The World Trade Organization on Nov. 7 formally approved Vietnam's membership of the global free trade system, opening up a new era of international commerce and investment for one of East Asia's fastest growing economies.
A vote by Vietnam's parliament is expected by December 5, according to the Geneva based WTO.
Vietnam -- East Asia's fastest growing economy after China with over 8% GDP growth last year -- hopes WTO membership will bring further trade and investment to boost wealth in the emerging market of 84 million people.
To get ready for the new free trade era, Vietnam has sped up its 20-year-old 'doi moi' (renewal) reform process, moved to equalize state owned enterprises, introduced scores of WTO-compliant laws, and made efforts to improve transparency and fight corruption.
Under WTO rules and agreements struck with the U.S. and other trade partners, Vietnam must drop a host of tariffs and industrial subsidies and lift domestic restrictions against foreign companies. Many large corporate players have eyed Vietnam such as a lobby group known as the US-Vietnam Trade Council which includes such household names as FedEx Express, Ford Motor Company, Intel, Liberty Mutual, Motorola and Time Warner.
Vietnam will gain full and non-discriminatory access to the U.S., EU and other large foreign markets, hoping to boost exports in sectors such as textiles, footwear, electronics, rice, coffee and seafood.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006