The US House of Representatives should vote on a trade agreement with Vietnam before President George W. Bush visits the country in mid-November, a top Republican said on Tuesday September 5.
“I see it on the agenda before he goes to Vietnam,” House Majority Leader John Boehner told reporters as lawmakers were returning to Washington after a month-long break.
However, the Ohio Republican left open the possibility the House might wait until the week after the November 7 congressional elections to vote on the Vietnam trade bill.
That would be cutting it close because Bush is expected to be in Vietnam on November 18-19 for the annual Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders summit.
Many Republicans are wary of voting on any trade deal ahead of this year’s election, which Democrats see as their best opportunity in years to win control of the House.
The US agreement with Vietnam paves the way for Hanoi to join the
World Trade Organisation and would permanently normalise trade relations between the two countries.
It is a mostly one-sided agreement that requires Vietnam to open its markets to more US farm goods, manufactured products and services such as banking and telecommunications.
However, the United States would be required to lift quotas it now imposes on clothing imports from Vietnam because such restrictions are a violation of WTO rules.
The US textile industry has been pushing for changes in the agreement, such as a safeguard mechanism that would allow the United States to reimpose quotas in response to a surge.
The Senate could vote on the agreement this month, even if the House decides to wait until November. However, the textile issue could delay action in the Senate as well.
A pair of textile-state Republicans?Sen.
Elisabeth Dole of North Carolina and Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record) of South Carolina?have threatened to block a vote on the Vietnam trade bill unless their concerns are addressed.