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May 28, 2008

Vietnamese products may enter US duty-free

Many products from Vietnam may be able to start entering the United States market free of import duties sometime this year, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Under the United State's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), potentially duty-free products from developing and underdeveloped countries are given preferential duty-free entry in order to enhance the benefited countries trade and economic growth.

Vietnam was exporting thousands of potentially duty-free products, the ministry said.

Nguyen Hong Duong, deputy director of the ministry’s American Market Department, said the ministry had recently officially proposed the US include several of Vietnam's exports under the GSP. He estimated that it will take three or four months before they could be included under the system, if the proposal was approved.

A ministry expert who declined to be named said he believed that Vietnam would qualify for the GSP in light of its WTO membership and normalised trade relations with the US. Trade ties with the US have developed strongly in recent years, he said, as evidenced by the signing of the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and the Vietnam-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

He said Vietnam's progress in instituting a market economy would also help its case.

During the first ministerial-level meeting under the TIFA Council late last year, Vietnamese officials for the first time brought up the GSP, calling for the US to apply the regulation to Vietnam's agricultural and processed goods in light of the enormous trade potential between the two nations.

Currently, about 4,650 products exported to the US from 144 countries and territories, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia, qualified for the GSP, according to the US Trade Representative.

To qualify, the benefited commodities must be directly imported from the benefited country to the US and at least 35 per cent of content must be produced in the exporting country.

Vietnamese commercial counsellor to the US Ngo Van Thoan said that without the GSP, Vietnamese exports to the US are disadvantaged in competition with goods from other developing countries that benefit.

GSP-benefited commodities include crude oil, industrial materials and light industrial products and agricultural produce. The US president selects commodities and countries to benefit from the GSP annually, pursuant to proposals from the US Trade Representative and the US International Trade Commission.

Duong said Vietnam's exports to the US last year were worth $10 billion and the figure was expected to rise to $11 billion this year. In the first quarter of this year, the country earned $2.3 billion from exports to the US market.

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