Luong said that the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson at the time, after the signing of the BTA, he was told that the agreement would help Vietnamese trade revenues reach $6-8 billion, the figure Luong considered impossible, since the turnover between Vietnam and the Soviet Union at its peak was about $1 billion, or only a dozen to hundreds of millions of dollars with Eastern European countries. Vietnam`s revenue is expected to reach $238.4 billion in the first half of this year, a decline of 2.1% per year, according to the government portal. “At the time, our leaders objected to negotiations to normalize economic and trade relations with the United States, to completely normalize relations with the country that had only normalized diplomatic relations in Vietnam. The BTA would also lay the groundwork for Vietnam`s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Two years after the BTA, bilateral trade has exceeded $8 billion. Trade relations have grown steadily since then with annual growth of 10-30% and exceeded $70 billion in 2019, an increase of 75 times over the year 2000, Luong said. In July 1999, the United States and Vietnam announced an “agreement in principle” on a BTA, but Vietnam delayed the conclusion of the agreement for nearly a year due to intense divisions among the leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) (see the next section to analyze the reasons for Vietnam`s hesitations). The Clinton administration did not, in principle, publish the full terms of the July 1999 agreement. According to one negotiator, the only significant differences between the final BTA and the 1999 agreement are in the area of trade in services (Chapter III and Appendix G), particularly in the area of telecommunications. (25) Arguments against the BTA.
Critics of the agreement have argued that the Vietnamese government is unlikely to be behind in implementing the agreement and/or will erect new hidden barriers to imports and foreign investment, while low-priced Vietnamese exports – especially textiles – to the United States will increase. Some U.S. unions have criticized the lack of provisions in the pact on minimum labour standards and environmental protection. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who fought the agreement in Congress in July 2000, argued that “what we have put in place – basic labour standards, human rights and environmental protection,” argued that “the BTA has not been in place. Textile manufacturers and other groups said they would use Congress and the government for changes to protect their industries from cheap Vietnamese imports. (14) Many observers, including workers` groups, have also opposed the pact on human rights grounds and argued that human rights should prevail over trade relations and/or that the ruling elite of Hanois would reap most of the benefits of growing globalization. On the same day, Parliament adopted the BTA and also passed the Vietnam Human Rights Act (H.R. 2833), with a vote of 410 to 1, which would prohibit increases (above the 2001 level) in non-humanitarian aid to the Vietnamese government if the President does not certify that Vietnam is making “substantial progress” in human rights. The law allows the president to waive the cap on aid increases. In its latest annual report on the human rights situation in Vietnam, the US State Department said Hanoi continues to “repress fundamental political freedoms and certain religious freedoms and commit many abuses,” particularly “not tolerating most types of public disagreement.” (15) Washington and Hanoi gradually began to normalize relations in the early 1990s, following improvements in Vietnam`s activities in Cambodia and American prisoners of war (prisoners of war) and missing-in-action (MIA) in Vietnam.