It may have taken 38 years after the war ended, but a free trade pact between the U.S. and Vietnam certainly signals changing times and relationships.
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang was at the White House on Thursday and was assured by President Barack Obama that the two countries could complete the regional free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with eight other nations by year’s end. It is ambitious considering that the U.S. and other nations are trying to use the pact as a lever to get Vietnam to act against human rights abuses in that communist country.
U.S. labor leaders are particularly concerned about the treatment of workers in Vietnam and want Obama to press harder on human rights, The New York Times reports.
All of it is a far cry from iconic pictures of U.S. troops hastily pulling out of Vietnam in 1975 as the South Vietnamese government was falling to North Vietnamese forces. Many U.S. troops who served then now are senior citizens.
Who knows, but in another 30 years the U.S. president at that time may also forge trade pacts with Iraq and Afghanistan as those countries torn by U.S. involvement in fighting today might tomorrow be thriving trade centers. And the veterans 30 years from now who’d fought and survived those wars will also wonder what it was all for and then shrug and only hope their VA and Social Security benefits keep coming.