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Smith: Human Rights Must Come Before Profits in Vietnam

Location: Washington, DC

Smith: Human Rights Must Come Before Profits in Vietnam

Calling the move to normalize trade relations with Vietnam misguided and premature, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today voted against legislation to authorize the extension of normal trade relations treatment to the regime in Hanoi saying the bill "puts profits ahead of basic human rights."

Smith—who is the Chairman of the Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations Subcommittee and is the author of a resolution calling on the Vietnamese government to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscious (H.CON.RES. 320)—joined 160 of his House colleagues to vote against the legislation, ensuring that the bill did not receive the 2/3 majority necessary to pass under suspension of the rules.

"In the six years that have past since we gave this same trade status to China, conditions in China have deteriorated. Without an incentive to bring in much needed reforms, Vietnam will likely follow that same course. When will we learn that human rights reforms must be a prerequisite to enhanced economic cooperation, not an expected result," Smith said.

The Vietnamese government has actively pushed for an extension of normal trade relations, in an effort to pave the way for the country to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time, the regime in Hanoi continues to wrongfully incarcerate pro-democracy activists and oppress religious freedom across the nation. While they claim to be easing up, the Vietnamese government's record on persecuting religious believers remains so egregious that the US Department of State has designated Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), which makes them liable to punitive sanctions.

"Despite their recent public relations campaign, Vietnam continues to get extremely poor grades when it comes to respecting the fundamental rights of its citizens. Instead of holding the government of Vietnam accountable for their egregious human rights violations, we would be in essence, condoning their actions if we granted them this coveted trade status," said Smith.

Smith traveled to Vietnam last December where he met with almost 60 religious and political dissidents in dozens of meetings.

"All these religious leaders and pro-democracy activists ask is that they be permitted to live free from government intimidation and coercion. What they simply ask for is the freedom to practice their faith or to voice a dissenting opinion. We should be standing on their side, not Hanoi's," said Smith.

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