Vietnam’s farmers brace for new WTO era

HANOI, Nov 8, 2006 (AFP) – Vietnam’s WTO accession will impact on the 70 percent of its people who work in agriculture by securing key export markets but also threaten them with much tougher competition at home, experts say. “Vietnam’s joining the WTO is necessary and will help the country develop its agricultural sector more quickly and strongly,” Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat told AFP. “It will bring great opportunities, and great challenges.”

Vietnam, a war-shattered command economy 30 years ago, has made spectacular gains since, emerging as the world’s second largest exporter of rice and coffee and a major producer of seafood, rubber, pepper, cashew and tea.

Its admission to the World Trade Organisation agreed on Tuesday will secure greater export markets for the country of 84 million people and give Hanoi a recourse in case of trade disputes.

But joining the global trade club will also force Vietnam to drop support for its farmers and force them to adopt more modern and high-tech methods.

Under the rules laid out in its 900-page WTO accession document, Vietnam must scrap farm export subsidies and reduce import duties on products including soybean, cotton, beef and pork products, and many fruits.