Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Davis Frye

First Page



Since the United States and Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Agreement of 1973, Vietnam has sought to normalize economic relations with the United States in hopes of gaining American capital and technology. After the Vietnam War, however, the United States imposed a trade embargo against Vietnam and passed legislation denying that country non-discriminatory trading status. Moreover, Vietnam's past human rights abuses and its previous unwillingness to resolve American MIA/POW issues made its ambition of normalized U.S. relations an improbability. Recently, however, in response to Vietnam's renewed cooperation with U.S. foreign objectives, President Clinton has lifted the trade embargo against that country and has established U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

Before Vietnam may achieve its goal of truly normalized relations with the United States, it must obtain a U.S. grant of most favored nation trading status, thereby opening American borders to Vietnamese goods and encouraging U.S. investment in Vietnam. To procure such treatment, three conditions specified by the Trade Act of 1974 must be met. These include an executive order waiving the requirements of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Act, a bilateral trade agreement between Vietnam and the United States, and Congressional approval of the commercial agreement. In this note, the author examines the options available to the President under the Trade Act of 1974 in light of Vietnam's current emigration policies. Next, the author considers the components of a successful bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, highlighting areas that will likely lead to heavy debate and perhaps even gridlock in contract negotiations. Finally, the author concludes by considering the current political movements in the United States that may prevent Vietnam's grant of most favored nation trading status in the foreseeable future.