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U.S. helps pave way for Vietnam’s WTO accession

U.S. helps pave way for Vietnam’s WTO accession

   The United States and Vietnam reached a bilateral market access agreement over the weekend that’s expected to lower trade barriers for a wide variety of U.S. industrial and agricultural products and take Vietnam one more step closer to joining the World Trade Organization.

   “This is a very good agreement of the United States,” said U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, in a statement Sunday. “It opens a new and growing market for American agricultural goods, services, such as financial services, and manufactured products.”

   Bilateral trade between the United States and Vietnam increased to more than $7.6 billion in 2005, a five-fold increase since the countries signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2001.

   With the new bilateral market access agreement reached, Congress must now consider granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations status before the two countries can put the agreement into effect and Vietnam can join the WTO. Vietnam has been negotiating for a place in the WTO since 1995.

   The new U.S.-Vietnam market access agreement has received mixed feedback from American industry groups.

   “This agreement will boost bilateral trade and investment opportunities for companies from both countries,” said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for East Asia. “Vietnam has taken an important step to integrate itself into the global economy.”

   The chamber plans to play a significant role in the U.S.-Vietnam WTO Coalition, which is working to ensure the passage of Vietnam’s permanent normal trade relations status in Congress.

   National Council of Textile Organization Chairman Jim Chesnutt, on the other hand, called the agreement “a victory for Vietnam, a victory for unbalanced and job-destroying trade policy and a severe blow to U.S. textile manufacturers and their workers.”

   Chesnutt noted that Vietnam has a large state-owned textile sector. Vinatex, a Vietnamese government-operated textile manufacturer, is the 10th-largest garment maker in the world. Vietnam’s textile sector is the largest generator of foreign exchange for the country and employs more than 1.1 million people.

   “To believe that Vietnam is going to give all of this up and suddenly start pricing products according to free market rules, is simply foolhardy,” Chesnutt said. “We are not fooled.”

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