July 25, 2000
The Administration's policy since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995 has been to work with Vietnam to normalize incrementally our bilateral political, economic, and consular relationship. U.S. engagement helps promote the development of a prosperous Vietnam integrated into world markets and regional organizations, which, in turn, helps contribute to regional stability. In addition, U.S. involvement has secured Vietnamese cooperation and engagement on a range of important U.S. policy goals, including achieving the fullest possible accounting of POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War. It is in the national interest for this progress to continue.
While the Administration remains concerned about Vietnam's human rights practices and continues to urge improved respect for human rights, worker rights, and the rule of law, our engagement, along with that of others, has produced some improvements. These include increased openness, modest relaxation of restrictions on personal liberty and religious worship, greater toleration of public criticism, and release of a number of prisoners of conscience.
The U.S. has extended a Jackson-Vanik waiver to Vietnam for each of the past 2 years. This has permitted U.S. businesses operating in Vietnam to make use of U.S. Government programs supporting U.S. exports to and investments in Vietnam. U.S. business views Vietnam, the twelfth most populous country in the world, as an important potential market. The Jackson-Vanik waiver is also a prerequisite for Normal Trade Relations (NTR) trade status, but would not yet confer NTR on Vietnam. Before Vietnam can receive NTR, Congress must approve a bilateral trade agreement (BTA). The United States and Vietnam signed such an agreement on July 13th, after four years of negotiation. In light of the extremely crowded Congressional Calendar and limited number of legislative days remaining in the 106th Congress, it does not appear practical for the Administration to transmit the BTA to Congress this session. Only at such time in the future as the Congress approves the BTA will Vietnam receive NTR trade status, which would continue to require annual congressional review.
Since March 1998 when the Jackson-Vanik waiver was first granted, it has been an essential component of the Administration's policy of engagement and has directly furthered progress with Vietnam on a number of U.S. policy goals. The extension of the waiver this year will continue to advance U.S. national interests in Vietnam.