Vietnam’s negotiators have wrapped up their intensive work roadmap for the year by finalising a long-lasting bilateral deal over its accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with New Zealand, one week after making a breakthrough with the US
The two sides on January 25 officially inked the agreement on the conclusion of their WTO talks, after “making mutual concessions in various sectors” and undergoing over 10 negotiating rounds over the last four-years.
New Zealand is the first among six remaining countries that Vietnam must reach final bilateral agreements with for WTO membership. The other countries are the US, Australia, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Vietnam’s chief negotiator deputy minister of Trade Luong Van Tu told local reporters after the signing ceremony that after sorting out thorny issues with New Zealand over the agricultural sector, Vietnam would be better prepared to negotiate with the other partners.
Opening the market for agricultural products, especially dairy products, is the key interest of New Zealand. It is considered “the world’s biggest farm” with dairy making up around 25% of the country’s annual export income.
Around two-thirds of New Zealand products exported to Vietnam are dairy products, according to New Zealand ambassador to Vietnam Michael Chilton.
Timbers, construction materials and education in Vietnam are also important interests to New Zealand, the ambassador said on the sidelines of the ceremony.
Meanwhile, New Zealand is a potential market for Vietnamese clothing, footwear and ceramics, the diplomat said.
“One of the major challenges in negotiations is that the two sides have to consider mutual trade relations toward the future, to assess what the future is likely to hold,” he said.
New Zealand is an emerging trade partner of Vietnam. Two way trade has grown between 35%-40% in recent years, reaching US$190 million last year, and is forecast to exceed US$200 million this year. The two countries last year set up a joint committee to facilitate economic and trade ties.
Among the 28 WTO member countries requiring bilateral negotiations, the US, China and New Zealand are viewed as tough negotiators for Vietnam’s WTO membership. Bilateral deal conclusions with China, New Zealand and negotiations with the US having been “shortened from 20 centimetres to 2 centimetres,” has Vietnam optimistically eyeing a new goal to enter the global trade club some time this year.
“Vietnam and the US will continue bilateral negotiations this coming March to finalise the remaining issues,” Tu said.
He also confirmed that negotiating with Australia and Mexico are being pushed up to reach agreements soon. “We do not have many remaining issues with Australia,” he said.