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Statement by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher H.J. Res. 99

"Disapproval of the Jackson-Vanik Waiver for Vietnam"

July 26, 2000

Mr. Chairman:

It has been two years since President Clinton issued the first Jackson-Vanik waiver for Vietnam. Each year we have been assured by the Administration and by our ambassador to Hanoi that this action would lead to greater political openness and prosperity for the Vietnamese people, and a better economic climate for American investors. Unfortunately, the exact opposite has happened.

As the Washington Post stated on May 3, "Vietnam remains a one party state ... rampant corruption retards foreign investment and ... the Communist Party fears more openness to the outside world could bring in more political heterodoxy -- for which the party shows ZERO tolerance." And a recent Human Rights Watch report links the ongoing persecution of dissidents and religious believers in Vietnam to the pervasive economic and political corruption. There is no free press -- all information is controlled by the state. Radio Free Asia broadcasts are routinely jammed.

A June 2000 poll of international businessmen by the respected Political and economic Risk Consultancy Group in Hong Kong, rated Vietnam among the three worst legal systems in Asia. Official Vietnamese data shows that foreign investment dropped by 75% during the past year and the country's annual growth rate of around 4 percent has fallen to half of what is was when President Clinton normalized political and economic relations with Hanoi. I fully agree with the Wall Street Journal's assessment that,

"The biggest barrier to growth in Vietnam is -- as it always has been -- the

Communist Party itself. Until the party sees its way to limiting its own power. Vietnam will be saddled with widespread corruption and slow economic growth."

Another troubling development, based on numerous reports by Western diplomats is that Hanoi has sent large numbers of troops into Laos to defend the corrupt Pathet Lao regime from its internal opponents. This military intervention to prop up a neighboring communist regime will further deplete Vietnam's economy.

The repeated promises by Hanoi of economic reform, have been no more credible than their pledges in the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement that communist violence against the people of South Vietnam would end and that peaceful elections rather than bombs would resolve the war. There is still not even the slightest hint that free and fair elections will be conducted in Vietnam. In that repressive environment, it is hardly surprising that foreign investors and businesses are bailing out.

As this panel is aware, the Jackson-Vanik provision primarily addresses the issue of freedom of emigration for people who fear or have experienced persecution. The Vietnamese Exit Permit system for immigration -- including for long time reeducation camp survivors, Amer-Asians, montagnards and other people of interest to America -- remains rife with corruption. Many Vietnamese on the U.S. emigration list have not been able to come to the United States because they could not afford to pay the bribe price.

Contrary to claims of progress in the POW/MIA issue, Hanoi has not released the records of all prisons where Americans were held during the war, including the facility that held Ambassador Peterson.

In contrast, there are still 400 cases of POW/MIAs that the Defense Intelligence Agency

has identified as last-known-alive or known to have perished under communist

Vietnamese control. The Vietnamese government has not provided the necessary information to honestly resolve any of these cases. My joint resolution, disapproving the President's waiver for the corrupt Vietnamese dictatorship, does not intend to isolate Vietnam nor to stop U.S. companies from doing business there. It simply prevents Communist Vietnam from enjoying a trade status that enables American businessmen to make increasingly risky investments with loan guarantees and subsidies provided

by U.S. taxpayers.

If private banks or insurance companies will not back-up or insure private business ventures in Vietnam, American taxpayers should not be asked to do so. Rampant corruption, mismanagement, as well as abuses in the emigration program, the lack of free trade unions, the suppression of free expression and the persecution of dissidents and religious believers, are valid reasons to oppose the Jackson-Vanik waiver for Vietnam.

Mr. Chairman, we do no favors for the Vietnamese people or American investors by once again reflexively supporting the President's bogus Jackson-Vanik waiver. I propose that we give the Communist dictators of Vietnam a strong message from the U.S. Congress that corruption, mismanagement and repression will no longer be tolerated. By supporting my legislation, we can put the Vietnamese leaders on probation for the period of one year. If they enact the reforms that they have promised, begin

developing a truly credible judicial system, end the corruption in the emigration program and take their jack-boots -- or Ho Chi Minh sandals -- off of the faces of the Vietnamese people, I will support approving the waiver next year.

The Vietnamese Communists have manipulated American generosity to further impoverish and repress their people. I ask my colleagues to support my resolution.

H.J. Res. 99--Disapproving the Extension of Emigration Waiver Authority to Vietnam

Floor Situation: On Monday, July 24, 2000, the House approved a unanimous consent agreement that waives all points of order against the joint resolution, allows one hour of debate equally divided between the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means (in opposition) and a Member in support.

Summary: H.J. Res. 99 disapproves President Clinton's decision to waive certain emigration requirements on behalf of Vietnamese citizens entering the U.S. As proposed, the president's waiver makes Vietnam eligible for certain U.S. government financial incentives, such as loan credits and guarantees.

The Jackson-Vanik provisions of the 1974 Trade Act (P.L. 93-618) prohibit countries with nonmarket economies from engaging in trade operations with the U.S. if those countries (1) deny citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate to other countries, including the U.S.; (2) impose more than a nominal tax on emigration, documents used for emigration, or for other purposes; or (3) impose more than a nominal tax or other charge on any citizen if they express a desire to emigrate to another country.

Countries who violate any of these provisions cannot enjoy normal trade relations with the U.S. unless (1) the president waives the emigration prohibition because he determines the waiver will "substantially promote" the Jackson-Vanik objectives in that country; and (2) the president receives assurances that the country's emigration practices will, in the near future, lead substantially to achievement of Jackson-Vanik objectives for that country.

Generally, allowing citizens of other nations to freely emigrate to the U.S. allows the native country to enjoy certain financial benefits, such as access to U.S. government credits and investment guarantees (similar to those administered by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), and the Department of Agriculture).

H.J. Res. 99 arises from a presidential executive order issued June 2, 2000.

Currently, Vietnam does not enjoy normal trade relations (NTR) with the U.S.; if it did, it would not need to have emigration practice restrictions waived by the president. Negotiations between the U.S. and Vietnam on granting NTR began in 1997 and remain in progress. Until the negotiations are completed, and without the use of other economic incentives to encourage governments to ensure greater freedoms to their citizens, the U.S. relies on trade sanctions to continue as an option to encourage emigration for citizens of foreign countries.

H.J.Res. 99 was introduced by Mr. Rohrabacher on June 6, 2000, and was adversely reported by the Committee on Ways & Means by voice vote on June 28, 2000. A CBO cost estimate was unavailable at press time.

Dana Rohrabacher, M. C.

Additional Statement by Mr. Rohrabacher for inclusion in floor debate on

H. J. Res. 99

July 26, 2000

I am surprised to hear for the first time today that the Vietnamese communists have made available the records of one of the prisons where Ambassador Peterson was held. In response, I just asked Ambassador Peterson which records he was referring to. Unfortunately, the records he is speaking of are not from the prisons in which he was held early during his captivity, for which I am most concerned that some Americans may not have returned from. I do not doubt that Ambassador Peterson is being honest that commanders from those prisons told him that they do not know where the records are after so many years. However, they as individuals were not the record keepers. The Vietnamese communist government kept many overlapping records on prisoners they held in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia or transferred from Indochina to other communist countries. It is those meticulous records that I am concerned about and to which my request to communist officials in Hanoi has not be addressed.

 

Former American POWs such as Mike Benge and Colonel Ted Guy have told my staff and I how they were repeatedly interviewed and had written records made by overlapping Vietnamese communist intelligence and military organizations while they were transferred between Laos and a number of prison camps in Vietnam. US officials have to this day have not had those records made available to them by the Vietnamese regime.

In addition, there are some 400 Americans who US intelligence agencies have identified as having been alive or who perished under Vietnamese communist control. The Vietnamese regime could easily account for these men, but to this day refuse to do so. Finally, the CIA and DIA I have verified the validity of the testimony before Congress by a Vietnamese mortician who testified to processing hundreds of deceased American prisoners' remains in Hanoi during the war. He testified that the organization he worked for kept meticulous records of the deceased Americans, processed the remains for storage, and carefully packaged and labeled personal belongings of the deceased Americans. To this day, none of the records of that organization -- which could resolve the fates of scores of missing American servicemen -- have been made available by the Vietnamese regime.