Vietnam reports trade deal with U.S.


HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam has reached an agreement with the United States that paves the way for the communist country to join the World Trade Organization, state-controlled media reported Sunday.

The two sides have “reached agreements in principle,” Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after four days of talks in Washington. “The official signing will be conducted soon, probably in Ho Chi Minh City.”

The newspaper quoted Vu Dang Dung, an official at the embassy in Washington as saying the two nations are expected to sign the agreement in early June when U.S. Trade Representative-designate Susan Schwab attends a trade ministers’ meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, in Ho Chi Minh City.

The report did not offer specifics of the agreement.

One of the sticking points in the talks was a Vietnamese government decision to spend $4 billion in subsidies to its garment and textile industry, the newspaper said.

The two sides agreed that Vietnam will scrap the plan upon becoming a WTO member and immediately stop subsidizing local garment and textile companies when the two countries sign the agreement, it said.

The U.S. Congress needs to grant Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations, the last step before the communist country can become a member of the Geneva-based world trade body.

The newspaper said Tuyen, as special envoy of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, has received strong commitments from both the House and Senate in giving Vietnam PNTR.

Last month, Vietnam concluded talks with Mexico, making the United States the last country with which it needed to complete negotiations.

Vietnam wants to join the world trade body before hosting an APEC summit in Hanoi in November which President Bush is expected to attend.

Trade between the U.S. and Vietnam has steadily increased since the two countries signed a trade agreement in 2001, reaching nearly $8 billion last year, heavily in favor of Vietnam.

AP-ES-05-14-06 0009EDT