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ICC Note: We applaud the administration’s efforts to push back Vietnam’s entry into the WTO. Vietnam’s extremely poor record of human rights, especially in regards to their treatment of Christians should preclude them from joining the WTO. Vietnam will not change without a combination of the “carrot and the stick”. Those who say we just need to establish normal trade relations and they will change are not in touch with those who are suffering day to day and will continue to do so without pressure on the government.

U.S. casts doubt on Vietnam WTO entry by Bush visit

By Doug Palmer

10/2/06 Vietnam (Reuters) – Vietnam ‘s hope to be a World Trade Organization member by the time President George W. Bush visits Hanoi in November looked in doubt on Monday after U.S. trade officials said there may not be a final deal soon.

“It’ll happen when all the issues are resolved. But the calendar does not trump the substance,” said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

Hanoi wants WTO membership by the time it hosts Bush and other leaders on Nov 18-19 for the annual APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit.

Its entry would open up one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia to more foreign trade and investment, and close the last chapter in the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the United States .

To join the WTO, Vietnam still needs to conclude a multilateral agreement, covering issues such as intellectual property rights protections, with all 149 WTO members.

It would become a full-fledged member 30 days after passing legislation to bring its laws into line with WTO rules.

Hanoi has hoped to reach a multilateral deal by next week’s WTO General Council meeting in Geneva . That would give it just enough time to become a member by the APEC meeting.

“We are making progress with their WTO compliance issues,” but have not set any deadlines for a deal, Spicer said. “It takes a lot of work from a lot of parties.”

Spicer referred to recent statements by Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen, which he said indicated Hanoi no longer expects to be a WTO member by the APEC meeting.

Tuyen was quoted last month saying Vietnam expected to join the WTO “in early 2007 at the latest.” He also said Hanoi would not accept “irrational demands” from other members to join.

It is possible that Bush could arrive at the APEC meeting without having won congressional approval of a separate bilateral deal paving the way for Hanoi to join the WTO.

The U.S. Congress recessed last week without voting on the agreement, which would establish “permanent normal trade relations” with Vietnam in exchange for that country opening its market to more U.S. farm products, manufactured goods and services such as banking and insurance.

House and Senate leaders have said they plan to bring up the agreement in a “lame duck” session after November 7 congressional elections.

But business groups fear those plans could go awry if the elections produce a big change in the U.S. political landscape. Key lawmakers also have linked action on the Vietnam deal to approval of a less popular trade deal with Peru .

“We’re extremely disappointed the Congress did not act in September and concerned that winning approval in the lame duck could be very difficult,” said Virginia Foote, president of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council.