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Most Americans support Vietnamís WTO entry

(BVOM.Com - Jan 19, 2005)

Up to two-thirds of Americans in a poll support Vietnamís entry into the World Trade Organization, said Charlene Barshefsky, American Ambassador to Vietnam and former U.S. trade official on Tuesday.

 The poll also found that two-thirds of Americans are happy with trade growth since the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Agreement took effect in 2001, said Mrs. Barshefsky at a meeting with businesspeople in Hanoi Jan. 18.

Ambassador Barshefsky worked as chief trade negotiator and principal trade policy maker for the United States from 1996 to 2001.

"Other than Great Britain, no country ranks this high in American public opinion," Ms. Barshefsky. "This is really quite remarkable."

She said Vietnam benefits from a strong standing with the American public.

The U.S. will grant the permanent normal trade relations status for Vietnam although negotiations are still underway, she said.

According to her, Vietnam has a lot more to gain by obtaining admission to the World Trade Organization. But the country also must struggle to compete with neighboring China, a dilemma also facing the U.S.

"Vietnam's own emergence as an exporter and a country for investment is happening at the same time as China's emergence," she said, adding that Vietnam must rapidly enact economic reforms to lure foreign investors.

Biggest importer
America is now Vietnam's biggest export market, she said. Vietnam's exports to the U.S. have risen six-fold since the BTA took effect in 2001, she said.

Vietnam's stateside shipments have jumped to 5 billion USD from 800 million USD since the two countries signed the pact, said Ms. Barshefsky who negotiated the agreement.

An estimated 50 million pairs of shoes Ďmade in Vietnam have been purchased in America. Vietnam is now one of the four largest shoe suppliers to the U.S.

U.S.-bound exports of furniture have also been on the increase. Vietnamese companies reportedly sell 2.6 million chairs to the U.S. in 2004 compared with the 20,000 in 2000.

Vietnam has boosted the shipment of farm produce, including coffee, cashews and pepper to the market.

Regarding the sales of pepper and chili to the market, Vietnam is the third largest supplier following Mexico and India.

"Vietnamese exporters have surpassed the farmers and factories of such longtime American trade partners as Turkey, South Africa, Poland and Argentina and are now approaching those of major developed countries like Australia and Spain," she said.

Another benefit from the BTA is that more U.S. investors have come to Vietnam, she said. The membership of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam now numbers 278. (Agencies)