Countries Pledge to Cooperate on Training and Information Sharing to Improve Quality and Safety
The United States and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to enhance the safety of food, feed, drugs and medical devices traded between the two nations.
The plan is the product of discussions between U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt and senior Vietnamese officials in Hanoi just two months ago and it exemplifies the new import-safety strategy adopted by the U.S. Government in November 2007. Historically, U.S. authorities have primarily relied on intervention at the border to intercept unsafe goods. The new strategy, crafted by a Cabinet-level interagency Working Group on Import Safety chaired by Secretary Leavitt, calls for actively working with trading partners to help ensure they build quality into every step of a product’s life cycle.
“Trade between our two nations has grown exponentially in recent years and our societies are better off as a result -- and our cooperation in health is stronger than ever,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Tevi Troy, in signing the MOU. “With this agreement, we’re increasing our joint efforts to ensure the safety of goods our citizens consume on a daily basis. This is an important step forward for the health of the American and Vietnamese people.”
The MOU calls for cooperation in the following areas:
- Information-sharing -- the U.S. and Viet Nam governments will exchange information on their respective regulatory systems, such as details on laws and regulations; guidance documents; lists of drugs approved by HHS’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in aquaculture; training opportunities on key topics, such as safety surveillance of products after marketing; and timely information on potential or emerging issues of product safety (food-borne illnesses, food contamination, etc.).
- Workshops and training -- the two countries hope to conduct or participate in workshops or other training that concerns food, animal feed, and medical products, including those offered by international organizations. The two sides will also make efforts to find opportunities for joint training for food-borne illnesses and the oversight of food traded internationally.
- Best practices in clinical trials -- HHS/FDA and its counterpart agencies intend to cooperate on training and inspections of clinical trials for the development of medical products.
- Seafood safety -- In cooperation with Vietnamese authorities, the United States will undertake a detailed review of safety issues regarding fish and fishery products exported from Viet Nam to the United States.
The United States and Viet Nam have a strong and growing trade relationship that has greatly accelerated in recent years. Since signing of the United States-Viet Nam Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2001, commerce between the two nations has increased eight-fold, fueled, in part, by the agriculture and aquaculture sectors. Two-way trade exceeded $12.5 billion in 2007, according to the Foreign-Trade Division of the Census Bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Import safety continues to be a key priority for HHS. As the signing ceremony took place in Washington, Secretary Leavitt participated in a day-long product safety forum in El Salvador with government officials and business leaders from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The forum is part of the Secretary’s week-long trip to México, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panamá to strengthen efforts to improve the safety of products and to advance joint programs to improve health care in the region.
More information on Import Safety at www.importsafety.gov