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Vietnam and US Stress Economic Ties

On Tuesday, U.S. President George W. Bush meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. Topping the agenda will be economic issues. But 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War, many believe the visit will symbolically turn a page and begin a new era of trade and cooperation.

The vivid images of the Vietnam War still produce strong emotions in the United States and Vietnam 30 years after the conflict's end. Despite those memories, the two countries have forged a new relationship built on trade and economic growth over the past 10 years, since restoring diplomatic ties.

Today, the United States is Vietnam's largest trading partner. Dana Dillon, a Southeast Asia analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, credits the bilateral trade agreement signed four years ago.

As a consequence of signing that bilateral trade agreement and the implementation of the bilateral trade agreement, Vietnam's economy has grown by leaps and bounds and our trade relationship with Vietnam has also grown considerably," said Mr. Dillon.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai wants to further integrate his nation into the global economy and is seeking membership in the World Trade Organization. During his talks with President Bush at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Khai will seek accelerated negotiations to make membership possible by the end of the year, with U.S. help.

Dana Dillion said, "The relationship has gone a long way and this meeting will cap what has been a tremendous 10 years as far as the development of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship."

Despite growing commercial ties, differences remain between the two nations, most notably U.S. criticism of Vietnam's record on human rights. Mr. Khai believes his government has made progress on this issue.

The prime minister said, "We are also ready to discuss with the U.S. leaders the issues like democracy, human rights, religion and nationalities and to have the opportunity for us to introduce great achievements we have recorded so far in this area."

Mr. Khai is the first Vietnamese leader to visit the United States since the end of the Vietnam War. His visit may indicate that the United States and Vietnam now base relations on shared interests, not present or past differences.