Cablegate: Gvn Eager to Conclude Wto Negotiations,

Published: Fri 12 Nov 2004 11:29 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
Ref: A. Hanoi 1699 B. Hanoi 2863 C. Hanoi 2594
1. (U) Summary: Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang told the
Ambassador that a visit by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai was
possible at the end of the first half of 2005, and discussed
possible steps to "create the proper atmosphere" for the
visit. As one step, the GVN would like to see a conclusion
of negotiations with the United States on Vietnam's
accession to the WTO. On the steps the United States would
like to see, including religious freedom and Central
Highlands progress, and agreements on Article 98 and
International Military Exchange and Training (IMET), VFM
Bang stuck close to the usual GVN line and made no
commitments. He said the MFA would consider opening
discussions with the USG on the terms of acquisition of the
site for the new Embassy compound. End Summary.
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2. (SBU) The Ambassador, accompanied by Poloff, hosted Vice
Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Van Bang for lunch November
10. VFM Bang congratulated the United States on a
successful election and stated that the President's
reelection meant that the United States and Vietnam can move
ahead with plans for a visit by Prime Minister Phan Van
Khai. The GVN will be able to provide a formal proposal in
December, VFM Bang said, when the 2005 travel plan for
Vietnam's leadership is approved. VFM Bang said he thinks
this visit will be planned for the first half of 2005,
adding that the United States and Vietnam should begin
working now to take the necessary steps to "create the right
atmosphere for the visit." VFM Bang suggested that among
the first of such necessary steps was for the United States
and Vietnam to conclude negotiations on Vietnam's accession
to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
3. (SBU) VFM Bang said that the recent bilateral meetings in
Washington on WTO had been "very positive" and that the
Vietnamese delegation believes that Vietnam is "ready to go
forward." VFM Bang noted that Chile and Vietnam have
finished their bilateral negotiations, and that Brazil would
announce the conclusion of that bilateral negotiation when
President Tran Duc Luong visited later in the month. The
Europe negotiation was finished, VFM Bang said, but China
and Japan were both on the horizon. Vietnam wants to
conclude negotiations with the United States as a point of
leverage against the Japanese and Chinese, he added. The
Ambassador said that, while there is considerable work to be
done, the United States was wholly in favor of Vietnam's
entry into the WTO. He reminded VFM Bang that Vietnam's
accession would trigger a vote in Congress on Permanent
Normal Trade Relations (PNTR). Before that debate, the
Ambassador suggested, Vietnam should try to cultivate
American business support by resolving some ongoing issues,
such as insurance licensing and tax rates on automobiles.
4. (SBU) VFM Bang brought up his planned March visit to
Texas Tech University and suggested that in addition to that
event, the United States and Vietnam work together to create
other cultural and trade events so that there could be a
"calendar" of U.S.-Vietnam events during 2005 celebrating
the tenth anniversary of U.S.-Vietnam relations.
5. (SBU) The Ambassador noted to VFM Bang that there were
other issues the United States believes "important" for
creating the proper conditions for a visit by PM Khai.
Among those issues are the signing of an Article 98
agreement and achieving progress on the religious freedom
6. (SBU) The Ambassador told VFM Bang that the results of
the election ensure that Article 98 agreements will continue
to be a priority for the United States. With 96 countries
already having executed Article 98 agreements with the
United States, and with Vietnamese policy already agreeing
that Vietnam would not render an American serviceman to the
International Criminal Court, signing a document with the
United States formalizing that fact should not be a problem,
the Ambassador emphasized. VFM Bang acknowledged that this
issue is a "matter of principle" for the Europeans and
hinted that Vietnam found itself being pressured by both
sides on an issue that is not central to Vietnam's
interests. The Ambassador stressed that this is a bilateral
issue between the United States and Vietnam, one that can be
solved with a simple political decision. VFM Bang said that
a "creative" decision was needed that addresses the concerns
of all sides, including the Europeans.
7. (SBU) Religious freedom and Vietnam's designation as a
country of particular concern (CPC) is another issue that
must be resolved to create the proper conditions for the
PM's visit, the Ambassador said. In advance of the December
15 "90-day deadline" for a USG response to CPC designation,
the United States would be looking closely at GVN actions,
in particular the expected November 15 release of
implementing regulations for the new ordinance on religion.
Robust protections for religious freedom contained in the
implementing regulations and vocal publicity from leadership
figures calling on the entire country to follow the
ordinance would be strong indicators of GVN commitment, the
Ambassador added. The issue of the treatment of high-
profile religious freedom cases is also important, the
Ambassador said. The upcoming case of Mennonite Pastor Le
Chi Quang (reftel A) is one good example: it would be a
positive step for the GVN to grant the request for an
officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City
to attend the trial.
8. (SBU) VFM Bang was noncommittal. He noted that the
Italian Vice Foreign Minister had recently been permitted to
visit Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands, and said
the GVN would soon host Human Rights dialogues with China,
Canada and Norway in Hanoi. He also mentioned that the GVN
will host a seminar with European countries on the issue of
the death penalty. The religious freedom issue often comes
down to the inability of the central government to impose
control on local authorities, VFM Bang said, quoting the
Vietnamese proverb "the law of the emperor stops at the
village gate." VFM Bang said he agreed with the
Ambassador's points, but admitted that some in the GVN
considered him "soft" on the issue of religious freedom.
9. (SBU) The Ambassador added that social and economic
development is also important in the Central Highlands, and
that this is an area where the United States wants to make a
contribution. With that in mind, he said, he plans to send
his Economic Counselor and AID representative to the Central
Highlands to discuss economic development. The central
government should tell Kon Tum provincial authorities that
Hanoi supports this visit, the Ambassador said. VFM Bang
noted that the Central Highlands has achieved remarkable
growth this year (13 percent in the first ten months of
2004), thanks, in part, to a surge in cashew nut exports.
10. (SBU) VFM Bang told the Ambassador that the Central
Highlands has acted as a "brake" on bilateral relations in
2004. "We must solve this issue in a delicate and creative
way," he said, by improving living conditions in the
Highlands, resolving bilateral issues with the United
States, and mollifying at least some of the dissatisfied
U.S. domestic constituencies. The GVN has already taken the
first steps towards improvement of economic conditions and
the involvement of the international community, VFM Bang
noted, by pursuing projects with the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) and the Italian development
agency. The Ambassador agreed that these were positive
steps, and added that the most important thing was to ensure
that the local authorities understand that these projects
benefit both the province and them personally. This is also
true of the situation involving migrants crossing the border
into Cambodia. Noting that he had raised the issue of
administrative obstacles to Montagnard follow-to-join
refugee cases with Minister of Public Security Le Hong Anh
(reftel B), the Ambassador asked VFM Bang to advocate for
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' help in facilitating the
departure of legitimate applicants. He asked VFM Bang if a
potential new program to allow for the orderly departure of
migrants from the Highlands had GVN support.
11. (SBU) VFM Bang said he and the GVN were both
"considering" such a program. It is clear to the GVN, VFM
Bang said, that some of the Montagnards were being used
politically by anti-Vietnam groups in the United States and
elsewhere. Those migrants had been told to reject both
resettlement in a third country and a return to Vietnam in
order to maximize the political trouble for the Vietnamese
and Cambodian governments, VFM Bang explained. This
strategy, which makes the entire situation more difficult,
is deliberately designed to "create misunderstanding," he
said. Echoing a theme we have heard before from Communist
Party officials (ref C), he said that the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has "lost
credibility" by "saying one thing and doing the opposite" in
its previous dealings with Vietnam. The current problem,
VFM Bang said, is UNHCR's doing. The current 500 refugees
in Cambodia could grow to 1,000, he said, and this would be
largely facilitated by UNHCR "encouragement." The
Ambassador challenged this interpretation of UNHCR
activities, and stressed that the GVN has to "talk to UNHCR"
to have any hope of solving the problem of Montagnard
refugee outflows to Cambodia.
12. (SBU) The Ambassador told VFM Bang that we understand
from our sources in Moscow that the Russians want more money
as a condition for returning the parcel of land identified
for a new U.S. Embassy site. VFM Bang said a MFA delegation
had just returned from Russia where they had been told that
the problem had been referred to the Russian Ministry of
Finance, and that the Russian MFA was waiting for a response
from the MOF before moving forward. "This is absurd," VFM
Bang said, "we had an agreement when I went to Russia last
13. (SBU) The Ambassador strongly recommended that the
Embassy and the GVN begin discussions on the land parcel,
with a final deal contingent on the Russian government
releasing the property. VFM Bang said he would explore that
option with his colleagues at the MFA and would get back to
14. (SBU) The Ambassador encouraged VFM Bang to recommend
the GVN sign an IMET agreement with the United States to
allow us to train Vietnamese military personnel. The United
States was "ready to start tomorrow" in training Vietnamese
officers in English, a skill the Ministry of Defense has
identified as a high priority, the Ambassador said. The
GVN's objection to the IMET agreement's human rights
certification requirement should not be an obstacle because
both the Counternarcotics LOA and the release forms
Vietnamese law enforcement officers sign before receiving
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) training
contained the same language. VFM Bang noted that the
Counternarcotics LOA had languished for seven years before
the GVN signed it.
15. (SBU) Comment: On issues that matter to us, such as
religious freedom, an Article 98 agreement, and an IMET
agreement, VFM Bang is more of a messenger than a
policymaker. He seems to understand and sometimes share the
U.S. position on many of these issues, but, considering the
MFA's institutional insignificance relative to the Party,
the Army, and the Ministry of Public Security, VFM Bang's
influence is limited. His comments on the Central Highlands
and the fact that the unrest there in April 2004 and the
United States response "put the brakes on" the bilateral
relationship are ones we have heard before. It is
unfortunate that the GVN is still holding to the "perfidious
UNHCR" argument rather than actively looking for compromise
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