It didn't have the drama associated with a defeated nation signing the
articles of surrender, but that is essentially what took place on
Thursday. This article might well have been written by someone in the US
Trade Rep's office, and having been in the newspaper business myself,
that is not beyond the realm of possibilities.
In any case, one needs to go no further than the last line in the sixth
paragraph which refers to the deaths of 58,000 Americans with nary a
mention of the two million Vietnamese dead, to appreciate the sad irony
surrounding the signing of this trading pact between David and Goliath.
The Vietnamese firms that will now be allowed to export freely to the US
will be essentially foreign-owned, with US corporations, presumably,
getting the preferences.
Some of the blame for what has happened, IMNSHO, must fall on the
anti-war movement, which patted itself on the back in 1975, and then
neglected to respond when the US, rather than paying reparations to
rebuild the country it had destroyed, put into place, what amounted to a
virtual economic embargo, that eventually brought a nation that had been
at war for more than 50 years, to its knees. It is a major tragedy and
another bloody stain on the escutcheon of this country.
> United States, Vietnam Sign Historic Trade Pact
> Thursday, July 13, 2000
> By Adam Entous
> WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former enemies the United States and Vietnam signed
> a landmark trade agreement on Thursday, clearing the way for normal trade
> relations for the first time since the Vietnam War and boosting communist
> Hanoi's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
> The agreement, signed by U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and
> Vietnam's Trade Minister Vu Khoan after four years of negotiations, would
> reduce tariffs on goods and services, protect intellectual property and
> improve investment relations between the two countries.
> "From the bitter past, we plant the seeds of a better future," President
> Clinton told reporters on the White House South Lawn before returning to
> Camp David, Maryland, for a Middle East peace summit.
> "This agreement is one more reminder that former adversaries can come
> together to find common ground in a way that benefits all their people, to
> let go of the past and embrace the future, to forgive and to reconcile," he
> added, with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot who
> spent 5-1/2 years in a Hanoi prison camp, at his side.
> The trade agreement was one of the most important economic milestones for
> Vietnam since the country embarked on market-oriented reforms in the late
> 1980s, and could help Hanoi in its efforts to join the Geneva-based WTO,
> though Barshefsky said accession was a "number of years off.
> It also marked a major step toward completing the normalization process
> that began on July 11, 1995, when Clinton extended diplomatic ties to
> Vietnam. America lost 58,000 lives in the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975.
> The trade agreement must still be approved by the U.S. Congress. Though
> Republican congressional leaders support closer trade ties with Vietnam, it
> remained to be seen whether lawmakers would approve the pact before this
> year's abbreviated legislative session ends.
> In terms of commerce, the trade agreement would mean far more for Vietnam
> than for the United States. With Congress' approval, Hanoi would win
> Washington's coveted normal trade relations (NTR) status.
> According to a recent World Bank report, the agreement could more than
> double Vietnam's exports to the United States to $768 million from $338
> million in 1996.
> It could also boost foreign investment in Vietnam, which fell to around
> $500 million a year from peaks of $2.8 billion in 1996 and 1997 when Hanoi
> was viewed as Asia's next dynamic tiger economy.
> For the United States, the impact was harder to gauge. Under the pact,
> Vietnam agreed to cut tariffs in most cases by one-third to one-half on a
> wide range of products, from toiletries to mobile phones to pasta.
> U.S. companies like shoemaker Nike Inc. and agribusiness giant Cargill Inc.
> stand to benefit from increased access to the Vietnamese marketplace, but
> analysts said the gains may be slow to materialize since Vietnam would
> reduce trade barriers over a three-to-seven year period in many cases.
> LONG-DELAYED DEAL
> Thursday's signing came one year after Washington announced an "agreement
> in principle" with Vietnam, only to have Hanoi back away, arguing that
> certain provisions were unfair.
> Analysts believed Vietnam balked in 1999 because it feared the loss of
> economic control that would come with market opening. The delay darkened
> the mood among investors, fed up with Vietnam's closed economy and high costs.
> But U.S. officials and business leaders said Vietnam was emboldened to sign
> the agreement in part by U.S. House of Representatives' approval of a
> landmark trade agreement with China. Beijing is expected to join the WTO
> later this year, and Vietnam has similar aspirations.
> "Once China concluded its very large bilateral agreement with us, Vietnam
> feared it would be left behind in Asia," Barshefsky said.
> Clinton, who avoided serving in the military and joined protests against
> the Vietnam War, was also eager to complete the normalization process
> before he leaves office in January. Popular with business, a market-opening
> agreement with Vietnam would help cement Clinton's free-trade record
> following the 1999 deal with China.
> Under the pact Vietnam would lower its tariffs and undertake a broad range
> of measures to open its markets to U.S. goods, services and investment. For
> example, Hanoi agreed to eliminate all restrictions on auto parts, citrus
> and beef within seven years.
> After as little as two and as many as six years, U.S. firms would be
> allowed to enter into joint telecoms ventures in Vietnam. But access would
> be restricted in some cases, and U.S. equity stakes would be capped at 49
> percent for telephone, mobile and satellite services. U.S. equity in
> Internet services would be capped at 50 percent.
> In return, Hanoi would get access to the U.S. market under the same system
> of low tariffs accorded most nations, assuming Congress approved normal
> trade-relations status.
> Vietnamese exporters could benefit almost immediately, with tariff rates
> averaging 40 percent being cut to less than 3 percent, but Hanoi's NTR
> status would be subject to annual congressional reviews.
> Copyright )2000 Reuters Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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