Vietnam goes western: a political economy analysis of Vietnam’s accession to the WTO

This paper explores the reasons and motivations for Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. On the basis of in-depth, semi- structured interviews with elites, secondary sources, and official documents, we point to the relevance of political economy considerations in this decision. In particular, Vietnamese authorities used WTO accession as an instrument to lock-in internal structural reforms, signal political stability to trade partners, and secure market access to Western consumer markets. Accession comes after a qualitative change in the export pattern (increased added value) that also meant new trade partners, mostly Western partners. Therefore, we inter- pret WTO accession as the final step of a wider process of economic and trade “Westernization”.

Federico Steinberg
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