House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) wrapped up a visit to India and Viet Nam, where he visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City.
Once, Viet Nam was an enemy....now there is a big push towards normalization of relations...
The purpose of the taxpayer funded trip was ``to foster better relations between the United States and Vietnam and to continue the discussion for an improved trade relationship,’’ spokesman Ron Bonjean said.
The official Viet Nam news agency described the four-day visit this way, based on information from the Viet Nam National Assembly, the country’s Congress or Parliament: ``As guest of NA Chairman Nguyen Van An, Hastert leads a US Congress delegation in a visit aimed at promoting mutual understanding between the two legislatures and relations between the two countries.
Reuters reported that Hastert is asking Congress to ``allow Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization, saying the "greater good" outweighed human rights concerns. Hastert told reporters on a three-day visit to Vietnam that some members would put religious and human rights constraints on any trade bill.
"But in the long run for the greater good it is important for us to pass this legislation," said Hastert, an Illinois Republican who led a delegation of House members to Hanoi to meet government leaders.
Hastert put together a delegation of seven other lawmakers and their wives for the Spring recess travel, which originally included Nepal, a stop cancelled for security reasons. Hastert’s group included Jean his wife and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and his wife.
There is a push to get Viet Nam in the WTO by this November when President Bush visits Hanoi, the host city for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Hastert as speaker has been supportive of legislative branch exchanges.
From the CIA’s fact book on Viet Nam’s National Assembly:unicameral National Assembly or Quoc-Hoi (498 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 19 May 2002 (next to be held 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - CPV 90%, other 10% (the 10% are not CPV members but are approved by the CPV to stand for election); seats by party - CPV 447, CPV-approved 51
More from the CIA fact book
Vietnam hopes to become a member of the WTO in 2006. Among other benefits, accession would allow Vietnam to take advantage of the phase out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Vietnam is working to promote job creation to keep up with the country's high population growth rate. However, high levels of inflation have prompted Vietnamese authorities to tighten monetary and fiscal policies.