- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

GENEVA (AP) — The World Trade Organization formally invited Vietnam this week to become its 150th member, paving the way for the country to join within 30 days of its National Assembly’s ratification of the accord.

The organization’s general council approved accession terms for Vietnam on Tuesday with the fall of a gavel from WTO chief Pascal Lamy, completing 11 years of entry talks with the Geneva-based group. “I see Vietnam as one of the rising stars of world trade,” Mr. Lamy said, urging the country to continue on its path of domestic reform.

Membership in the global trade body will give Vietnam increased access to foreign markets and the opportunity to take trade grievances to a neutral arbiter, strengthening its hand against nations that accuse it of illegally dumping goods on their markets. In return, the country will be required to drop its high tariffs on foreign imports and eliminate subsidies for state-owned companies.

“This will work both to the benefit of Vietnam and to the benefit of the World Trade Organization,” Mr. Lamy told reporters at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters.

Vietnam is Asia’s fastest-growing economy after China, and the Asian Development Bank projected in August that Vietnam’s economy would expand by 7.8 percent this year. With a population of 84 million, it is the second most populous country behind Russia still outside the WTO. Russia, which has a population of more than 143 million, is still outside the organization.

Although its trade with the United States has grown from $1.2 billion in 2000 to $7.8 billion last year, Vietnam is still waiting for the U.S. Congress to lift restrictions and normalize trade between the two countries.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged the United States to enact the legislation in time for President Bush’s visit to the country for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week. The summit Nov. 17 to 19 will put Vietnam in the spotlight, drawing leaders from 21 countries and thousands of business executives from around the world for talks on trade in the region.

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