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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 11:53 GMT
World trade body admits Vietnam
Garment worker in Vietnam
The textile industry hopes to benefit from WTO membership
Vietnam is the latest country to be officially invited to join the ranks of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

WTO member states have voted in favour of Vietnam's entry, which would make it the 150th member of the trade body.

The move, which has to be ratified by Vietnam's parliament, will give it more access to overseas markets but force it to cut high import tariffs.

Vietnam is Asia's strongest performing economy after China. Its economy is expected to grow by 7.8% in 2006.

Mixed reaction

Vietnam, which has set out its intention to leave the ranks of the world's poorest countries by 2010, will become a WTO member 30 days after its National Assembly approves the move.

Foreign competition is bitter medicine for Vietnamese enterprises, but it will help them become stronger
Le Dang Doanh, ministry of planning and investment

As a consequence of membership, it will have to reduce import duties from the current average rate of 17.6% to 13.8% within five to seven years of joining the WTO.

The lowering of import tariffs is expected to cut the state budget by some 21%.

After Vietnam joins the WTO, its textile, rice and coffee exporters will no longer be subject to other countries' import quotas.

But banking, insurance and telecommunications industries have expressed some reservations over the prospect of increased international competition.

Restrictions on foreign ownership of firms inside the country will be also be lifted.

"Foreign competition is bitter medicine for Vietnamese enterprises, but it will help them become stronger," said Le Dang Doanh, an economist at the ministry of planning and investment.

Communist-run Vietnam has been trying to gain membership to the WTO for more than a decade.

World's poorest

Until now, Vietnam, with a population of 84 million, has been the second most populated country behind Russia outside the WTO.

The WTO's main negotiating group approved the terms of Vietnam's membership at a meeting in Geneva in October.

The news comes as chipmaker Intel has gained the right to boost its initial investment in Vietnam from $300m to $1bn, according to Vietnamese officials.

The WTO's invitation to Vietnam comes in the run-up to the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, which will take place in Hanoi later this month.

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