U.S. and Vietnam Relations

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U.S. and Vietnam Relations

Since Clinton normalized relations in 1995, restoring full diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam, the two countries have been working towards a trade agreement for over four years. Finally July 13th of this year, the two finally signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) would open up Vietnam's growing economy, and increase trade between the two former enemies.

In spite of much protest from such groups as human-rights monitors and POW/MIA interest groups, who argue that such trade agreements will eliminate the pressure on Vietnam to improve human rights abuse, and POW/MIA accountability, the Clinton administration views the agreement as one that "has great potential benefits for both countries" (Landler). Supporters of the agreement assert that the relationship would not only increase trade with Vietnam, but would also support "important foreign policy goals of the United States including POW/MIA accounting, freedom of emigration, human rights, [and] regional stability . . ." (Peterson). Countering the criticism that trade relations with Communist Vietnam conflicts with human rights policies, supporters argue that, isolation would hinder progress regarding human rights concern and POW/MIA accountability, while engagement would "encourage openness". Engagement will allow Vietnam to nurture and develop U.S's ideals for democracy, religious freedom, and basic human and labor rights. They assert that overtime, Vietnam's contact with the outside world will "move closer to international standards and values relative to human rights" (Peterson). "Democracy is contagious," says US Representative Silvestre Reyes (D.Texas). " There is no better way to spread Democracy than through engagement" (CNNfyi.com).

Advocates of the trade agreement also argue that trade with Vietnam will increase regional stability. With China's increasing influence in the region, U.S presence is as important as ever. Now a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Defense Secretary William Cohen states that "it's important to have a relationship with Vietnam, just as with other members of ASEAN" (DefenseLink). Cohen also advocates extensive military-to-military relations. Not only would such relations allow US presence in Vietnam to conduct searches for missing POW/MIAs, but as a long term national security interest:

Vietnam could become the Turkey of the Far East to the United States. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey was a crucial listening and watching post [to investigate Soviet missile tests] . . .. US intelligence chiefs would love to have radar on Vietnam's mountains peering into China (Wilson).

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