June 20, 2007
The Vietnamese President's trip to the U.S. this week marks a historic step in postwar ties between the two countries, and also an opportunity. Business will certainly be on the agenda when Nguyen Minh Triet meets George W. Bush on Friday. But Hanoi's human-rights record will also be a central topic of discussion throughout the visit, whether Mr. Triet wants it to be or not.
Vietnam's economy, which Mr. Triet hopes to promote on this visit, is increasingly dependent on trade with the U.S. Vietnam exported $6.6 billion in goods to the U.S. in 2005, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available. Its gross domestic product that year was $52 billion, while the U.S. market accounted for 20% of Vietnam's exports. That share has been growing steadily as Vietnam weans itself off its dependence on its Asian neighbors and the former Soviet Union.