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President's Planned Trip To Vietnam: Encourage the Economic Miracle Along With Human Rights Improvements

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By John E. Carey
October 20, 2006

President George Bush plans to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference November 17-19 in Vietnam. We applaud this effort by the president to make this historic trip to help foster what we call the "Vietnam Economic Miracle."

Vietnam's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) by the U.S. are virtually assured in the next month or two, or, for PNTR, sometime next year. We support the president and congratulate Vietnam on these successes in bringing the government of Vietnam into the greater world of economic cooperation and prosperity.

But we also urge the President of the United States and the American people to remain mindful of the human rights abuses in Communist Vietnam - abuses which have lessened somewhat in recent years but still paint a troubling picture.

The economy in Vietnam is starting to rumble and many want to participate in the anticipated new prosperity and wealth.Tourism is exploding in Vietnam along with the associated hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Tourist arrivals to Vietnam have grown on average 20% per year over the past 15 years, shooting up from 250,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million last year. The first quarter of 2006 saw more than a million tourists visit Vietnam, on pace to hit the government's target of hosting 4 million tourists this year. Some industry analysts optimistically estimate tourist arrivals will double to 8 million in Vietnam by 2010. The industry's positive cash flow to Vietnam is estimated at two trillion dollars a year.

But there are many other industries and ventures that are currently thriving in Vietnam.

Vietnam's textile industry is such a potent force that it threatens to destroy what is still remaining of clothing manufacturing in the United States. So the Bush administration promised Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in October that it would closely monitor textile and clothing imports from Vietnam after that country joins the World Trade Organization and the United States is required to drop import quotas.

This small promise by the president set off a fire storm among retailers anxious to sell inexpensive clothing from Vietnam without any restrictions.

There are at least 600 software companies in Vietnam. Computer chip manufacturing is huge and growing. Both Japan and China have recently announced huge investments in Vietnam's computer industry.

Vietnam expects to be responsible for 10 per cent of Japan's $3 Billion offshore software industry by 2010.

Bill Gates visited Vietnam earlier this year because he doesn't want Microsoft to be left out of the "Vietnam Economic Miracle" many interested in the future of Vietnam have predicted.

Some other aspects of "Vietnam's Economic Miracle" which have been trumpeted recently by the Communist government controlled media in Vietnam include:-- Vietnam's three major telecom companies are expected to be partly privatized next year with the majority of the stakes remaining under government control, officials said.

--Authorities in Vietnam have fined an affiliate of South Korea's Daewoo Corp. for using pirated software, the first time a corporate user of illegal software has been targeted in the Southeast Asian country, officials said on October 11.

--Intel has a new $300 Million microchip assembly and test facility in Ho Chi Minh City. It will open later this year, with as much additional investment money expected in the next two years. Canon has three printer factories near Hanoi, Canon's largest manufacturing facility in the world.

--Vietnam, Laos and China signed a border treaty last month; a breakthrough that will hopefully increase commerce and trade.

--Vietnam announced last month that it is firmly committed to "the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women" and takes the enhancement of women's roles and status a top priority in the national socio-economic development programs. This was a new and breathtaking announcement: just one month ago.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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