The United States and Vietnam have signed a trade pact that helps remove one of the last major hurdles in Hanoi’s bid to join the World Trade Organization. The deal would eliminate barriers remaining between the countries, which saw bilateral trade rise 21.6 percent to nearly $8 billion last year, by ending U.S. quotas on Vietnamese textiles and garments. This action would give American companies greater access to a growing Southeast Asian market.The trade pact would also smooth the way for Vietnam to reach its goal of becoming a member of the global trading body before Hanoi hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November, which President Bush is scheduled to attend. A vote in the U.S. Congress is still needed for the pact to take effect.
Deputy Trade Minister Luong Van Tu and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia signed the agreement during a ceremony that was attended by Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen and Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan as well as U.S. Trade Representative-designate Susan Schwab. Bhatia said, “Today’s signing is the culmination of years of hard work and preparation on both sides.” A vote is needed before Congress breaks in August or else the entire process could be delayed until next year due to U.S. elections in November. The United States was the last country that Vietnam had to negotiate a bilateral treaty with for WTO access.