Vietnam negotiates trans-Pacific pact

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Vietnam is negotiating with founding countries to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement initiated by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore in 2005.

The negotiations for Vietnam to join the TPP, formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement, are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

Three rounds of the negotiations on trade, investment and services with the four founders and other APEC applicants the US, Australia, Peru and New Zealand, who are also scheduled to become full TPP members in 2012 have been completed.

The partnership offers Vietnam an opportunity to leap forward in economic development and boost exports of the country's key products like aquaculture, apparel, footwear and furniture, said Jay Eizenstat, attorney at law with US-based Miller & Chevalier.

Eizenstat said the partnership opens a new game of trade, investment and services for APEC member economies barring China, which has not been invited by the founders to join the pact. It would help Vietnam achieve trade facilitation and supply-chain efficiency.

The membership would also help Vietnam modernize and upgrade its services sector, accelerate privatization of state-owned enterprises and open its procurement market with the support of founders and future members like the US, said the attorney.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her second visit to Vietnam last month that Vietnam-US trade would expand through the partnership. Bilateral trade increased from US$450 million in 1995 to $15 billion last year.

She said the US government would increase its focus on trade with the prosperous Asia-Pacific region.

Eizenstat said the partnership would lay a platform for US economic integration into the region and avoid being locked out of the fastest growing region because of a proliferation of regional free trade agreements that exclude the US.

The partnership would also be the US's counter to China's growing regional and global influence, he said.

Eizenstat said Vietnam would face key challenges from the US, also a new applicant like Vietnam, in the negotiations.

He said the negotiations would not constrain the US from taking remedial measures against exports from Vietnam.

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