Tuesday, 10 August 2010

US Navy warship docks in former foe Vietnam


HANOI, Vietnam — A warship from the United States docked Tuesday in central Vietnam where the former foes planned to conduct navy training, in a sign of growing military ties amid new warnings from China for the U.S. to stay out of its backyard.

The USS John S. McCain's port call comes as the U.S. and Vietnam celebrate 15 years of normalized diplomatic relations following a bloody war that remains an open wound for many veterans. The two governments, while ideologically different, have embraced on a number of issues, including a recent stance against China's territorial claims over the South China Sea.

China on Tuesday told the U.S. and South Korean navies to keep out of the Yellow Sea, where it claims exclusivity.

The allies have planned another round of joint military war games following last month's drills in the Sea of Japan, which China also criticized.

The brief Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said Beijing had repeatedly "expressed our clear and firm position" on any maneuvers in the Yellow Sea, a move that would have theoretically put Beijing within range of the ship's F-18 warplanes.

"We urge the relevant parties to take China's position and concern seriously," the statement said.

On Sunday, the U.S. Navy hosted a delegation of Vietnamese military and government officials on the USS George Washington, a hulking nuclear-powered aircraft supercarrier cruising in waters off Vietnam's central coast. Chinese military ships were seen shadowing the carrier in the distance.

"These waters belong to nobody, yet belong to everybody," Capt. David Lausman, commanding officer of the George Washington, said Sunday aboard the mammoth carrier that can carry up to 70 aircraft, more than 5,000 sailors and aviators and about 4 million pounds (1.8 million kilograms) of bombs. "China has a right to operate here, as do we and as do every other country of the world."

The U.S. has ratcheted up its military presence in the region in recent weeks, conducting large-scale joint military exercises with ally South Korea last month as a show of solidarity following the sinking of a South Korean navy warship in March that killed 46 sailors. North Korea was blamed for torpedoing the Cheonan, but has denied any involvement and has repeatedly threatened war if punished.

On Monday, the North fired off a barrage of about 110 artillery rounds into the ocean near its disputed western sea border with South Korea. The display caused no damage, but prompted terse warnings of retaliation from South Korea. U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley joked that Pyongyang likely caused "a lot of dead fish," and said it wasn't clear what the reclusive government was trying to achieve with its "ongoing chest-thumping."

China criticized the drills and later held its own exercises in the South China Sea, which it claims entirely along with the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands over which it exercises complete sovereignty.

Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have staked claims on all or some of the territory, which straddles vital shipping lanes, important fishing grounds and is believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves.

Last month during an Asian security meeting in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton angered China by asserting that it was in the U.S. national interest for the Communist giant to resolve the territorial claims with its neighbors.

Vietnam has been particularly vocal about the South China Sea. The communist country has grown increasingly closer to the United States, from trade and commerce to negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology that could allow Vietnam to enrich uranium on its own soil.

The USS John S. McCain's weeklong visit will involve search and rescue trainings along with cultural exchanges between the two navies. The guided-missile destroyer docked in central Danang, once the site of a bustling U.S. military base during the Vietnam War, which ended April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of the U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam, reuniting the country.

Some 58,000 Americans and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese were killed during the war.

Relations have thrived since the former foes shook hands in 1995. The U.S. is Vietnam's top export market and Americans are the country's No. 1 foreign investor. Two-way trade reached $15.4 billion in 2009.

Military ties have also grown since the first U.S. warship ship visited Ho Chi Minh City in 2003, including high-level defense talks and training.

Associated Press Writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report from Beijing.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Vietnam, US display military ties amid China tension

DANANG, Vietnam — Vietnam and the United States will stage a fresh demonstration this week of their military ties at a time of escalating tensions with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The US destroyer USS John S. McCain, making a call at the central port city of Danang, departs Tuesday for a four-day exchange programme with the Vietnamese navy, featuring mostly sporting and musical events.

On Sunday, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which recently took part in joint military exercises with South Korea which were denounced by Beijing, hosted a delegation of Vietnamese military in the waters of the South China Sea off Danang.

The visit by the US Navy vessels, part of official celebrations marking the 15th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the former enemies, has taken on greater significance due to recent regional friction.

"Tensions in relations between China and the US are much more tense than a year ago and this has spilled over to the South China Sea," said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

"The US is demonstrating a military presence and Vietnam is letting this occasion speak for itself," he said.

Hanoi normally treads carefully in its relations with its Chinese ideological ally, but the regional ambitions of its large neighbour have stoked a degree of apprehension in Vietnam.

Relations between Hanoi and Washington have come a long way since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two 20 years later.

The United States has become an important partner of Vietnam, and not only in the commercial sphere.

Lately Hanoi has become particularly "uneasy about Chinese territorial ambitions", a Vietnamese defence ministry source said.

"The presence of American ships in Vietnamese ports has a great strategic significance for Vietnam," which "shows a regional balance in defence matters", he said.

"I think that the United States could play a much more important role in the region," he added.

The South China Sea has long been the subject of territorial disputes, particularly over the Paracel and Spratley archipelagos.

Since 1974, Beijing has been in de facto occupation of the Paracels, which are also claimed by Hanoi. China also claims sovereignty over the Spratleys, as does Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga last week denounced China for sending ships to carry out seismic studies in the Paracels zone, which "violated Vietnam's indisputable sovereignty".

Top US commanders have made it clear they are keeping a close eye on Beijing's military build-up, in particular its naval presence in the South China Sea.

China last month held a large naval and air exercise in the South China Sea, a week after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said resolution of the territorial disputes was "pivotal" to regional stability.

Speaking at Asian security talks in Hanoi, Clinton indicated that Washington was prepared to facilitate multilateral discussions on the island chains and said the US had a "national interest" in seeing international law respected in the area.

Beijing swiftly denounced any such attempts to "internationalise" the disputes, saying such moves could worsen the situation.

And visits by US naval ships to Vietnam risk further irritating China.

"The Vietnamese are ever sensitive to how China will react," said Thayer. "The visit of US warships to Danang indicates that Vietnam is willing to risk Chinese verbal displeasure."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

Vietnam July car sales drop 13 pct yr/yr - industry

Aug 10 (Reuters) - Car sales in Vietnam dropped in July for the first time in four months, falling 13 percent from last July to 9,439 vehicles, but Japan's Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) retained its top position, an industry association said.

Toyota sold 2,452 cars last month, a 12 percent dip from July 2009, the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers' Association said in its monthly report.

Car sales last dropped in March when they fell 16 percent to around 9,300 units following a slump in holiday-shortened February.

The association gave no reasons for the fall in July, but it said sales of sport utility vehicles, multi-purpose vehicles and crossovers had the largest annual fall of 20 percent.

Overall, Vietnam's car industry sold 59,717 vehicles between Janaury and July, an increase of 2 percent from the same period last year, the association said.

The sales data from 16 manufacturers operating in Vietnam also included passenger cars.

Car imports, which have been limited by the government as part of measures to reduce the country's trade deficit, rose 19.5 percent in the first seven months of 2010 from a year earlier to $1.57 billion, government statistics show.

Vietnamese brides flock to South Korea

The Independent

After 30 minutes of discussion it was settled. Le would become his bride. She and three other young Vietnamese women had been presented to two South Korean men by illegal marriage brokers in Ho Chi Minh City.

The men made their choices and three days later Le, then 25, was married. After completing the paperwork, she left behind her poor life on a farm in southern Vietnam to live in South Korea.

Tens of thousands of other Vietnamese women have made the same journey.

"I left because of my family's economic difficulties," Le said.

Her parents earned less than two million dong (108 dollars) a month, and the husband gave the family five times that ahead of the marriage.

Then the money stopped, because Le's South Korean dream was cut short.

"I wasn't beaten but I was locked up all day long," said Le, who only gave her first name.

She spoke at an official Women's Union centre which counsels prospective brides of foreigners and helps those who return after encountering difficulty.

Le said her husband "was shouting all the time." She fled, was arrested, and sent back to Vietnam where she returned to her home in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long.

Le was one of about 40,000 Vietnamese women who married South Koreans between 2004 and 2009, according to researchers.

Increasing numbers of Southeast Asian men, particularly in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, are marrying foreigners because fewer women in their homelands are willing to wed and take on a traditional role, a study by Daniele Belanger, of Canada's University of Western Ontario, said in late July.

Official figures in South Korea show there were 7,249 marriages between South Koreans and Vietnamese women last year.

South Korean television shows are popular in Vietnam, exposing the would-be brides to Korean culture - and dreams of a better life.

Many of them are impoverished and poorly-educated residents of the rural Mekong Delta, where they are sought by illegal marriage brokers based in nearby Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

Tran Giang Linh, a Vietnamese researcher, studied families in the Delta province of Can Tho and found some brides were able to send home more than 3,000 dollars in one year - roughly three times Vietnam's per capita income.

But activists say some foreign brides, coaxed by false promises or deceptive advertising, end up living with spouses who have few assets, are ill, alcoholic or just difficult.

Seoul said it would set up a task force to reform the international matchmaking business following the death in July of Vietnamese bride Thach Thi Hoang Ngoc, 20. She was allegedly beaten and stabbed to death by her 47-year-old husband eight days after she arrived in the southern port city of Busan.

The man told police he heard a "ghost's voice" urging him to kill his bride when they quarrelled. He had been treated 57 times for schizophrenia since July 2005, South Korean police said.

Ngoc and her husband met through a marriage agency, Vietnamese media reported.

Following her death, a Vietnamese government spokeswoman said clamping down on illegal marriage brokers would be difficult because "it is not easy to identify which marriage is unlawfully brokered".

An increasing number of marriages are arranged through networks of relatives, although Belanger said family members often have links to the brokers.

Matchmaking agencies in receiving and sending countries still play a major role but "family networks are taking on a greater importance," she said.

Taiwan used to be the destination of choice for Vietnamese women seeking foreign husbands. Some 100,000 Vietnamese wives have been registered there since the early 1990s, according to data gathered on the island.

The flow shifted to South Korea over the past several years, partly because Taiwan tightened its documentation process, said Hong-zen Wang, director of the Graduate Institute of Sociology at Taiwan's National Sun Yat-sen University.

"Now South Korea is the principle destination," he said.

Last year Taiwan also banned commercial international matchmaking services after a series of high-profile criminal cases, including one in which a man was jailed for enslaving and torturing his Vietnamese wife.

Although the problems which foreign brides can encounter abroad should not be minimised, arranged marriages do not systematically lead to abuse, Belanger said.

And the potential for a better life and the ability to send money home to the family draws five or six women a month to the Women's Union advisory centre in Vinh Long.

For Le, who has remarried to a Vietnamese man, the centre is still a source of support three years after her failed marriage to the Korean.

"It helps me to return to a normal life," she said.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Former enemies US, Vietnam now military mates


ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON — Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a U.S. nuclear supercarrier cruised in waters off the Southeast Asian nation's coast — sending a message that China is not the region's only big player.

The visit comes 35 years after the Vietnam War as Washington and Hanoi are cozying up in a number of areas, from negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology to agreeing that China needs to work with its neighbors to resolve territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The USS George Washington's stop is officially billed as a commemoration of last month's 15th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the former foes. But the timing also reflects Washington's heightened interest in maintaining security and stability in the Asia-Pacific amid tensions following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which killed 46 sailors. North Korea has been blamed for the attack, but has vehemently denied any involvement.

Last month during an Asian security meeting in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also angered China by unexpectedly calling on the Communist powerhouse to resolve territorial claims with neighboring Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.

"The strategic implications and importance of the waters of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation is vital to both Vietnam and the United States," Capt. Ross Myers, commander of the George Washington's air wing, said aboard the ship Sunday as fighter jets thundered off the flight deck above.

"I'm certain that the Chinese government and the Chinese people are trying to protect their interests," he added when asked about China's increased aggressiveness within the area. "It is more important for Vietnam (and) its partners to establish that they have an equal right to economic prosperity and peace within the region as well."

Chinese navy ships were seen shadowing the USS George Washington at a distance over the past several days as the supercarrier made its way throught the South China Sea along Vietnam's eastern coast, U.S. Navy officials said Sunday.

China claims the entire sea and the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands over which it exercises complete sovereignty. But Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have staked claims on all or some of the territory, which straddles vital shipping lanes, important fishing grounds and is believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Clinton announced that the U.S. has a national interest in seeing the claims resolved.

"The problem is that China has now committed herself, publicly, to sovereignty of the South China Sea and to push that back, if only to the status of a claim that is not enforced, is going to be very difficult," said Arthur Waldron, an international relations specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. "So we are playing catch up, reminding the Chinese that we have not collapsed into post-great powerdom yet, and that we have other friends in the region."

Vietnam has long been vocal about the issue, protesting China's plans to bring tourists to the islands and most recently seismic studies conducted near the Paracels. Last month China also held naval drills in the South China Sea.

"Vietnam does not support containing China, but like most other ASEAN members would like to see each major power offset the other," Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "Quite simply, these are not too subtle signals that Vietnam wants the United States to stay engaged in the region to balance China."

The formidable USS George Washington is a permanent presence in the Pacific, based in Japan. As one of the world's biggest warships, it is a floating city that can carry up to 70 aircraft, more than 5,000 sailors and aviators and about 4 million pounds (1.8 million kilograms) of bombs. It lurked Sunday about 200 miles (320 kilometers) off the central coast of Danang, Vietnam's jumping-off point for the disputed islands.

A group of high-ranking Vietnamese military officials was flown onto the carrier Sunday along with other Vietnamese government officials and the U.S. ambassador to the country.

The supercarrier came to Vietnam following four days of high-profile military exercises last month with South Korea aimed at showing solidarity following the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan navy ship. The drills enraged Pyongyang and drew repeated criticism from its Chinese ally.

A Chinese newspaper ran a front-page story last week strongly hinting that China also is not happy about reports that Vietnam and the U.S. are negotiating a civilian nuclear fuel and technology deal that could allow Vietnam to enrich uranium on its own soil.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said China had not been consulted about the talks, but he would not discuss the specifics of the enrichment provision. Congressional aides have said the agreement will likely not contain a no-enrichment pledge, which the U.S. promotes as the "gold standard" for civilian nuclear cooperation accords to ensure materials are not being used to build a nuclear weapon.

Vietnam has denied having any plans to enrich uranium on its own soil.

The aircraft carrier's visit is particularly symbolic as it cruises off the coast of central Danang, once the site of a bustling U.S. military base during the Vietnam War, which ended April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of the U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam, reuniting the country.

Some 58,000 Americans and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese were killed during the war.

Relations have thrived since the former foes shook hands in 1995. The U.S. is Vietnam's top export market and Americans are the country's No. 1 foreign investor. Two-way trade reached $15.4 billion in 2009.

Military ties have also grown since the first U.S. warship ship visited Ho Chi Minh City in 2003, including high-level defense talks and training.

The USS John McCain destroyer will pay a port call to Vietnam later this week. The two navies are expected to have cultural exchanges along with training exercises, such as search and rescue operations.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

US-Vietnam nuke deal likely to allow enrichment

WASHINGTON — Congressional aides say the Obama administration has told lawmakers that a nuclear cooperation deal with Vietnam is unlikely to include a promise from Hanoi not to enrich uranium.

The United States calls the no-enrichment pledge the "gold standard" for civilian nuclear cooperation accords. It is modeled on a U.S. deal last year with the United Arab Emirates.

In that deal, the UAE pledged, in return for U.S. nuclear equipment and reactors, not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel for plutonium. Either of those procedures could be used for nuclear bombs.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Vietnam May Spur Privatization After $4.5 Billion Shipyard Debt

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam may accelerate plans to privatize and break up state-owned companies after the nation’s largest shipbuilder almost collapsed under 86 trillion dong ($4.5 billion) of debts.

“Vietnam’s policy is to speed up the process of equitization,” the state’s name for privatizations, said Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of the Government Office, which oversees implementation of state plans. “The Vinashin case won’t slow the equitization program,” he said by phone on Aug. 6. The ex- chairman of Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, known as Vinashin, was arrested last week amid a probe into losses.

Hastening the privatization push may boost management standards at local companies and help the South Asian nation pare a budget deficit that contributed to it being downgraded by Fitch Ratings last month. The government delayed plans to sell stakes in Bank for Investment & Development, Vietnam Airlines and other state-owned companies in the last two years as global stock markets plunged during the worldwide recession.

“Vinashin is a good example of why the equitization process needs to progress more quickly,” said Matt Hildebrandt, a Singapore-based economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. It will “ensure that credible leaders run and grow Vietnam’s most important companies.”

Vinashin Investigation

Pham Thanh Binh, Vinashin’s ex-chairman, was accused of “intentional violations of state regulations on economic management that have resulted in serious consequences,” according to a statement posted on the government’s website on Aug. 4. He was suspended from Vinashin last month before being detained by an investigation agency under the Ministry of Public Security.

Binh, 57, had run Vinashin since the company’s formation in 1996, holding posts including general director, chairman and secretary of the group’s party unit, according to Thanh Nien newspaper. The government set up Vinashin by combining shipyards and related companies held by the Ministry of Transport, according to the shipbuilder’s website.

Fitch cut Vietnam’s long-term foreign and local-currency ratings by one level to B+ on July 29. That’s four steps below investment grade. The nation’s budget deficit will likely stay at 7.6 percent of gross domestic product this year, the ratings company said.

Smaller Privatizations

Vietnam has focused privatizations this year on smaller companies or units of larger groups. Last week, it raised 129.2 billion dong selling shares in BIDV Insurance Co., an arm of BIDV, the nation’s second-biggest lender by assets. Mekong Housing Bank, a state-owned commercial lender, said last week that it plans to finish its privatization this year.

The government intended to conduct an initial public offering of BIDV as early as 2007. The sale was delayed because of concerns about an oversupply of new shares and then because of the global financial crisis. Vietnam Airlines’ offering was planned for 2008. No date has been set yet for either sale.

Bao Viet Holdings, Vietnam’s biggest insurer, raised 4.3 trillion dong in an initial public offering in 2007 before listing shares on the exchange in 2009. Joint-Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam and Vietnam Bank for Industry & Trade, the nation’s third-biggest and fourth-biggest bank by assets, also listed shares last year.

The benchmark Vietnam Stock Index, or VN Index, has dropped 4.5 percent this year, compared with a gain of 19 percent for the benchmark index in Thailand and of 21 percent in Indonesia. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which tracks 756 companies worldwide, has climbed 2.4 percent.

EVN, PetroVietnam

The government should prioritize selling stakes in some of the largest companies still fully under state control including the nation’s biggest power company, Electricity of Vietnam, or EVN, and oil producer Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, said Matthias Duehn, Ho Chi Minh City-based executive director of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, a business group.

“EVN is probably the most urgent one to address because Vietnam is experiencing serious energy problems in the medium- and long-term,” he said. “It is proven by many cases, most recently Vinashin, that state-owned enterprises are often lagging behind in efficiency, funds allocation and corporate governance.”

Vietnam plans to restructure Vinashin, which has already fired about 5,000 workers to cut costs and “was facing the risk of bankruptcy” in June, according to an Aug. 4 government statement. The company should focus on shipbuilding and maintenance, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said last week. The shipyard had invested in projects including shipping, industrial zones and cement-making.

The government will likely save the shipbuilder as it employs skilled workers and generates export earnings, said Lawrence Wolfe, director of business development at DongA Securities Co. in Ho Chi Minh City.

“It’s a company and a group that the government would like to save,” he said. “It would also be an example of the need for equitization.”

--Editors: Neil Denslow, Aaron Sheldrick

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Vietnam’s GDP Growth Accelerates to 5.8% on Stimulus


By Jason Folkmanis

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam’s economic growth accelerated this quarter, buoyed by domestic demand and government stimulus spending that has revived bank lending.

Gross domestic product expanded 5.8 percent from a year earlier after gaining 4.5 percent in the previous three months, according to the General Statistics Office in Hanoi. For the first three quarters, the economy grew 4.6 percent, compared with a revised 6.3 percent for the same period in 2008.

“Vietnam is certainly moving out of the slowdown,” said Ashok Sud, the Hanoi-based Vietnam chief executive for Standard Chartered Plc. “But getting back to the 7 or 8 percent growth that we were seeing before may take another couple of years.”

The government is focusing more on boosting economic growth this year than on easing inflation, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet said last week. The country has among “the most attractive” growth prospects in Asia over the “long run,” said Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, in an interview last week.

“Vietnam’s steady recovery remains on track,” Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. said in a research note today. “Industrial production, particularly from the state sector, continues to propel growth, while the retail sales momentum looks reasonably healthy.”

Retail sales have maintained growth rates of about 20 percent through the economic slowdown, according to research from Ho Chi Minh City-based fund manager Dragon Capital.

‘Reviving Well’

“Core GDP support continues to be generated mainly by domestic demand,” wrote Joseph Lau, a Hong Kong-based economist at Credit Suisse Group AG, in a note last week. “Consumption held up well during the downturn and even big-ticket purchases seem to be reviving well.”

This quarter’s growth was largely spurred by services, which account for 38 percent of the economy and which expanded 5.9 percent in the first nine months from a year earlier.

Transportation, storage and telecommunications grew 8.4 percent during the first three quarters, while financial services expanded 8.1 percent during the period.

“In a developing market, the financial sector normally grows at about twice the rate of GDP,” said Sud of Standard Chartered. “In the case of Vietnam this year, we also had the stimulus package’s interest-rate subsidy program, which helped drive bank lending.”

Stimulus Package

Measures put in place to counter the slowdown included a fiscal stimulus package valued at 8.6 percent of GDP that featured tax exemptions, reductions and deferments for businesses, increased bond sales, and an interest-rate subsidy program, central bank Governor Nguyen Van Giau said in an August letter to the Asian Development Bank.

The interest-rate subsidy scheme as well as a government infrastructure program have been the “key drivers” behind Vietnam’s economic growth this year, wrote Robert Prior- Wandesforde, a Singapore-based economist at HSBC Holdings Plc.

Industry and construction, which accounts for 40 percent of the Vietnamese economy, grew 4.5 percent in the first three quarters, with the sub-category measuring construction alone expanding 9.7 percent.

Vietnamese building has “recommenced” and a heavy supply of office space will probably enter the market within two years, Dragon Capital said this month.

“The economic recovery is spreading out from construction to include the manufacturing sector,” wrote Prior-Wandesforde of HSBC.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries, which made up 22 percent of the economy during the first three quarters, grew 1.6 percent. Seafood production was hampered by “many difficulties,” the General Statistics Office said in a report today, with industry exports sliding 10 percent by value during the first three quarters.

Six jailed for Vietnam baby fraud

BBC News

Six Vietnamese have been sentenced to jail for arranging more than 300 fraudulent adoptions, an official said.

The six were jailed for two to four-and-a-half years for "abuse of power", court official Nguyen Tien Hung said.

Among those convicted were two heads of provincial welfare centres, doctors, nurses and local officials.

They were found to have filed false papers to allow babies from poor families to be adopted, many by parents in France, Italy and the US.

Ten other people received suspended sentences of 15 to 18 months.

They came from the province of Nam Dinh, south of Hanoi.

The falsified papers said the babies had been abandoned, making them eligible for adoption by foreign parents, the prosecutors said.

The group was operating from 2005 to July 2008, when the two key suspects were arrested.

The case came to light last year after the US embassy in Hanoi accused Vietnam of failing to police its adoption system, allowing corruption, fraud and baby-selling to flourish.

The US report led Vietnam to end a bilateral adoption agreement.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Congress of Vietnamese Fatherland Front opens

HANOI, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The seventh national congress of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front (VFF) opened here on Monday, mapping out development strategy and major tasks of the organization for the next five years.

The VFF is a united front organization of Vietnamese people from all walks of life. The national congress is convened every five years.

With the theme of enhancing the role of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, strengthening democracy, promoting social development and building national unity bloc for a prosperous country and a just, democratic and civilized society, the three-day conference has participation of around 1,300 delegates.

Huynh Dam, President of the VFF Central Committee delivered a speech at the conference. He said the VFF will strive to further enhance its role in Vietnam's renovation cause in the next five years.

The VFF will try to involve more people from various ethnical groups and social sectors to take part in the country's industrialization, modernization and international integration in all possible ways, said Dam.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nong Duc Manh spoke highly of the VFF at the conference. He said that the VFF has contributed greatly to the country's economic and social development, national security and national unity.

Officials from China, Laos, Cambodia and Cuba were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the conference.

Zhang Rongming, vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee delivered a speech at the opening ceremony.

Zhang said that bilateral relations between China and Vietnam have developed in an all-round way in recent years, with friendly exchanges and mutual-beneficial cooperation in all sectors.

Zhang said that the CPPCC would like to continue to work together with the VFF to promote China-Vietnam friendship and cooperation.

Xinhua News Agency