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US Congress backs Vietnam trade

BBC News | 9 December 2006

US Congress backs Vietnam trade

The United States Congress has passed landmark legislation normalising trade ties with Vietnam.

The legislation sweeps aside trade curbs in place since the Vietnam War.

The bill had suffered a defeat last month in the House of Representatives ahead of President George W Bush’s first visit to Vietnam.

The vote was one of several which the outgoing Republican-controlled Congress has been trying to pass before the Democratic Party takes over in January.

The trade vote package also expanded trade relations with Haiti, and tweaked Washington’s trade preferences with several states in Latin America and beyond.

Senators sceptical

The failure of Congress to pass the bill normalising trade relations with Hanoi was seen as an embarrassment for Mr Bush before he visited Vietnam for an economic summit in November.

Max Baucus, the top Democrat senator on the Senate Finance Committee, told Reuters news agency the bill "makes certain that more US-made goods will get into Vietnam’s markets".

"This legislation is about more than economics," Republican Rob Simmons, a Vietnam veteran, said during the debate in the House of Representatives on Friday.

"This legislation is about working together with Vietnam to heal the wounds of the war."

The trade package also allows the conflict-ridden Caribbean island nation of Haiti to increase duty-free exports of clothing and textiles to the US, with some conditions.

Representatives said this should serve as a signal to other nations to trade with Haiti.

But there is opposition to the bill from some senators fearful that the textile deal with Haiti might cost American jobs.

The trade legislation also renews trade preferences with the Andean Community of Nations, namely Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.

But the deal, which is linked to the fight against drugs, will be replaced by bilateral agreements from next year. Peru and Colombia have signed bilateral trade deals with the US, but Bolivia and Ecuador have not.

Correspondents say Democrats may take a tough line in the new year on ratifying pending bilateral deals with Colombia and Peru.

 source: BBC