Vietnam asks rich nations to ease protectionism

Sept 28 | Updated: Sep 29 2006, 05:30am hrs
Vietnam told the United Nations that attempts by rich countries to preserve market share for local companies is keeping poorer nations from reaching development targets, citing import taxes and non-tariff barriers.

The UNs so-called Millennium Development Goals call for cutting some poverty indicators in half by 2015, as well as working toward tariff- and quota-free access for exports from the worlds least developed countries. Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations committed last year to helping poor countries reach the goals.

The rhetorical commitment hasnt been met in practice, Vietnamese deputy foreign minister Le Cong Phung told the General Assembly this week, citing the application of anti-dumping tariffs to Vietnamese shrimp and catfish exports to the US and to Vietnamese footwear exports to the European Union. Vietnam denies selling products at less than market prices.

The strengthening of protectionism through anti-dumping tariffs is affecting the lives of millions of poor people, Phung said September on 25, according to a text of his speech posted on the UN web site. Such measures are counter to World Trade Organisation rules and the spirit of trade liberalization pursued by member states, Phung said. EU ambassadors failed on Wednesday to bridge differences over duties on shoe shipments from China and Vietnam, just days before the end of temporary tariffs that have divided Spain and Italy from free traders such as Sweden.

The existing tariffs will disappear October 7 unless the EU can agree next week to continue with measures.

The EU has charged that intervention by Vietnams government in its leather footwear industry, such as the provision of cheap finance, tax holidays, non-market land rents and improper asset valuation, has artificially reduced costs for Vietnamese shoe companies.

Vietnam-based enterprises do not sell leather shoes at dumping prices in the EU market Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung said last month.

EU proposals to keep the measures in place only protect the interest of several uncompetitive European producers, while causing damage to the majority of consumers and retail distributors, Dung said.

Developing countries should receive support in their bids to join the World Trade Organisation, in order to give them more access to global 1markets, Phung told the UN. Vietnam wants to join the WTO this year. While Vietnam is a low-income country, it is being asked as part of its accession bid to make commitments that go beyond those of current members in a similar position, Vietnamese trade minister Truong Dinh Tuyen told the working party on Vietnams membership bid in July.

Tuyen cited Vietnams pledge to implement a WTO agreement on sanitary standards immediately on accession instead of after two years, as originally requested, as evidence of actions Vietnam has taken in a bid to join the global trading club.

Developing countries should be supported and assisted to join the WTO as early as possible, Phung told the General Assembly. Non-tariff barriers under disguises such as hygiene and safety standards, among others, should be removed.