The U.S. Senate passed a landmark trade agreement with Vietnam by an 88-12 vote, and President Bush said later in a written statement that he looks forward to sign it. The President said the trade agreement also brings hope for improving human rights in Vietnam.
The U.S. Senate has sent the agreement to President Bush for his expected signature. The Bush administration supports the trade agreement that was negotiated by the previous Clinton administration last year.
Under the pact, Vietnam would benefit from the same low tariffs the United States sets for other trading partners. In return, Vietnam is to reduce tariffs, protect intellectual property rights and open its markets to American service and investment companies.
The House of Representatives passed the measure last month.
Vietnam is one of only a half dozen nations denied normal trade relations by the United States, making its goods subject to much higher tariffs. The others are Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea, Laos and Yugoslavia.
The United States and Vietnam had no formal relations and limited contacts in two decades after U.S. troops left Vietnam in 1973. President Clinton lifted the trade embargo in 1994, and the next year he established diplomatic relation.
The House has also passed the Vietnam Human Rights Act, aimed at promoting freedom and democracy in the country. The Senate has not taken up the measure.