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SMITH: Skipping the photo op
Obama should press Vietnam to free its best and bravest
Now, Vietnam wants more economic benefits from the United States, including inclusion in a regional free-trade pact under negotiation called the trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, as well as a reduction in tariffs for certain Vietnam-made goods under the Generalized Systems of Preferences. Mr. Obama should make clear on Thursday that any further progress on the economic front will be conditioned on tangible human rights progress — deeds and action including freedom for prisoners of conscience — by Hanoi.
Congress must reassert its deep concern and empathy for Vietnamese human rights defenders and sustainable democracy.
With the strong support of Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican, on June 27 the full Foreign Affairs Committee approved my bill — the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013, HR 1897. This legislation is comprehensive, bipartisan and very serious. At its core, the bill limits certain non-humanitarian U.S. foreign aid to Vietnam unless the government makes substantial progress on human rights benchmarks. On three previous occasions — in 2004, 2007 and 2012 — the House approved earlier iterations of my bill.
We will not quit until the people of Vietnam are free. We will not cease until the brutality stops. Mr. Obama should do no less.
Christopher H. Smith is a Republican congressman from New Jersey.
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