Vietnam sees win win from TPP

The agreement is due to go into effect at the end of the year

Vietnam is pushing ahead with ratification of the slimmed down TPP, confident that it can reap economic rewards from enhanced trade without the need for radical reform.

President Nguyen Phu Trong last week presented the trade pact to the National Assembly, which is expected to rubber stamp its approval in the coming weeks.

The revised agreement, known as TPP-11, was signed by 11 countries in March following President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the agreement the previous year.

It is du to go into effect at the end of the year after Australia became the sixth country to ratify it.

The withdrawal of the United States severely undermines the economic impact of the agreement, but it also allows Vietnam to wriggle out of its earlier commitments for free trade unions.

Hanoi had previously agreed to sign bilateral annexes with Washington that would have allowed close monitoring of its progress on trade union reform.

Activists say that Vietnam now has little incentive to relax rigid state control of labour unions and to stop persecuting those that seek to set up independent unions.

None of the other signatories of the TPP, which include Japan, Australia and Canada, as well as countries from Latin America and Southeast Asia are seen as having the clout or the political will to hold Vietnam to its commitments.

Analysts say that a wider crackdown on bloggers and civil society activists gathered pace after it became clear that the US would withdraw from the TPP and ease pressure for reform in Vietnam.

Mr Trong said the TPP would improve Vietnam’s strategic position at an unpredictable moment and boost trade by reducing tariffs on exports.

He said it would also require improvements in the law and increased transparency in the fight against corruption.

He gave no specifics about change were envisioned.

Mr Trong has personally spearheaded a sweeping campaign against corruption at all levels of the Communist party.

However, critics say the campaign lacks transparency, is prone to arbitrary decisions and can serve as a cover for the settlement of political scores and rivalries.