IT'S NOT ABOUT THEIR ECONOMY:

Change your ways, or no WTO, US warns Vietnam (Aaron Glantz and Ngoc Nguyen, 10/29/05, Asia Times)

Vietnam’s attempts to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been blocked by what the country’s negotiators say are unacceptable new demands by Washington that the socialist country change the way its economy works – more than it already has. […]

For the past 15 years, Vietnam has been changing the way it does business, though perhaps not to the extent Washington would like to see it.

It has embraced market economy, attracted factory jobs from overseas, and towering new buildings have sprung up in the capital and in Ho Chi Minh City. In 2002, foreign investors poured more than US$1.2 billion into Vietnam, and the country seems all set to enter the world’s official club of capitalist nations.

Yet, the administration of US President George W Bush has been pressuring Vietnam to eliminate subsidies and state-owned enterprises. Talks with negotiators from Washington have broken down over what Vietnam maintains are “new conditions” introduced in recent rounds of talks. […]

In April, Oxfam released a report entitled “Do as I Say, Not as I Do: The Unfair Terms for Vietnam’s Entry to the WTO”, which noted that Vietnam is being forced to cut tariffs and subsidies twice as much as neighbors such as Thailand, the Philippines and Nepal. Those countries are already members of the world body.

“For any country, joining the WTO is like jumping into a fast-moving river in the dark without a paddle,” said Steve Price-Thomas, Oxfam’s spokesman in Hanoi. “It’s hard to know for sure what will happen but the important thing is if you jump into a fast-moving river at night you want to make sure you’ve got a life belt, a flashlight, know which way you’re headed, that there’s no rocks, etc. So we hope that Vietnam is ready and prepared for life in the club of the WTO.”

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