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Vietnam says WTO entry talks a "two-way street"

Written by: Staff
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HANOI, Mar 15 (Reuters) Vietnam's negotiations to enter the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are a ''two-way street'' and should not depend solely on concessions from Hanoi, a top Vietnamese minister said on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of a fresh round of WTO-related talks with the United States expected later this month, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan said there were signs that Vietnam's entry into the world trade body ''is no longer distant''.

But he hinted Hanoi would not join at any price. ''This is not a simple process because it is a two-way street. The decisive part not only depends on Vietnam,'' Vu Khoan told foreign investors at a business forum in Hanoi.

Vietnam, one of Asia's fastest-growing economies, has secured bilateral pacts with more than 20 WTO members including China, Japan, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

But the trickiest negotiations have been with the United States, its former foe and its biggest trading partner.

Their last meeting in January failed to reach a deal, but negotiators said differences had been narrowed on services, finance, banking, commodities and telecoms.

U.S. business groups are pressing Vietnam to give fair market access and national treatment to U.S. businesses in line with the Vietnam-U.S. trade pact and WTO rules.

Hanoi, which started applying for WTO membership in 1995, has stressed that it will not join the trade body at any price.

No date has been set but negotiations with Washington are expected to resume in late March.

Trade between the two countries has grown sharply.

Vietnam's exports to the United States surged to .5 billion in 2005 from 0 million in 2001 when the Vietnam-U.S. trade agreement came into effect.

Analysts say WTO membership would generate new trade and investment opportunities in the Southeast Asian country of 83 million people.

Vietnam's economy was expected to grow around 7 percent annually over the next three years, Robert Edgar, ANZ senior managing director, told the forum.

Along with China and the Philippines, Vietnam would maintain a strong growth trend in 2006, he said, citing tourism as potential area for investment over the next 10 years.

Planning and Investment Minister Vo Hong Phuc said gross domestic product would grow more than 8 percent this year over 2005, above a government target of 8 percent.

Robust growth was expected in the industrial and service sectors led by investment from both foreign and domestic companies, Phuc said.

REUTERS SB RK1335

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