and five years later saw Vietnam become a member of the World TradeOrganization
in January 2007, after approval of the WTO General Council inNovember 2006.
For purposes of this essay, the most important aspects of Doi Moiwere the initiation of policies aimed at encouraging foreign investment, stimulatingexports and increasing the competitiveness of the local economic structure (both state-owned and private), which meant legal reform (much more slowly than in retrospect wasdesirable and with more than a little backsliding), which in turn necessarily meant aresurgence of the legal profession and legal education.Part I of this essay briefly summarizes the economic (and to a much more limitedextent) political developments from 1974 to 1986. Part II views the development of theDoi Moi policies from 1986 to about 1995. Part III discusses developments in the 1995-2000 period, focusing on the negotiation and conclusion of the U.S. – Vietnam BilateralTrade Agreement “VBTA”). Part IV discusses the WTO accession process, completedwith Vietnam’s formal accession to membership in January 2007. Finally, Part Vdiscusses some recent developments in Vietnam indicating awareness by Vietnameseofficials that the legal system continues to have shortcomings, and plans for far-reachingreforms in the legislative process and the functions of the judiciary, as well as the role of lawyers in society.In each section, much of the emphasis is on the growing role and importance of the legal profession. The profession consists first of indigenous Vietnamese attorneysstaffing the Trade, Justice and other ministries responsible for negotiating and draftingthe trade agreements, preparing the implementing legislation and presenting those lawsfor enactment to the National Assembly, and assuring that the implementing process(including myriad regulations) continues at the ministry and sub-ministry levels.However, at least three other groups of attorneys played a significant role, the Australian,French, British, American and other foreign attorneys who staffed branch offices inSaigon and/or Hanoi beginning in the late 1980s, and the even larger number of “legalconsultants” from those nations, Canada, Singapore, Sweden and other European Unionnations (usually funded by bilateral aid agencies or the international financial institutions)who provided technical assistance (no doubt of varying quality and relevance) togovernment ministries, the National Assembly and various law faculties, among others.
Finally, one should not underestimate the legal “education” provided to a very bright,
Agreement Between the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on TradeRelations, Jul. 13, 2000,
Marrakech Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization [hereinafter “WTO Agreement”],April 14, 1994,
WTO Press Release,
General Council Approves Viet Nam’s
Membership, Nov. 7, 2006,
http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/pres06_e/pr455_e.htm (visited Dec. 11, 2006); WTO,
Vietnam to joinWTO on 11 January 2007
, Dec. 12, 2006,
By way of example, the author has made six trips to Vietnam, to consult with the Ministry of Justice, theNational Assembly and a large group of actual or hopeful international trade law professors, supported atvarious times by the United Nations Development Programme, the Swedish International DevelopmentAgency, the World Bank and the U.S. – Vietnam Trade Council.
WORKING DRAFT: NOT TO BE QUOTED ORCITED WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION2