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Vietnam, Japan conclude WTO talks, eye FTA

Saigon Times

Vietnam, Japan conclude WTO talks, eye FTA

Khai praises declaration on establishment of ASEAN Charter


13 December 2005

(SGT-HCMC) Vietnam and Japan yesterday concluded bilateral negotiations over the former’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) while agreeing to hold preliminary talks on a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA).

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi witnessed the signing of the agreement on the conclusion of the bilateral talks on Vietnam’s WTO entry in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

“It is important that the two countries officially signed the agreement to conclude their bilateral negotiations over Vietnam’s admission to the WTO,” Khai was quoted by the Vietnam News Agency as saying at his meeting with Koizumi on the sidelines of the 11th ASEAN Summit.

Koizumi said he was pleased with the signing of the deal and affirmed Japan attached importance to its economic links with Vietnam.

He also expressed appreciation of the effort made by the two countries to discuss ways to boost economic cooperation toward signing the FTA early next year.

Koizumi said a conference would be organized in January 2006 to begin discussions before the two nations moved on to official FTA negotiations.

This FTA, if reached, will be Japan’s sixth. Japan has signed agreements, which aim to remove tariffs and other trade barriers, with Singapore and Mexico, and reached basic deals with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The FTA with Vietnam would be negotiated as part of a broader economic partnership agreement (EPA) also expected to cover areas such as investment, movement of people and intellectual property, Japanese officials were quoted by Reuters as saying.

Japan is Vietnam’s second biggest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to US$7 billion last year.

* PM Phan Van Khai yesterday praised the signing of a declaration on establishment of an ASEAN Charter to define the regional group’s goals, principles, standards and common values, and reflect the vision and orientation for its long-term development.

The signing took place in Kuala Lumpur where the ASEAN Summit and related events like the 9th ASEAN + 3 Summit, 9th ASEAN + China Summit, 9th ASEAN + Japan Summit, 9th ASEAN + Republic of Korea Summit and 4th ASEAN + India Summit are being organized from December 12-14.

At the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Khai said the ASEAN had defined its goals and mapped out programs and action plans, as well as preferential areas, for each period.

To promote economic cooperation and increase trade within the grouping, industry associations should play a more active and dynamic role, he said.

He affirmed the 2002-2008 Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) had been implemented and that Vietnam was ready to host the 2nd IAI Development Cooperation Forum in 2006 to continue implementing IAI.

Speaking at the third ASEAN Business and Investment Forum in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Khai said Vietnam would spare no effort to strengthen the economic capacity of the ASEAN.

The Vietnamese Government will support all initiatives of ASEAN investors in Vietnam and encourage Vietnamese businesses to increase trade with their ASEAN partners, he said.

Khai called for ASEAN businesses to push up intra-ASEAN trade in the future, referring to the fact that the trade volume has so far accounted for 20% of the group’s total.

* On Sunday the four ASEAN members - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), met to discuss how to boost socio-economic cooperation on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.

The CLMV leaders endorsed the Action Plan on Enhancing Economic Cooperation and Integration among the four nations and issued a joint statement of the summit.