Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senate Passes Bill That Infuriates Vietnam, Sparking Trade, Investment Warnings

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Senate Passes Bill That Infuriates Vietnam, Sparking Trade, Investment Warnings

Article excerpt

Senate passes bill that infuriates Vietnam

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OTTAWA - The Senate has passed an obscure private member's bill from a Conservative senator that's at the centre of a growing diplomatic spat between Canada and Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government is taking offence at the bill, which has sparked warnings that it could harm Canadian trade and investment opportunities with the Asian country.

The bill recognizes April 30 as a national day to commemorate the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and their acceptance in Canada after the 1975 fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese communist forces -- a development that ended the Vietnam War.

The Harper government has made it a priority to deepen economic ties with Asia, and Vietnam is certainly a player in the region.

Vietnam is member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is one of the countries with a seat at Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

The bill, sponsored by Conservative Sen. Thanh Hai Ngo, was passed Monday night by a 45-4 margin. From there, it goes to the House of Commons, where it is not clear when -- or even if -- it will be dealt with.

If the bill is passed by the Commons, it will "have an adverse impact on the growing bilateral relations between Vietnam and Canada, as well as efforts devoted to broaden and deepen our ties, including trade and investment relations," said Viet Dung Vu, a diplomat with the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa.

In an emailed response to questions, he added: "It will send the wrong message to the public of Vietnam and the international community about Canada's goodwill toward our country."

Vietnam's ambassador To Anh Dung expressed "concern" to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird about the bill as recently as Monday night at a Parliament Hill reception, Vu said.

"The government of Vietnam (the embassy included) has made many representations to different levels of the government of Canada and leaders of Parliament expressing our serious concerns about the language and intent of this bill," he said.

Baird's spokesman Adam Hodge said Vietnam is a "strong and valued partner, including in the TPP negotiations. …

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