Wednesday, 19/12/2018
APEC 2017: Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future
27/12/2017 15:15' Send Print
Photo: President Tran Dai Quang and leaders of APEC economies in Da Nang. Photo: VNA

New ladder in Asia-Pacific cooperation space

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit 2017, with its key activities, the three APEC Senior Officials Meetings (SOM 1, SOM 2, SOM 3), was held in February, March and August 2017. In addition, a number of related conferences also took place, including the High-level Policy Roundtable on Sustainable Tourism in June 2017; the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change in May 2017; the Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting and Related Meetings in September 2017; High-level Policy Dialogue on Women and Economy in September 2017; APEC 2017 Finance Ministerial Meeting in October 2017 and sideline events. These meetings set out new priorities, proposals and new perspectives demonstrating new vision and position of APEC 2017. The 2017 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week organized from 6-11 November 2017 in Da Nang was the most important event of APEC 2017 year and was a focus of Vietnam's foreign affairs this year to deepen international integration, and improve the quality and effectiveness of the multilateral foreign relations.

The theme and priorities proposed by Vietnam for APEC 2017 were inherent to the achievements of the previous APEC years while in line with the situation of cooperation and developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

With the motto of coordinating with member economies to build a peaceful, stable, developed, connected and prosperous Asia-Pacific community, Vietnam decided the theme of the APEC 2017: "Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future," meanings: First, reflecting the common concerns of APEC member economies in finding a "new driving force" for integration, linkage and economic growth of Asia-Pacific; second, showing the "common denominator," the long-term goals of APEC and Asia-Pacific on "fostering a common future," which is peace, stability, development and prosperity; third, expressing expectations for new APEC developments in 2017, enhancing APEC’s position in the new context. Besides, Vietnam identified four key priorities for APEC 2017, focusing on the areas of APEC’s concern including:

Promoting sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth: This is one of the top priorities in APEC cooperation in the context of unstable global economic recovery and rising inequality. The "sustainability" and "inclusiveness" of development are emphasized to contribute to the implementation of the APEC Strategy for Quality Growth for the period up to 2020 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Structural reform and innovations also play a very important role in creating new dynamism for growth through improving labor productivity, developing human resources and ensuring efficient resource allocation. This is a model of business-centered and people-centered growth.

Deepening extensive regional economic integration and linkage: In recent years, deepening regional economic integration and enhancing connectivity are highlighted in APEC agenda to address the need for increased and deepened economic linkages and development of Asia-Pacific economies. In 2017, APEC economies have striven to achieve the Bogor Goals on trade and investment liberalization by 2020, while enhancing connectivity in three dimensions: infrastructure, institution and people. New efforts are needed to maintain APEC's role as a driving force for extensive regional economic integration.

Improving the competitiveness, and innovation of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital age: MSMEs are a driving force for growth and job creation in APEC economies. Their development and deep involvement in value chains have created new impetus for the development of APEC economies. Enhancing MSMEs' competitiveness and creativity is becoming more important in the digital age with new opportunities and challenges. It is also the continuation and promotion of APEC’s realization of programs related to MSMEs.

Enhancing food security, sustainable agriculture, and adaptation to climate change: Food security is always attached importance to in APEC cooperation, as Asia-Pacific supplies about 55% of the total agricultural output of the world. Food security is also the second goal of the UN SDGs by 2030. In recent years, APEC has focused more efforts on tackling the negative impacts of climate change to ensure food security and sustainable agriculture. Food security is linked to "sustainable agriculture, adaptation to climate change" to help APEC economies cope with the increasingly severe impacts of climate change more effectively.

The identification of the right theme, priorities, directions and active participation of major APEC countries in 2017 clearly demonstrate a new development in Asia-Pacific cooperation:

First, building an Asia-Pacific of peace, stability and dynamic development is the key driver of regional growth. Today, APEC is a leading economic driver, an important motive force for growth of Asia-Pacific and the world. Over the past three decades, APEC economies have grown rapidly, accounting for nearly 60% of the world's GDP; 49% of international trade with average tariffs fell from 11% in 1996 to 5.5% in 2016; income and the living standards of people in the area have increased significantly. This testifies to regional efforts for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, as well as shared stability, development and prosperity. To do so, in an opening speech at the 23rd Meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade attended by APEC senior officials, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated: "All cooperation plans with good intentions can not be realized if we lack trust, political will, and cooperation to maintain a peaceful environment, security and safety for investment activities, and flow of commercial goods in the region." All economies in the region, whether they are APEC members or not, share the common interest in building Asia-Pacific partnerships for sustainable and inclusive development in the 21st century.

Second, APEC 2017 activities created the new impetus to boost regional economic linkage to a new height, reiterating that APEC is for the people and businesses. From March 2017 until now, the host country of Vietnam and other APEC member economies have concretized the above four priorities into documents, and projects, thus promoting cooperation of APEC in the coming years. In nearly 50 meetings, seminars, dialogues in SOM2 and related meetings, delegates discussed substantive issues at the critical moment of APEC. In the coming decades, APEC's role is indispensable in shaping the regional architecture in order to coordinate and link regional mechanisms; effectively address global challenges, meet the legitimate interests of economies in the region in the process of economic restructuring; accelerate efforts to obtain the Bogor Goals, maintain regional momentum in such frameworks as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) towards the formation of the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area of the (FTAAP).

Third, APEC 2017 is expected to be the Forum to initiate ideas coordinating regional economic linkages, and an important time to shape the APEC Vision for the post 2020 period. APEC can be considered as a "nursery" of initiatives and ideas about integration associated with development. APEC is a place for member economies to experiment, foster ideas of liberalization, address complex problems, even obstacles in multilateral frameworks. In addition, despite being an economic forum, within APEC framework, leaders and officials through dialogues at the Forum contributed to ensuring political stability and security towards the goal for the common prosperity of the region. It can be said that the Bogor Goals have inspired and promoted APEC to the present position and prestige. In addition, this is the time for the Forum to advance the APEC Vision for the post 2020 period, clearly defining the objectives, long-term direction, and pillars of co-operation in the next 10-15 years.

Fourth, APEC 2017 received great attention and was of importance as it had the confirmation of attendance of the world largest economies’ leaders. The direct involvement of senior leaders shows that the Asia-Pacific region is where major countries want to work in partnership and investment. The President of the United States Donald Trump’s confirmation of attendance was considered as an opportunity for the US to affirm its commitments to the region, while laying the foundation for the new US approach to Asia in general and Southeast Asia in particularly in many fields. On the Russian side, until 2012 when Russia chaired the 24th APEC in Vladivostok, Russia kept quiet at APEC issues. Therefore, with the Russian President V. Putin’s acceptance to attend the APEC 2017 showed that Russia attaches special importance to strengthening partnership with countries in the region. Although Russia is a major exporter of defense equipment to Southeast Asian countries, trade relations have not been adequately developed. In 2015, bilateral trade accounted for only 0.6% of the total trade value of this region, equivalent to US$13 billion, while trade between Southeast Asia with China accounted for 15%, equivalent to $346 billion.

In that sense, the APEC 2017 year promises to create new impetus for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. APEC 2017 again serves as a solid testimony that multilateral diplomacy is an important mainstay for member economies to foster their interests and improve their position in a world of extensive globalization

The new position of Vietnam in the international arena and in the region

First, APEC 2017 contributes to affirm Vietnam's position in the international arena. The success of the APEC 2017 not only elicited praise for Vietnam’s hosting, but also reflected its guiding role in APEC in the context of numerous economic and political challenges facing the world to strengthen APEC’s trade liberalization for sustainable development and prosperity in the region. Amid changes in world situation, increasing challenges and risks causing severe impacts on economies, the global economic growth rate has fallen to the lowest level of 2.2% after the global financial economic crisis in 2008-2009. Further more, the benefits of globalization have not been equally distributed, leading to increased protectionism and anti-globalization tendency, especially in the United States and some European countries. Responding to the current situation, Vietnam as the host country proposed the theme and priorities for the APEC 2017, and received broad support from member economies. On this basis, APEC 2017, under the chairmanship of Vietnam, advanced concrete, practical initiatives, measures and policies to create benefits for people and businesses in the region.

Second, APEC 2017 enhanced and deepened the effective bilateral relations of Vietnam. Thirteen out of 25 of Vietnam’s major strategic and comprehensive partners and many of Vietnam’s leading economic and trade partners attended the Forum. Eighteen APEC members are key partners in bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). APEC members account for 78% of foreign direct investment (FDI), 75% of trade in goods, 38% of official development assistance (ODA), and 79% of international tourist arrivals of Vietnam. Approximately 80% of overseas Vietnamese students are studying in APEC economies. Currently, 13 of the 15 FTAs of Viet Nam are the result of cooperation with 18 APEC member economies. Vietnam’s top 10 export markets include seven APEC member economies: the US, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. Therefore, in addition to contributing to the overall success of APEC 2017 multilateral cooperation, Vietnam will have the opportunity to boost bilateral relations with APEC member economies to new heights. This is a chance for bilateral contacts with members to discuss strategies and specific measures to expand cooperation to catch up with rapid economic and political changes worldwide, promoting their coordination, consensus and raise each others’ influence in regional and international multilateral forums, including APEC, ASEAN, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), World Trade Organization (WTO).

Third, this is a great opportunity for Vietnamese businesses in the context of integration. Given its scale and importance, APEC encourages and promotes the world's leading and prestigious businesses to invest and do businesses in Vietnam, creating “golden” opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to develop. First of all, APEC 2017 will bring good opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises to positively impact on changing institutions and policies. With more than 200 events, eight ministers meetings and ministerial-level and equivalent conferences, and especially the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang, APEC 2017 is expected to contribute significantly to practical interaction between the business community and high-ranking leaders and policy makers. It is this interaction, concern and attention of policy makers that will translate APEC policies and commitments into positive impact on production and operation of businesses. Besides, the presence of leading dynamic economies in the region and in the world, such as the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and more than 1,000 international businesses from APEC member countries to Vietnam during the APEC 2017 event will create many opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to connect with the world's leading businesses and seek opportunities for business cooperation. Therefore, APEC 2017 is considered to be the golden time that positively influences Vietnamese businesses in interacting with relevant authorities to impact institutions and policies as well as learning experiences, promoting image and building business partnership with other development partners in the region.

It can be said that proactive and active participation in the activities of APEC in general and APEC 2017 in particular is a great opportunity for Vietnam to shape not only the future of APEC but also the economic architecture of Asia Pacific. Hosting the APEC 2017, Vietnam expects to harness a large development space with new potential for cooperation. APEC 2017 promises to enhance Vietnam's position in the international arena, strengthen bilateral relations with its partners and also present a good opportunity for Vietnamese business community to grasp positive and practical benefits.

With the new strength and position of the country after over 30 years of renovation, with the support and precious assistance of friends and partners, the successful APEC Vietnam 2017 will definitely contribute to our development and security interests, while highlighting our country’s new vision and position.

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This article was publised in Communist Review, No. 901 (November 2017)

Assoc. Prof. Tran Tho Quang, Ho Chi Minh National Political AcademyNguyen Thu Ha, Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy