The United States and Vietnam have reached an agreement in principle on a bilateral market access agreement that will lower trade barriers to a wide range of U.S. industrial and agricultural products and services and help clear the way for Vietnamâ€™s accession to the World Trade Organization.
A U.S. Trade Representative official explains Vietnam's imports have been growing dramatically. "With respect to the US in particular, two-way trade has grown to more than $7.8 billion which is an increase of more than 400% since 2001," the official states. "Last year our exports to Vietnam totaled $1.2 billion, up 24%, of which agricultural exports were approximately $192 million."
The official adds that agriculturally the agreement is very strong. About three-fourths of US agricultural exports to Vietnam will face bound duty rates of 15% or less. Products subject to these reduced tariffs include everything from cotton to selected beef products, pork, variety meats, whey, grapes, apples, pears and soybeans.
In addition, as a result of the negotiation Vietnam has made numerous improvements to its implementation of WTO rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures including the establishment of a WTO-consistent inquiry point. "They've also agreed to recognize U.S. systems of inspecting beef, pork and poultry as equivalent to its inspection systems. The point of equivalence is quite important to our industry," the official says.
Congress is required to grant Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations status. USTR officials say USTR has already been in a process of consultation with the Hill with support on both sides of the aisle. "We don't believe that this should be a contentious vote," USTR says. "We are hoping for swift approval."