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Greater voice

Released at: 14:01, 08/11/2017 APEC Viet Nam 2017

Greater voice

Photo: Japanese Embassy in Vietnam

H.E. Mr. Umeda Kunio, Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam, shares his thoughts on APEC and Vietnam with VET.

by Linh San

As an APEC member, how would you assess Vietnam’s role in chairing the APEC Summit this year in Vietnam?

After joining APEC in 1998, Vietnam hosted APEC for the first time in 2006, eleven years ago, and this is its second time as host. In recent years, backed by a stable political climate and steady economic growth, Vietnam has increased its voice in the international community. Japan highly regards Vietnam’s efforts in leading cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region in order to promote regional economic integration through trade and investment liberalization and implementing growth strategies.

Vietnam has led discussions in various fields that have helped form the basis of many key issues on the current APEC agenda. For example, in the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), at the 2016 Vietnam APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting it was agreed to conduct further research on methods and means to promote regional economic integration, including the FTAAP.

This year as well, Vietnam proposed several important initiatives in e-commerce, human resources development, and economic, fiscal and social inclusiveness. Vietnam is also leading discussions toward the 2020 Bogor Goals. Japan will continue to extend its full cooperation for the success of APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November, together with Vietnam; an important partner in the Asia Pacific region.

What do you think about the opportunities and challenges APEC faces in the global economy?

The Asia-Pacific region has the potential for further development from the standpoint of demographics and market size. When APEC continues to promote free trade and grows through further regional economic integration, it will stimulate the global economy. APEC has also taken the lead in tackling new global issues based on its fundamental principles of “open regionalism” and “concerted but voluntary actions”.

APEC also has a strong relationship with the business community. It holds public-private dialogues, where many businesspeople are invited, in order to hear their challenges and other issues. Other unique characteristics of APEC includes having an institutional mechanism where it listens to the real voices of the business community and reflects them in policy making, including through the annual ABAC Dialogue with the Leaders and Industry Dialogues. These characteristics will continue to make APEC relevant as an international framework.

On the other hand, APEC will soon mark its 30th anniversary and there are ongoing discussions about the state of APEC as an organization. It is necessary to accelerate relevant efforts while APEC examines a medium-to-long term vision by 2020, the target year of achieving the Bogor Goals in realizing free and open trade and investment within the region. It is necessary to further deepen discussions on the future direction of APEC as an organization and also from the standpoint of substance.

How do you view Vietnam and Japan’s economic relations over recent years? What should Vietnam do to strengthen its economic relations with APEC members, including Japan?

With Vietnam’s development, the economic relationship between Japan and Vietnam has been rapidly expanding. Japan ranks first in providing overseas development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam, and in recent years its assistance has amounted to about 35 per cent of all aid to Vietnam. Japan provides a yearly average of 200 billion yen in loans to Vietnam and has been the top donor country to Vietnam over many years. It is also the second-largest investor in the country. Furthermore, with the expansion of economic relations, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have expanded dramatically, and the number of Japanese who visited Vietnam in 2016 increased to 740,000, ranking it third after China and South Korea.

In the wake of economic globalization, it is a common challenge for APEC members to ensure that everyone benefits. In order to realize this, we need to expand a free, fair, and open market based on rules. We must also take a firm stand against unfair trade practices that distort markets and fight against protectionism. Japan, as a flag bearer of free trade, will continue to contribute to expand free and fair markets in the Asia-Pacific region, together with Vietnam, which shares the same aspirations.



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