Vietnam's commitment to a greater level of global economic integration is reflected in her foreign policies, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh told VET's Minh Hai
From a diplomatic perspective, Vietnam is actively negotiating six trade agreements with major partners, including the significant Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). What message does this convey?
2013 is a pivotal year in implementing foreign policies, following National Congress XI of the Communist Party of Vietnam, with global economic integration as the focus. We have been boosting global economic integration at all levels, from actively building the ASEAN Community with its profound trade-economic relations together with key partners, to implementing serious commitments under WTO membership as well as conducting new international trade-economic negotiations.
The highlight of 2013 was Vietnam simultaneously negotiating six free trade agreements (FTAs) with leading global economic partners, including the TPP since 2010 and recently Asia’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a customs alliance with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and FTA negotiations with the EU and South Korea, among others. All of these are large-scale multi-party negotiations and more extensive than negotiations over WTO membership.
First of all, the extensive implementation of global economic integration and the active participation of Vietnam in trade agreements have expressed our determination for extensive and comprehensive integration, marking an essential step towards a new stage of not only actively participating but also proactively contributing to the process of shaping general rules for these international trade-economic agreements. Our international economic links and cooperation have been expanded, reaching a new inter-regional level and hence creating beneficial, long-term and intertwined co-operation with key partners.
Secondly, implementation has also confirmed that we have chosen strategic policies that are consistent with international trends and the needs of the people, in order to take full advantage of new international resources, especially scientific-technological and managerial skills, as well as the new resources for capital and markets. These policies will help restructure the economy along with transforming the growth model and consequently engage our economy in a higher value level within the global supply chain.
Thirdly, with this extensive and comprehensive integration Vietnam is contributing actively and responsibly to the establishment and consolidation of regional mechanisms, fostering cooperation for peace and economic development in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world. With a population of over 90 million and stable and relatively high economic growth, Vietnam’s contributions not only bring significant benefits to other members but also play an important role in creating more cooperation potential, diversity and attractiveness.
All of these abovementioned efforts are aimed at the ultimate goal of creating specific practical benefits to regions, businesses and even individuals. Negotiations are expected to be completed in the next two or three years and will certainly create significant advances in the living conditions of the people and the business environment, with more international exchanges and development opportunities.
Global economic integration has brought many opportunities but will pose many challenges for Vietnam as well. What measures are in place to ensure integration is beneficial to Vietnam?
One of the lessons learned from the “doi moi” (renovation) process over the last three decades is that we need effective international integration for economic development. Extensive and comprehensive global economic integration and cooperation brings immense opportunities but significant and direct challenges at the same time. Internal resources and domestic preparations are the decisive factors in successful global economic integration.
The 2014-2015 period is important in our country’s global economic integration. This is the stage when we will complete negotiations, sign agreements and implement most of the aforementioned FTAs. We will also have to continue completing important international commitments such as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), eight FTAs we have already signed bilaterally and multilaterally within the framework of ASEAN, our WTO commitments and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The time for preparation, however, is running out and will positive steps are required in the following key matters.
Firstly, we need to turn sharply towards interdisciplinary and multilateral thinking to meet the urgent needs of the economic affiliations we have engaged in. We have to implement these with a spirit of being active in participating and contributing to universal trends. This is the key element, the decisive factor in effective global economic integration.
In order to integrate extensively and comprehensively we must continue with strong reform and innovation at home. The experience of joining the WTO and the recent FTA negotiations show that we face considerable challenges due to differences in the levels of development between partners and increasing numbers of unfamiliar commitments regarding labour, the environment and government procurement, etc. We need to maximise our internal strengths and enlist international support in order to complete institutional frameworks and enhance legal enforcement.
In order to achieve success in integration we need to synergise all of our “troops”. Now more than ever we need the involvement of all provincial authorities and enterprises in the negotiations we are currently conducting to see positive contributions in setting up institutional law and enforcement measures and improving prioritised business sectors and industries. After all, local business owners are able to directly deploy and benefit from the process of global economic integration.
It is necessary to raise awareness among all of society, especially local business, about global economic integration. This is a core element in ensuring its success. Therefore, in the future we urgently need to develop measures to take advantage of the potential of international economic affiliations, especially in technology, management, and resources, and hence participate in higher levels of the global value chain. At the same time we should also take active measures to cope with the challenges from the high prescribed standards in intellectual property, the environment and rules of origin, etc.
Can you tell us about the orientation of foreign policy in the time to come?
The global and regional situation will see more rapid and complex changes in 2014 and subsequent years than previously, regarding economics, politics and security. The global economy is showing clear signs of recovery and the trend towards global economic integration continues to grow strongly. Under such circumstances, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has directed that “in a time of peace, diplomats have to be the leaders in building peace, defending the country and attracting resources for national development.”
Under such guidance, in the coming years and especially this year, we will focus on implementing a number of measures.
Firstly, we have to stay with the goal of developing the country and continue to take advantage of external resources to reach the objectives of fostering growth, restructuring the economy and transforming the growth model by implementing the three breakthrough measures of institutional reform, infrastructure reform, and human resources reform.
Secondly, we have to actively participate and contribute to completing trade-economic negotiations soon as well as shaping the economic mechanisms of our affiliations, such as in the TPP, the RCEP, and the FTA with the EU Customs Union, etc. We also have to push the completion of international commitments, especially ASEAN, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, WTO membership and the Bogor goals.
Thirdly, we have to maximise the use of positive aspects in political cooperation as well as other areas to promote foreign trade, expand markets, foster imports and exports, and attract capital as well as technology and management skills consistent with the country’s development orientation.
Fourthly, ministries, provincial authorities and enterprises will have to deploy effective foreign economic activities and enhance their integration capacity while protecting the national interest and the interest of employees and enterprises themselves in international trade-economic disputes.
Fifthly, we have to continue improving and elevating the deployment of economic diplomacy by promoting research, gathering information and advising and forecasting global economic development trends and the global economic integration trend. By doing so we can strengthen coordination mechanisms and push ahead and accelerate the execution of signed agreements.
TFinally, we will have to promote a positive image and convey the message of attractive opportunities for economic cooperation being on offer in Vietnam for foreign countries and partners, in order to implement effective foreign economic activities.