Vietnam president begins US tour

Trade tops agenda in first ever US visit by Vietnamese communist head of state.

Nguyen Minh Triet, right, is on the first visit to the US by a head of state of communist Vietnam [Reuters]
Nguyen Minh Triet, right, is on the first visit to the US by a head of state of communist Vietnam [Reuters]
“In terms of economic issues, Vietnam wants the US to provide favourable conditions in line with agreements of the WTO so that Vietnam’s goods can penetrate into the US market with equal and fair treatment,” he told Reuters ahead of his six-day trip to New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Triet, who heads Vietnam’s communist government, said his country would provide favourable conditions for American investors as it develops.

“We invite investors in all areas but the priority is in the high-tech sector because we also need a fast approach to modern technology,” he said.
Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation in January and two-way trade between the US and Vietnam is worth $9.7 bn.
The country has seen an economic boom in recent years and is now the fastest growing economy in South-East Asia.
Washington and Hanoi normalised diplomatic ties 12 years ago but Triet is the first communist president of Vietnam to visit the former enemy since the Vietnam War ended 32 years ago.
In 2005, Phan Van Khai, the then prime minister visited Washington. Two US presidents have been to Hanoi, Bill Clinton in 2000 and Bush in November last year.
Human rights

Diplomatic ties between the two former
enemies were restored 12 years ago [EPA]

Although Triet’s trip will be focused on trade, he is also expected to face protests and criticism over the arrests of 20 political activists who have been detained or put on trial since Vietnam hosted an Asia-Pacific summit in November.

On Monday, the 64-year-old leader acknowledged differences between the two countries on human rights.
He pointed to differences in the two countries’ history, development and legal systems.
“That’s why we have enhanced exchanges and dialogues to resolve the issue,” Triet said.
“This will be discussed frankly and in a fair way.”
Since May 10, Vietnam has freed three people on a US list of those it said should be released from imprisonment or detention.
Agent Orange

Vietnam says millions are suffering from
effects of Agent Orange [Reuters]

The other thorny issue is the lingering effects of the “Agent Orange” chemical sprayed by the US and South Vietnamese forces to defoliate jungles used by communist troops.

“As regards dioxin, we will discuss how to help the victims facing difficulties in their lives and, secondly, the clean-up of the areas contaminated by dioxin,” said Triet, who arrives on the same day a US appeals court in New York hears arguments on whether victims may sue chemical manufacturers.
Two years ago, a US court turned down the case.
In May, Bush signed a bill earmarking $3m for health and environment issues stemming from dioxin, the first time Washington has legislated aid for that purpose.
Dioxin is a compound used the Agent Orange herbicide that is one of the most toxic substances known.
The United States maintains there is no scientifically proven link between dioxin and the three million people Vietnam estimates are disabled or suffer from its effects.
Source : News Agencies

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