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President Obama’s trip to Vietnam, his tenth trip to the Asia-Pacific region, reflects the Administration’s strong and ongoing commitment to enhance diplomatic, security, and economic engagement throughout the region. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a cornerstone of the rebalance to Asia, provides a unique opportunity to deepen existing trade and investment ties and create new economic opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers.
The TPP also is an important step toward our goal of further strengthening the open, rules-based economic system that the United States has led since World War II and that serves to promote U.S. interests and values around the world. The TPP establishes high-standard trade rules that level the playing field and open new opportunities for U.S. workers and businesses, promote innovation ensure strong environmental and labor standards, and foster fair competition, transparency, and good governance. Among these are rules related to intellectual property, labor rights, environment, and State-owned enterprises (SOEs), and the United States is committed to assisting Vietnam as it implements its TPP commitments in these and other areas, which will help advance Vietnam’s own economic agenda as well.
Robust Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement
Strong and effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) is critical to driving creativity and innovation, promoting economic growth, supporting jobs, and fostering open, innovative, and technologically-advanced economies in the Asia Pacific. TPP requires all TPP Parties, including Vietnam, to:
- Establish robust patent standards, consistent with international norms drawn from the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, as well as other international practices, including relevant exclusions.
- Adopt strong copyright protections to respect the rights of creators and establish clear protection of works, as well as to adopt strong and balanced provisions on technological protection measures and rights management information.
- Establish copyright safe harbors for Internet Service Providers, while helping to effectively address Internet copyright infringement.
- Promote the development and availability of life-saving innovative and generic medicines.
- Comprehensively address trade secret theft, including by establishing criminal procedures and penalties for trade secret theft, including by cyber-theft.
- Ensure the effective enforcement of IP rights, including through civil and administrative procedures and remedies, provisional measures, border measures, and criminal enforcement.
- Harmonize trademark and patent procedures to help businesses search, register, and protect their trademarks and patents in new markets.
- Enhance due process and other disciplines to address the potential for inappropriately “overprotecting” geographical indications, which would undermine the tariff benefits the United States has negotiated for U.S. agricultural and other products.
Strong Commitments on Worker Rights
The TPP will advance workers’ rights and working conditions in TPP countries and level the playing field for American workers and business. TPP requires all TPP Parties, including Vietnam, to protect the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively; eliminate child labor and forced labor; protect against employment discrimination; adopt and maintain laws on acceptable conditions of work related to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health; prevent the degradation of labor protections in export processing zones; and combat trade in goods made by forced labor in countries inside and outside TPP. All of these provisions are subject to dispute settlement and, in the event of noncompliance, to trade sanctions. In addition, under the United States-Vietnam Plan for the Enhancement of Trade and Labor Relations, Vietnam has made specific commitments to:
- Ensure worker freedom to form and operate independent unions, with full autonomy to elect leaders, adopt a constitution and rules, manage affairs, bargain collectively, and strike.
- Implement legal, regulatory and institutional changes that strengthen the protection of all fundamental labor rights.
- Strengthen the capacity of institutions to enforce labor laws.
- Establish a review mechanism with an independent labor committee, to monitor implementation and identify challenges within the first ten years of the Agreement. If Vietnam does not meet its commitment to allow unions to affiliate with one another within the first five years of the Agreement having entered into force for Vietnam, the United States may withhold or suspend further tariff reductions.
Fair Competition with SOEs
The TPP is the first trade agreement to include obligations on SOEs to help level the playing field for businesses and ensure fair competition. TPP requires all TPP Parties, including Vietnam, to:
- Ensure that SOEs make commercial purchases and sales on the basis of commercial considerations.
- Ensure that SOEs that receive non-commercial assistance do not cause harm to private competitors.
- Regulate SOEs and private companies in an impartial manner, without providing preferential treatment to SOEs.
- Ensure transparency by publishing complete lists of national SOEs, including information about government ownership, control, and non-commercial assistance to SOEs.
Strong Environmental Protections
The TPP Environment chapter contains the most comprehensive, cutting-edge environmental obligations of any of our trade agreements to date—simultaneously addressing critical environmental issues and leveling the playing field for our workers and firms. TPP requires all TPP Parties, including Vietnam, to:
- Effectively enforce its environmental laws and not weaken them to attract trade or investment.
- Fulfill obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to protect and conserve iconic species, such as rhinos and elephants.
- Effectively enforce its conservation laws, combat wildlife trafficking, including illegal logging through enhanced national and regional actions.
- Prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies, including those that contribute to overfishing, and promote sustainable fisheries management practices.
- Protect wetlands and other important natural areas.
- Promote the long-term conservation of at-risk marine species, and protect the marine environment from ship pollution.
- Control the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances to protect the ozone layer.
- Promote cooperative efforts to address issues such as energy efficiency; development of cost-effective, low-emissions technologies and alternative, clean and renewable energy sources; deforestation and forest degradation; and sustainable development.
Technical Assistance for Vietnam
The United States will provide comprehensive technical assistance to support Vietnam in implementing the historic economic, trade, and governance reforms it agreed to as part of TPP. These efforts build on the strong legacy of the Support for Trade Acceleration (STAR) program, under which the United States supported the Vietnamese Government’s implementation of the economic and trade reforms related to United States-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization commitments, as well as the ongoing Governance for Inclusive Growth (GIG) program. The United States is working with Vietnam to plan and implement projects in areas such as implementing IP commitments, supporting labor reforms, improving and modernizing customs administration and border enforcement, strengthening regulatory frameworks for technical standards and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, strengthening environmental protection and enforcement, promoting competition and transparency in government procurement, and strengthening the rule of law, accountability, and legal and regulatory framework by assisting Vietnam with the implementation of TPP commitments on transparency and good regulatory practices, and by facilitating the participation of civil society and the private sector in law development.