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Removing barriers in cooperation between Vietnam and the US

Removing barriers in cooperation between Vietnam and the US

Jason Hafemeiser, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, in an interview with Vietnam Agriculture Newspaper. Photo: Duy Hoc.

Vietnam and the United States are working extensively at high levels towards the goal of enhancing bilateral relations, in which agriculture plays a significant role.

On May 11, 2022, during a business trip with Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan had a meeting with the leaders of the US Department of Agriculture and you directly worked with with Minister Le Minh Hoan.

You are currently on working trip to Vietnam and we believe that during this trip, you will have a lot of content to discuss with the authorities in the agricultural sector of Vietnam. Can you share with readers of Vietnam Agriculture Newspaper about these contents?

Last May, I had the opportunity to work with Minister Le Minh Hoan when he was on a business trip to Washington DC and I am once again very pleased to meet the leaders of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Hanoi.

During this business trip, we will be discussing many issues that can be divided into two main contents, the first is about agricultural trade, the second is the issues of climate change response and sustainable development.

Regarding agricultural trade, Vietnam and the United States have had very close relationships; land commodities are mutually inclusive and complementary to each other in this relationship. Namely, Vietnam has high-value agricultural products in terms of tropical fruits, coffee, vegetables, seafood, etc. and you are exporting nearly 5 billion USD worth of agricultural products to the US every year.

Meanwhile, we have strengths in cereals, animals and cold fruits. The current export turnover of agricultural products from the United States to Vietnam is leveled at 3 billion USD. So as you can see, agricultural trade between the two countries is very active.

In the field of climate change response, Vietnam and the US have suffered great impacts on this front. As a result, we have exchanged and discussed various content on how to support farmers of both countries in adapting to climate change as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have also discussed about solutions and environmentally smart products.

These are the main contents of agricultural cooperation between the two countries that I want to address in this business trip.

Mr. Jason Hafemeiser believed that the potential for agricultural cooperation between Vietnam and the US is great and there are many approaches to this potential. Photo: Tung Dinh.

The United States is Vietnam's largest export market, with the export turnover in 2021 reaching 91.5 billion USD, a 24% increase over the same period in 2020. Vietnam has also become the ninth largest trading partner for the US.

By March, US direct investment in Vietnam has reached 10.3 billion USD, ranking 11th out of 141 countries and territories with FDI in Vietnam. In the agricultural sector, Vietnam and the US are among each other's leading partners.

Leaders of the two countries' agricultural sectors have also agreed that Vietnamese and American agricultural products are complementary to one another in mutual development. So how do you evaluate the development potential for agricultural products of the two countries in each other's market?

It is undeniable that the potential for trade cooperation in agricultural products between Vietnam and the United States is great and there are many approaches to this potential.

However, we still have some barriers in trade affecting trade in agricultural commodities. These include the appraisal and approval of new agricultural products when imported from one country to another.

In addition, tariff barriers also make it difficult for some US agricultural products to access the Vietnamese market. In recent years, Vietnam has made numerous efforts to reduce taxes on US agricultural products; this, in turn, has granted Vietnamese consumers access to many of our high-end products such as wheat, seafood, animal meat and so on.

One of the possible cooperation fields between Vietnam and the US is the application of new technologies such as biotechnology and genetic technology to agriculture, helping farmers improve production efficiency.

I think these are the issues that the two countries can discuss to promote cooperation in the near future, with the hope to bring more tangible results to the agricultural sectors of the two countries.

Can you share in detail about cooperation in the field of agricultural technology between the two countries?

We are currently implementing a number of cooperation projects with Vietnam, which support farmers to adapt to climate change, develop smart agriculture to protect the environment, improve productivity and product quality.

Vietnam is proposing the US to open its market for pomelo exports.

During a meeting with the leaders of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on June 30, you mentioned that agricultural products of Vietnam and the United States are in the process of finalizing procedures to be approved before the G20 Summit, taking place next November. Can you share more about which agricultural products can continue to be traded by the two countries in the near future?

Vietnam is currently proposing the United States to open its market for pomelo. On the other hand, we also want Vietnam to allow the export of oranges, lemons and other solid fruits. This negotiation is in the process of finalizing procedures.

In addition, management agencies of the two countries are visiting and assessing the possibility of each other's markets. While we cannot say in advance wjocj products will be approved and how quickly, I personally hope the approval process for new product exports will progress quickly.

While we may not have given specific names, these will be advantageous products of each country with good commercial development. This means that the list of products is completely open and the opportunity for each agricultural product is equal.

Returning to the issue of barriers, from the perspective of an agricultural manager from the United States, what recommendations do you have for the Vietnamese authorities to improve on this matter, to help promote agricultural cooperation between the two countries in the future?

There are two main areas that I would like to propose here, the first being tariffs. Vietnam currently imposes high tariffs on some US agricultural products, restricting the import of these items.

It is worth noting that if Vietnam can reduce taxes on Ethanol, I believe that Ethanol's trade turnover will increase sharply in the near future.

Another problem I would like to address is that the process of approving new products, new varieties or new technologies from the US into Vietnam is not as rapidly as expected.

Many new varieties and technologies previously approved in the United States require a long time to be approved in Vietnam. This may delay the ability of Vietnamese farmers to utilize new technologies and new varieties early.

These are the issues that the United States would like to cooperate with Vietnam to resolve, and we have also raised them in a number of multilateral forums including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and the WTO forums.

In addition to Vietnam, we also hope that other Southeast Asian countries will make adjustments to their policy to strengthen agricultural trade cooperation with the United States.

Thank you Sir!

Authors: Tung Dinh - Duy Hoc

Translated by Nguyen Hai Long

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