- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The U.S. and Vietnam today signed an agreement that sets terms for the communist-ruled nation to join the World Trade Organization. The pact, signed in Ho Chi Minh City, removes one of the last major barriers before Vietnam can become a WTO member.

“This truly is an historic step in the relationship between our two countries,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Karan Bhatia said of the deal with the one-time foe.

Congress still must lift a Cold War-era law that governs trade with communist nations and grant permanent normal trade relations to Vietnam.

The deal would remove remaining trade barriers between the two countries, which saw bilateral trade rise 21.6 percent to nearly $8 billion last year, by ending U.S. quotas on Vietnamese textiles and garments and giving American companies greater access to the growing Southeast Asian market.

The United States was the last country with which Vietnam had to negotiate a bilateral treaty for WTO access, and it hopes to conclude multilateral talks by this summer.

The ceremony was held at the Reunification Palace, where three decades ago, Communist tanks barreled through to end the Vietnam War.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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