Dr Mai Liem Truc, former deputy minister of Post and Communications, talks to the newspaper Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) about the need to finalise the draft Law on Cyber Security.

The draft Law on Cyber Security has been revised 14 times, but there are still outstanding controversial issues. Do you have any comments on the latest draft edition of the law?

First of all, referring to the adjusted framework of the draft law, much of the contents on safety, security, technology and technique in the 14th draft edition of the law are in line with the Law on Internet Security, which came into force on July 1, 2017. However, there are two major differences concerning the management rules and the State management agencies. These two points will cause difficulties for law enforcement officers and enterprises in implementing the law.

In my opinion, quite a few components on the law contradict some existing laws as well as Vietnam’s commitments to a few international laws. For example, the draft law requires foreign suppliers of telecom services or Internet services to establish a representative agency in Vietnam. Such a requirement is not regulated in any WTO documents or the Europe-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

How do you think the component of the draft law that requires foreign suppliers of telecoms and internet services in Vietnam to have operation licences and to establish mechanisms to verify users’ personal information when they create accounts aligns with Vietnam’s commitments with the WTO, EVFTA or the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?

I must say the requirement to open the market on telecoms and Internet services across the border has always been a very important and sensitive issue during negotiations for the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) or the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other future free trade agreements.

Vietnam has officially committed in the WTO and the EVFTA that all cross-border telecoms and internet services are unlimited, neither the requirement of having their representative offices in Vietnam.

In addition, the Chapter on E Commerce in the TPP agreement, which Vietnam signed in February 2016, says “The proposal on server location violated a commitment relating to Location of Computing Facilities (Article 14.13) in the Electronic Commerce Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)”.

Former Vietnamese Minister of Trade Truong Dinh Tuyen, who participated in many negotiations for the TPP and also was a signatory to the Agreement, said, “The topic had been thoroughly discussed before it was written into the TPP treaty.”

That’s why Vietnam should honor its commitment. And that totally conforms to our policy to continue to integrate deeper into the international economy in the course of national development.

Do you have any concerns that locating the main server abroad will complicate the management of Vietnamese agencies?

I should say quite a lot of information on the social network, like Facebook, is biased and incorrect. To minimise the negative impacts of the Internet on our social network over the last 20 years, concerned Vietnamese management agencies and Internet users have used a combination of the technical measures such as firewalls; legal administrative measures; and communication and education campaigns to screen falsified information against the Party, Government and society.

The Government has instructed all public agencies and organisations to practice transparency in their activities and launched movements to combat slanderous campaigns against the nation.

Do you think that once the Law on Cyber Security is passed by the National Assembly it will have negative impacts on business opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises, as well as the general public’s access to information?

The Vietnamese Party and Government have committed to simplifying all administrative procedures and promised to offer favourable conditions for all enterprises to develop so that the people can have better lives.

I myself don’t think that when the law is passed by the National Assembly it will have negative impacts on our people’s access to information. However, if the law is approved and it has negative impacts on enterprises’ activities and the people’s access to information, then Vietnam will surely lag behind other countries and its window of opportunity to succeed in industrial revolution 4.0 will become close.

The location of the servers is not as important as efforts to ensure cyber security for the data that the servers store.