News Column

Obama, Truong Tan Sang Discuss Trade, Labor

July 25, 2013
vietnam president
Vietname President Truong Tan Sang (Creative Commons)

US President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang held talks Thursday at the White House on trade issues amid criticism from human rights groups over labour conditions in Vietnam.

The two men discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnerhip (TPP), a key part of Obama's pivot toward Asia - a pursuit that he described as "an extraordinarily ambitious effort to increase trade, commerce and transparency" throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Obama said he hoped negotiations over the multi-nation TPP would be finished by year's end, and Sang said the Vietnamese side would do "its utmost" to meet the goal.

The White House meeting took place against the backdrop of protests mounted this week by labour and human rights groups calling for the trade talks to be suspended until Vietnam can prove it has met "basic labour, environmental and human rights standards."

"President Obama must hold Vietnam accountable for its record on worker and human rights before America rewards the country with greater trading privileges," Teamsters leader James Hoffa said Wednesday.

Sang met Wednesday with US Trade Representative Michael Froman and Secretary of State John Kerry, who along with Senator John McCain made the breakthrough 20 years ago in re-establishing US-Vietnam relations. Both Kerry and McCain had fought in Vietnam, and McCain was held prisoner there.

In a letter to Froman, US Congressman George Miller questioned whether Vietnam complies with basic labour standards, citing a report "Made in Vietnam," published by the Worker Rights Consortium, a non-governmental organization focused on the textile industry.

Obama said the two men discussed the challenges "that all of us face when it comes to issues of human rights."

Obama said he and Sang had also discussed the two countries' "extraordinary, complex history."

Sang gave Obama a copy of a letter sent to president Harry Truman by the late Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who led the Viet Minh independence movement to defeat over French and later American forces.

"We discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the words of Thomas Jefferson," Obama said.


## Internet - [Made in Vietnam report by rights groups ] ( - [Letter from Congressman George Miller](

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