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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Congress Acting On Vietnam Legislation

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A bipartisan group of senators and members of the House of Representatives has introduced legislation that would grant permanent normal trade Relations (PNTR) to Vietnam, an essential step toward Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Senate bill was introduced by Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., with six initial co-sponsors, and a companion House bill was introduced by 22 members. The action followed the negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Vietnam that, among other things, calls for the removal of textile and apparel import quotas. US textile manufacturers are upset by the Vietnam FTA, but retailers and other importers of textiles and apparel have given it a strong endorsement.

In introducing the bill, Smith said: “As a businessman, I’ve seen how trade can raise standards of living both in America and the world. International commerce creates new growth opportunities for manufacturers and agriculture producers, and the WTO membership for Vietnam will ensure that everyone is playing by the same rules.”

In a related development, citing their concerns over the Doha Round of trade liberalization negotiations and the Vietnam FTA, 44 members of the House of Representatives wrote US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, calling for separate sectoral negotiations for textiles and what they called “adequate safeguards” as a condition for admitting Vietnam to the WTO. The members of Congress are from predominately textile-producing states. Their letter says the two requests are “ crucial to the long-term health and survival of the US textile industry.”

June 20, 2006