One Early Test for the New Congress: Vietnam and the WTO
Although this was an unusually foreign policy-focused congressional midterm election here in the States, international trade was not on any candidate’s radar screen. Still, one early indicator of the new Congress’ internationalist temperamant will be whether it swiftly approves Vietnam’s accession to the WTO. Although the WTO General Council formally approved Vietnam’s application for membership yesterday, the U.S. invoked a “nonapplication” clause in the WTO agreement suspending its WTO relationship with Vietnam until Congress enacts legislation granting Vietnam “permanent normal trading status.” This legislation has already been approved by leading committees in Congress, but the elections and other political obstacles may delay the Vietnam steamroller. If that happens, the Democratic Congress may well get to demonstrate its views on expanding free trade very early on. The new Democratic Congress will probably be more hostile to free trade than the Republican one. How much more hostile, however, remains to be seen.