APEC economies have always kept pace with new trends and advanced economic cooperation and integration mechanisms.
President Truong Tan Sang will represent Viet Nam in the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ in Beijing against the backdrop of its participation in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, and preparations for the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of APEC’s founding that will coincide with this year’s Leaders’ Meeting, President Sang spoke to the APEC Bulletin about the changing regional landscape, his expectations for engagement in Beijing and the future of cooperation in APEC, which Viet Nam will chair for the second time in 2017.
APEC Bulletin: What is your view on the Asia-Pacific today and the role of APEC?
President Sang: Entering the 21st century, especially after the global economic and financial crisis, we have witnessed enormous shifts and changes to the world economy.
In such an evolving landscape, the Asia-Pacific remains a dynamic hub for development, an engine of global growth and is taking the lead in the world’s economic integration. APEC economies have made significant contributions to the sustained momentum of growth and prosperity in the region. Furthermore, we are strengthening cooperation by responding to global security challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, energy security, food security and oceans-related issues.
As a forum of the world’s leading economies, APEC has been a pioneer in promoting regional economic integration and connectivity by liberalizing trade and investment, enhancing supply chain connectivity and improving the business environment, among other actions. I genuinely believe this is one of the primary reasons why GDP growth in our region averaged 3.4 per cent between 2008 and 2013, higher than the world average of 2.96 per cent during this period.
APEC Bulletin: How are Viet Nam and the other APEC members adapting to the shifting regional landscape?
President Sang: APEC economies have always kept pace with new trends and advanced economic cooperation and integration mechanisms. The cooperation between us is quite diverse in form and scope, ranging in all layers and dimensions from sub-regional, regional and inter-regional, to global levels. These mechanisms are very substantive and far-reaching, even beyond the scope of traditional trade.
Some of the best examples include Mekong sub-regional cooperation and development of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership—Viet Nam is advancing each of these mechanisms, together with other APEC economies. Through our efforts, we are moving towards the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, as agreed by APEC Leaders in 2006 in Ha Noi.
APEC Bulletin: What are your expectations for the Asia-Pacific as new integration architecture takes shape?
President Sang: I’m sure that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to be the most dynamic economic region in the world and will continue to be an engine for global growth. We are witnessing the establishment of ASEAN Community by 2015, the on-going negotiation of RCEP, TPP, the FTA between Japan, China and Korea and many other international negotiations. All are factors to promote the multi-layer, multi-center architecture in the region. In such a landscape, developing economies will have an increasingly important role to play in the coming time.
I believe that the ASEAN-led mechanism, together with APEC, is a strong foundation toward a more democratic and equal architecture in the region.
APEC Bulletin: What will the changes underway in the Asia-Pacific mean for Viet Nam and its approach to regional cooperation?
President Sang: As Viet Nam moves to a new stage of development, we continue to carry out profound and comprehensive innovation, accelerate economic restructuring and undertake comprehensive, proactive international integration.
Viet Nam attaches the great importance to the Asia-Pacific and APEC, in particular. One of Vietnam’s foreign policy priorities is to continue working closely with other member economies to make more practical and efficient contributions to advance regional economic integration.
APEC Bulletin: What is your assessment of the tangible benefits of APEC membership for Viet Nam since joining in 1998?
President Sang: It is no exaggeration to say that APEC brings substantial economic and commercial benefits to the Vietnamese people and Vietnamese businesses—supporting a high economic growth rate, increasing foreign direct investment and advanced technology transfer, and improving human resources development. There are some particular advantages that I would like to mention.
First, APEC cooperation has reduced average tariffs in the region by half and increased trade between our economies nearly six-fold. It has also cut transaction costs by substantial margins and removed other kinds of trade barriers, creating more favorable conditions for Vietnamese goods to access and penetrate regional markets.
At the same time, the realization of APEC’s economic and commercial commitments have positioned member economies, including Viet Nam, to accelerate reform and adjustment to regulations and policies in compliance with international commitments. Our pursuit of the Bogor Goals, namely trade and investment liberalization by 2020 for developed and developing economies in APEC, is especially important. As a result, the business and investment environment continues to improve.
In addition, through interactions and cooperation with the private sector, within the framework of the APEC Business Advisory Council, Vietnamese companies enjoy greater opportunities to deepen their footprint and strengthen business relationships in markets all across the region.
APEC Bulletin: To what extent has APEC touched the lives of the Vietnamese people?
President Sang: Combined together, the benefits of cooperation in APEC have helped to make Viet Nam’s economy stronger, brought new job and training opportunities and are boosting incomes and living standards for more of our people. Of course, we have more work to do and we will continue to work closely with other APEC economies to build on the partnerships between us.
APEC Bulletin: What is your expectation from the outcomes of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in Beijing, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of APEC’s establishment, and the direction it will set for the next quarter century?
President Sang: Twenty-five years is not a long time but I affirm that APEC has gained a lot of outstanding achievements. Over that period, APEC has become a very strong and dynamic economic integration mechanism for the Asia-Pacific and continues to greatly contribute to the prosperity and development of the region.
The 22nd APEC Leaders’ summit will soon convene in Beijing and the world will be watching. I’m sure that the other Leaders will agree with me that all of us want to show a stronger commitment for strengthening connectivity, advancing regional economic integration and greater growth. The member economies also need to further promote innovative, sustainable and inclusive development. If all members could achieve all these goals, I believe APEC will embrace a brighter future.
APEC Bulletin: How would you like to see APEC develop as Viet Nam prepares to host member economies for the second time in 2017?
President Sang: I am confident that with the vast potential of each and every APEC economy, APEC’s role on the global stage will become even more important to the world and to regional growth in the coming years. The fact that Viet Nam will chair APEC in 2017 is a really an honor and a very important mission for Viet Nam.
Viet Nam commits to fulfilling this mission as we take efforts to realize our World Trade Organization commitments and become a market economy in 2018. Viet Nam wants to contribute more to APEC connectivity and integration, and is intent on implementing our large-scale integration arrangements with other economies in the region at that time.
The Leaders’ Summit in 2017 will be another contribution to APEC – in the preparation for the 20th anniversary of our APEC membership. Hosting the summit will be a further illustration of Viet Nam’s strong commitment to the Asia-Pacific and to the prosperity of the region.
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Program details for the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week, including specific event times and venues, can be viewed at this link.
Current and former APEC Leaders and Ministers describe how member economies are building on the region’s progress in the new APEC 25th anniversary video.