U.S.-Vietnam Relations: Background and Issues for Congress [Updated September 28, 2007] [open pdf - 267KB]
"After communist North Vietnam's victory over U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1975, U.S.-Vietnam relations remained essentially frozen for over 15 years. Since then, bilateral ties have expanded remarkably, to the point where the relationship has been virtually normalized. Congress played a significant role in this process, and continues to influence the state of bilateral relations. Some argue that improvements in bilateral relations should be conditioned upon Vietnam's authoritarian government improving its record on human rights, particularly in the Central Highlands region. Voices favoring improved relations have included those reflecting U.S. business interests in Vietnam's reforming economy and U.S. strategic interests in expanding cooperation with a populous country […] that has an ambivalent relationship with China. In recent years, Vietnamese leaders have sought to upgrade relations with the United States, perhaps because of worries about China's expanding influence in Southeast Asia and the need for U.S. support for Vietnam's ultimately successful bid to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many argue, however, that there is little evidence that Hanoi seeks to balance Beijing's rising power. Also, some Vietnamese remain suspicious that the United States' long-term goal is to end the Vietnamese communist party's monopoly on power through a 'peaceful evolution' strategy. Economic ties are perhaps the most mature aspect of the bilateral relationship. Since the United States extended conditional normal trade relations (NTR) to Vietnam in 2001, bilateral trade -- primarily imports from Vietnam -- has increased more than sixfold, to the point where the United States is now Vietnam's largest export market."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33316