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Enterprises gain voice in trade treaty negotiations

Update: March, 07/2012 - 10:41

by Bui Ngoc Hong, Partner,and Vo Huu Tu, Legal Assistant, Indochine Counsel

The Prime Minister has taken the groundbreaking step of consulting the business community in the nation's negotiations of international commercial agreements.

In Viet Nam's history, the negotiation and conclusion of most international commercial treaties has been on a top-down basis. In other words, treaty negotiations were conducted by Government representatives, with little consultation with those affected by the treaties.

Under a consultative mechanism provided in the Prime Minister's newly issued Decision No 06, enterprises will have an opportunity to have their voices heard and their interests reflected in the fashioning of commercial treaties. Enterprises will be able to contribute opinions and comments through two phases of consultation: the feasibility study phase and the negotiation phase.

Decision No 06 may trigger a run of lobbying by varying interest groups angling to influence the form of a new commercial treaty which Viet Nam will enter, with stronger groups of enterprises likely to have a more outsized influence on policy. The Government should therefore moderate the different viewpoints in choosing whether to be bound internationally by certain interests or concessions. Nevertheless, the role of enterprises to participate in the formation of treaties has been recognised.

Decision No 06 took effect on March 3, with Viet Nam celebrating five years since its accession to the World Trade Organisation and the world's most important body of commercial agreements. It is hoped that the interplay between the top-down decision-making system and the newly introduced bottom-up mechanism will give commercial interests a viable voice. The process should make Vietnamese enterprises better informed and more prepared to take advantage of new business opportunities and less surprised by the risks and burdens they face under international agreements.

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