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Vietnamese Delegation Visits AAAS to Discuss Its S&T Ambitions
A high-level delegation from the National Assembly of Vietnam visited AAAS on 9 May to discuss efforts to develop a legal framework that encourages the growth of science and technology in Vietnam.
The Assembly recently approved a law on technology transfer and another to govern electronic transactions, according to Tran Viet Hung, the head of the delegation and vice chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Science, Technology and Environment. Hung said several other measures are pending, including a bill on information technology and a comprehensive ordinance governing the development and commercialization of high-technology products.
The Assembly plans to ratify the high-tech ordinance in October, according to Hung. He promised to provide a translation of the draft ordinance to AAAS for comment and suggestions.
Vaughan C. Turekian, AAAS’s new chief international officer, welcomed the opportunity for AAAS to review the ordinance and to provide feedback. Turekian, who visited Vietnam in his former role as special assistant to the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, will visit Vietnam again in July, where he will have an opportunity to follow-up on the delegation’s visit.
In addition to AAAS, the 10-person delegation also met with representatives of the U.S. Department of State, the National Science Foundation, the National Academies, the House Science Committee, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council during its 6-10 May study tour in Washington.
The delegation was interested in U.S. policies and laws that help foster science and technology, including the role of education, intellectual property rules, investment policies and financial incentives. Stephen Nelson, associate director of Science and Policy at AAAS, described the broad range of AAAS engagement on these issues.
Hung said Vietnam, with an agriculture-based economy, had lacked expertise and a legal framework for promoting high-technology enterprises. In drafting laws to remedy that situation, he said, “We have had tremendous help from abroad.”
The United States and Vietnam announced on 14 May that they had agreed in principle on terms for Vietnam’s membership in the World Trade Organization, a long-standing goal for a nation that was at war against the United States a generation ago. When finalized, the agreement should permit Vietnam to join the Geneva-based trade organization later this year, according to news accounts. The agreement calls on Vietnam to pursue broad-based economic reforms and open its markets to more foreign goods and services. While still under communist rule, Vietnam has been liberalizing its economy for two decades, with high growth rates in recent years.
Hung asked AAAS to encourage scientists and technical experts to visit Vietnam and offer their expertise in promoting the country’s push for high technology.
“We would be happy to encourage U.S. scientists to go to Vietnam,” Turekian said. “I’m not sure we will have the same impact as Bill Gates during his recent visit.” Gates, the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, was greeted enthusiastically by top Vietnamese officials during a brief visit in April. Gates said his company would invest in Vietnam and said information technology could help move Vietnam into the league of Asian “miracle” economies within a decade. Intel, another U.S. technology giant, has decided to build a large microchip plant outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam devotes 2 per cent of its total budget to science and technology spending, Hung said. A new law regarding foreign direct investment “has created a much more favorable environment for foreign investors,” he said. In the first four months of 2006, he said, foreign investment amounted to $2.3 billion, with Asian nations such as Singapore, Taiwan and Japan leading the list but the United States starting to gain ground.
Hung said he was happy the United States and Vietnam now are cooperating on issues of trade and technology development, given the past history of enmity between the nations. “We’re glad you’re here,” responded Norman Neureiter, head of AAAS’s Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy. “We’re glad that past is gone.”
16 May 2006