August 19, 2008: The US Committee to Protect Vietnamese Workers this month commented on Vietnam’s eligibility under the United States’ Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.
The following are excerpts of the organization’s August 4 letter to the chair of the GSP Subcommittee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee of the Office of the US Trade Representative. The excerpt assesses the climate for labor organizing in Vietnam today, and paints a grim picture.
“We understand that your GSP Subcommittee is considering the designation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a beneficiary developing country (BDC) for the purpose of the GSP program. We thank your subcommittee for offering us an opportunity to comment on Vietnam’s eligibility.
This letter focuses on labor issues and criteria set forth in section 502(c) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (19 USC 2462(c)).
In principle, CPVW-USA strongly supports this designation to enhance trade between the U.S. and Vietnam, to strengthen our relationship with a country strategically located in Southeast Asia, and to help Vietnamese farmers, workers, and manufacturers to raise their living standards by allowing thousands of Vietnamese products to enter the U.S. markets, free of import duties.
However, CPVW-USA has to acknowledge that Vietnam has not met even the basic GSP criteria on labor. Vietnam has not and is not taking steps to honor and respect internationally recognized labor rights as defined in section 507(4) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, (19 U.S.C. 2467).
Article 53 of the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam stipulates that “The citizen has the right to participate in the administration of the State and management of society, the discussion of problems of the country and the region; he can send petitions to State organs and vote in referendums organized by the State.”
Article 69 of the 1992 Constitution of Vietnam asserts that “The citizen shall enjoy freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, the right to be informed, and the right to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations in accordance with the provisions of the law.
In reality, Vietnamese citizens do not have rights to any of the above, including the right of association and assembly.”