July 14, Wall Street Journal

U.S. and Vietnam Reach
Deal on Trade Relations

WASHINGTON -- Vietnam, after a year of stalling, signed a historic pact to open trade with the U.S.

The agreement clears the way for normal trade relations between the two former adversaries and will boost chances for Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization. More significantly, the pact leaves North Korea as the last big Asian country not making moves toward joining the WTO.

"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 reconcile," President Clinton said. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and her Vietnamese counterpart, Vu Khoan, signed the agreement Thursday.

Under the pact, Vietnam would lower tariffs on a host of products, including agriculture and industrial goods. The agreement also calls for Vietnam to adopt global standards that protect intellectual property and to allow U.S. firms to invest in Vietnamese joint ventures, officials said.

The two countries reached largely the same agreement a year ago, but Hanoi balked at signing, arguing that certain provisions are unfair. U.S. officials and trade analysts credit America's recent trade deal with China as one reason why Vietnam has now decided to sign its own trade deal. Indeed, some U.S. officials believe the Chinese asked Vietnam to hold off signing the pact until China reached its own deal with America.

Some U.S. companies, including Nike Inc., Beaverton, Ore., and Cargill Inc., Wayzata, Minn., are already in Vietnam, and will likely now be joined by textile and clothing firms eager to take advantage of the country's cheap labor.

Write to Helene Cooper at helene.cooper@wsj.com

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