June 28, 2006

Guilt helps Vietnam deal in Congress: senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Guilty feelings about the U.S. war
in Vietnam will help propel a trade pact with that country
through Congress, but some obstacles remain, a top Republican
senator said on Wednesday.

"There's always been a guilt feeling about Vietnam around
here by some people and I think it's responding to that guilt
feeling, as much as the economic advantages of it," that makes
many lawmakers want to vote for the trade deal, Senate Finance
Committee Chairman Charles Grassley told reporters.

The Iowa Republican said his committee would hold a hearing
the second week of July on the agreement paving the way for
Hanoi to join the World Trade Organization.

As its part of the deal, the United States must approve
"permanent" normal trade relations with Vietnam instead of
providing that on a renewable basis as it does now.

Whether the Senate will vote on the pact before the August
congressional recess depends on the number of amendments that
senators plan to offer, since there will be many competing
demands for floor time next month, Grassley said.

The White House would like Congress to approve the pact
before President George W. Bush goes to Vietnam in November to
meet with Asia Pacific leaders. Hanoi's goal is to be a WTO
member by the time its hosts the annual summit.

The White House "could probably smooth things out quite a
bit" by encouraging lawmakers not to load down the Vietnam bill
with amendments related to China trade or specific sectoral
concerns, such as textiles, Grassley said.

The WTO accession deal requires Vietnam to lower tariffs
and other barriers to U.S. goods and services. But Grassley
said the legacy of the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975, would
probably be a big reason that many lawmakers vote for it.