WASHINGTON — President Clinton is slated to announce today that the U.S. will formally recognize Vietnam, but on Monday Republican opposition to the move was building.
Sources said Clinton is planning a Rose Garden ceremony with prominent veterans in attendance for the announcement. Generally, Most-Favored-Nation trade status with its reduced tariffs follows such recognitions, but sources here said it is unclear whether Vietnam, with its Communist government, would have to meet various human rights tests.
Since 1992 when former President Bush relaxed some restraints on doing business with Vietnam, there has been much speculation that it quickly would become “the next China” for apparel and footwear sourcing, if and when tariffs are lowered.
In opposing diplomatic relations, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R., Kan.), said on Monday much work remains to be done to account for Americans still missing from the Vietnam war. “The United States has diplomatic relations with many countries that violate human rights…but [it] should not establish relations with a country that withholds information about the fate of American servicemen,” Dole said.
Congress could withhold funding needed to set up diplomatic recognition. Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R., N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, asked Clinton to delay the announcement until the committee can hold a hearing on Hanoi’s efforts to locate remains of U.S, Vietnam veterans.
Meanwhile, even as Congressional anger was rising over China’s detention of U.S. citizen and human rights activist Harry Wu, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R., Ga) predicted Monday that China’s MFN status with the U.S. would not be jeopardized.
“There is substantial and growing disgust with the Chinese government, but there should be no problem with MFN this year,” he said. Clinton extended China’s trade status for another year in June, but the extension would be voided if Congress votes to deny it. A House vote on a resolution to deny China its MFN status could come as early as next week.