HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Vietnam's National Assembly on Wednesday ratified a landmark trade agreement with the United States, the last step in a decades-long process of normalization of ties between the former wartime enemies.
But in a sign of continuing tensions, it warned that any U.S. interference in Vietnam's internal affairs could jeopardize implementation.
Vietnam's Communist government has bitterly complained over House passage of a Vietnam Human Rights Act that would tie future U.S. non-humanitarian aid to improvements in Vietnam's human rights record. Vietnamese lawmakers said they fear the U.S. Senate will also pass the act.
Under the trade deal, Vietnamese goods and services will gain access to the world's largest market with the same low tariffs enjoyed by most nations. In return, Vietnam must open its state-controlled markets to foreign competition and international standards.
The pact symbolizes Vietnam's efforts to integrate into the world economy, said economist Do Duc Dinh of the Institute of World Economy in Hanoi.
"I think this sends a clear and strong signal of Vietnam's willingness to join the international community," he said.
The pact, approved 278-85 by the National Assembly with 17 abstentions, was signed by the two sides in July 2000 after years of difficult negotiations. It was ratified by Congress and signed by President Bush in October.
"There is a huge sigh of relief that U.S.-Vietnam relations will be normalized," said Susan Adams, chief representative of the International Monetary Fund in Vietnam. "After the war, and all the deep feelings, we've finally buried the hatchet and moved on."
The United States and Vietnam had no formal relations and limited contact in the two decades following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The trade deal completes the reconciliation process begun with the lifting of a U.S. trade embargo in 1994 under then President Clinton.
In passing the trade agreement, the National Assembly said it "opens a new stage in the economic and trade relations between the two countries."
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