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AMTAC Urges Obama Administration To Reconsider Vietnam's Participation In TPP

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk urging the Obama administration to reconsider participation by Vietnam in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated by the United States, Vietnam and eight other countries — including Canada, which officially joined the partnership last week — located around the Pacific Rim, with Mexico poised to join possibly later this month. The letter calls into question "Vietnam's ability and willingness to serve as a reputable trading partner worthy of the preferences envisioned in any TPP."

The letter cites, among other evidence, the latest annual report titled "List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor," released last month by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs. The report added Vietnam to a list of countries that use child and forced labor in apparel production activities.

Several other grounds are also outlined, including Vietnam's status as a single-party state with no competing political parties; its lack of press freedom; the preponderance of state-owned enterprises in its economy; lack of an independent, transparent judicial system; and systematic human rights abuses including suppression of free expression and association, encouragement of activities associated with human trafficking, and other abuses.

The letter continues:

Despite these glaring and unacceptable shortcomings, Vietnam has made enormous market access demands of the United States and other TPP participants. At the same time, they have been virtually unwilling to consider even minimal changes to their economic, judicial, and political systems necessary to make them a reputable preference trading partner. Their intransigence has almost single handedly brought the entire negotiation to a standstill. We believe that the challenges confronting Vietnam in transitioning to a transparent and market driven economy, instituting reasonable foreign investment safeguards, and eliminating abusive labor practices are too great for Vietnam to digest at this point. Their refusal to negotiate in good faith is a direct result of their unwillingness to address the serious economic, political, and moral concerns listed above.

The letter concludes by stating: "We strongly believe that Vietnam should be asked to step back from the negotiation until such time as they make marked improvement in these key areas. To make them beneficiaries of the lucrative market access benefits that will certainly be contained in the TPP would amount to a condoning of their unacceptable behavior in the various areas identified earlier."

October 16, 2012

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