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TPP Deal Expected to Move Easily Through Vietnam Legislature

FILE - Fishing boats anchor near Ly Son island, in Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province.
FILE - Fishing boats anchor near Ly Son island, in Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province.

Historic pact is aimed at cutting trade tariffs, setting common standards in trade for nations involved - including US and Vietnam.

The U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, reached by 12 Pacific Rim countries Monday, is expected to move easily through Vietnam’s legislature even as it faces skeptics in the U.S. Congress.

The historic pact is aimed at cutting trade tariffs and setting common standards in trade for the nations involved, including Vietnam and the United States.

The deal now needs to be ratified by lawmakers in each country. In Vietnam, where officials and the media have overwhelmingly welcomed the move, it appears headed for an easy ride.

Dinh Xuan Thao, chairman of the legislature's Research Institute, said he expects the deal will be quickly approved.

“Vietnam has been fully prepared for TPP. As it decided to join the free trade agreement, it accepted to face short-term difficulties for greater benefits in the long run. The government has informed us about that during the negotiation process. We are united in that regard. Therefore, there should be no hurdles in approving it," he said.

TPP Countries and Other Global Trade Agreements
TPP Countries and Other Global Trade Agreements

State-sanctioned labor unions

The lawmaker said differences still exist over the rights of state-sanctioned labor unions in Vietnam, a thorny issue raised by U.S. President Barack Obama in May during his campaign for free trade.

Former Vietnamese lawmaker Nguyen Minh Thuyet shared Thao’s views, adding the TPP deal will help Vietnam diversify its trading partners and lessen its reliance on its giant northern neighbor, China.

“Vietnam’s current trade balance is tilted toward China, and major infrastructure contractors in Vietnam are Chinese, so Vietnam relies on China greatly," said Thuyet. "Joining TPP, Vietnam would have more partners, and that partnership could help Vietnam to reduce its dependence on China in economic terms. It is also a desire of most Vietnamese; but that requires determination and sound economic policies."

According to Vietnam's General Statistics Office, China remained the country's biggest trade partner in the first nine months of 2015 with a total trade revenue of nearly $50 billion.

Thuyet said he believes Vietnam’s deeper integration into the world economy will make it more open and democratic, a point some dissidents have been skeptical about.

Asia-Pacific's trade

Vietnamese authorities released some high-profile political prisoners in the final stages of TPP negotiations; some bloggers say Hanoi used that tactic, however, as a bargaining chip with Western countries, an allegation Vietnam denied.

In a statement Monday, Obama said the partnership “levels the playing field for our [U.S.] farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.”

He also said the U.S. “can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy.

“We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment,” he said.

China was not involved in the pact, and its Ministry of Commerce is quoted by Xinhua as saying Beijing “hopes the TPP pact and other free trade arrangements in the region can boost each other and contribute to the Asia-Pacific's trade, investment and economic growth.”

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.