Vietnam has become the newest "Asian tiger." The US played a leading role in negotiating Vietnam's January 2007 entry into the World Trade Organization and the 2001 US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement. Requirements in these treaties have accelerated the pace of economic and legal policy reforms in Vietnam. Combined with other initiatives, the reforms are giving rise to the domestic institutions, economic policies, governing procedures, and rule of law needed to grow a market economy, facilitate the fledgling private sector, and rationalize the state sector. US foreign assistance has been intensively involved in this effort. The effects of these changes have been felt in faster growth, increased trade, more foreign and domestic investment, and continued poverty alleviation. Within this context, the seminar can address an especially difficult and complex question: How might these reforms, and the changes they have foster, affect the political development of the country?
Steve Parker recently returned from nearly six years in Vietnam, where he served as the project manager for the STAR-Vietnam Project--the first major USAID-funded technical assistance program in post-war Vietnam. In that context he worked with the prime minister's office in Hanoi to help more than forty government agencies make the changes needed for Vietnam to implement the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and accede to the World Trade Organization. His latest writing is a "Report on the 5-Year Impact of the BTA on Vietnam's Trade, Investment and Economic Structure." Previously he worked as an economic specialist for the US government and the Asia Foundation, and was posted to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan with USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and the Harvard Institute for International Development.