that Viet Nam had put into preparing for membership which, he said, "should be an inspiration to us all". WTO membership will help Viet Nam to use trade opening as an engine for economic growth and development.

    Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen said the negotiations for WTO membership closely accompanied his country's economic reforms, known as "doi moi". "WTO accession poses major challenges to Viet Nam's economy. However, we do believe that… Viet Nam will make the most of opportunities… proactively playing its part for the development of the multilateral trading system," he said.

    Managing a new playing field



    Vietnamese accession required extensive modifications to its trade legislation. As its trade barriers have fallen in line with its WTO commitments, the country needs to protect itself from becoming a victim of unfair trade practices.

    Most key trading players use trade defence instruments (TDI). The use of these instruments - anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard measures - is based on rules derived from the WTO agreements and allows the country to defend its producers against unfairly traded or subsidized imports.

    Until recently, Viet Nam did not have any legislation on trade defence measures and, hence, did not possess competence in this area. As a WTO member, Viet Nam needs to carry out investigations and to react to measures initiated against its industries by other countries. TDI investigations can be complex and lengthy. A strong legal framework has to be complemented by well-trained officials with knowledge of TDI issues, as well as an informed private sector.

    This is where ITC played a key role. ITC developed a TDI project with three objectives: to upgrade the TDI legal framework (by checking for compliance with WTO requirements, and setting prerequisites to implement TDI); to train officials that implement TDI; and to raise awareness among the business community on TDI and their uses.

    The project progressively built the capacity of government and business on trade defence instruments. At the outset, Viet Nam's recently enacted trade defence legislation was reviewed and template questionnaires created; templates are essential in the TDI investigation process.

    ITC then trained a core group of public and private sector representatives through seven workshops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City over six months. The workshops were sequential, building on participants' knowledge and information.

    "With each successive workshop, the number of questions increased, becoming more and more focused as participants better articulated their thoughts and framed their questions in more searching ways," said Jean-Sébastien Roure of ITC, who carried out the workshops. "This greater confidence in asking questions reflected their firmer grasp of the issues."

    A project hotline was set up to ensure a continuous flow of information between the formal training sessions and to provide immediate responses to questions and problems.

    Selected staff of Viet Nam's newly created Competition Administration Department of the Ministry of Trade travelled to Brussels to be trained by the European Community's trade defence authorities on their operating practices, and to observe how a large law firm dealt with TDI issues.

    A library on TDI issues was set up to give Vietnamese officials access to latest developments in the area.

    A joint business-government approach is best



    Whether launching a complaint or responding to an investigation, the business community and investigating authorities need to coordinate approaches. This was a key message communicated by ITC throughout the project. Trade defence cases are complex and are complicated by a lack of uniformity in different countries' investigation procedures. Working together, business and government have a better chance to devise effective responses.

    With its focus on the business implications of trade policy, ITC demonstrated that business has to be on board when it comes to issues of unfair trade practices. The business community initiates the proceedings by submitting a request to government to undertake an enquiry, and local producers, importers and exporters respond to requests for information from the investigating governmental authorities.

    This project helped put in place the basic legal framework for a functioning TDI regime in Viet Nam and imparted to a wide range of government officials and private sector representatives the essential skills required to implement it. Building human resources capacity with regard to TDI issues is a constantly evolving process given the complexity of the task at hand. The project has laid the foundation for a more sustained and substantive interaction in this area between the Vietnamese Government and the private sector.

    Contributors: Natalie Domeisen, Julie-Anne Lee, Jean-Sébastien Roure, Christopher Simpson, ITC.



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