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Twenty years of accession to APEC: From strategic vision to Vietnamese imprint
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Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh speaks at the workshop on priorities of the APEC Year 2017. Photo: VNA

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of our accession to APEC, we look back at the road with remarkable imprints we have travelled thus striving to make more contribution to building a shared future for a peaceful, stable, dynamic, cohesive and prosperous Asia Pacific Community.

APEC: Strategic vision of international economic integration of Vietnam

Vietnam's achievements in economic development and international integration over the past 20 years have confirmed that the decision of joining APEC is correct and in time, reflecting the strategic vision of the Party and State. After acceding to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 1996, the accession to APEC in 1998 was an important step in Vietnam’s international economic integration and a prerequisite for Vietnam to elevate its international economic integration to global level with its accession to the World Trade Organization. 2007. Participating in APEC Vietnam shows its determination to actively contribute to promoting peace, stability, cooperation and liberalization of trade and investment in the region.

A leading economic cooperation mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region, the hub of global economic, trade and technological convergence, accounting for 39% of the world population, contributing 59% of the world GDP, over 49% of the world trade, APEC has brought many benefits in terms of strategy, economy, trade and investment, contributing to the overall development of the country.

First, APEC gathers 14 out of 28 leading strategic, comprehensive and economic and trade partners of Vietnam, accounting for 75% of its import-export turnover, 78 % of its total foreign direct investment (FDI) and 79% of its international tourists. Fourteen out the 16 Free Trade Agreements that Vietnam has been negotiating and signed with 17 out of 20 APEC members are clear evidence of the importance of APEC for economic growth, socio-economic development and international integration of the country.

Second, Vietnam's international status has been enhanced as the result of its joining APEC. As an APEC member, Vietnam has an equal role and voice to many leading economic centers in the world in building and setting regional economic and trade rules and regulations. This is important for Vietnam to accelerate the implementation of its policy of proactive and active international integration and raising the level of multilateral foreign relations.

Third, APEC is an important channel for Vietnam to promote bilateral relations, contributing to long-term interests and deepening relations with its partners, strengthening the peaceful environment, creating favorable conditions for the development of the country. Prominently, as the host country for APEC 2006, Vietnam promoted substantive bilateral relations with key partners, particularly through visits by leaders of China, the United States, Russia, Japan and Chile during the APEC 2006 Summit. The success of historic bilateral visits and dozens of bilateral meetings during the APEC 2017 Summit continued to lay the foundations for enhancing bilateral relations of Vietnam with many regional partners.

Fourth, the accession to APEC and implementation of commitments on opening up trade, investment and business facilitation have contributed to creating a momentum for domestic reforms, step by step perfecting institutional policies and regulations in line with international commitments. Accession to APEC has created a premise for Vietnam to participate in larger and higher binding "playgrounds," such as the WTO and FTAs, including new generation, high standard FTAs. The implementation of international commitments is also a lever to realizing the commitment to build a facilitating government of integrity and action to serve people and businesses.

Fifth, as a member of APEC, Viet Nam is entitled to support in international integration. One of the key three pillars of APEC is economic and technical cooperation (ECOTECH), assisting developing economies to improve their capacity for economic reform and regional integration, contributing to narrowing the development gap. The implementation of commitments, policy synchronization, and APEC’s support projects have helped enhance international integration capacity of ministries, sectors, localities and enterprises, providing knowledge and experience for staff working on integration. Cooperation programs on enhancing student exchange, promoting tourism, people-to-people exchange have really created great opportunities for people, especially the younger generation.

Last, the difference between APEC and other mechanisms is that APEC offers tremendous potential and opportunities for Vietnamese businesses. Dialogues between APEC leaders and the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the annual APEC Business Summit are important opportunities for the business community to make recommendations to leaders, proactively contribute to building regional economic integration policies, and creating a framework for Vietnamese businesses to connect with leading economic groups in the world. APEC has also supported Vietnamese enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises to access markets, enjoy favorable business and investment environment, favorable movement, seek strategic investors, and access advanced technology and management.

Two decades as a member of APEC and Vietnam’s imprint

Looking back at the past 20 years, Vietnam can take pride in its proactive and active contributions to APEC for peace, stability, cooperation and economic linkage, maintaining APEC's role as the leading economic linkage mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region.

Most notably, Vietnam is one of the few members who twice successfully hosted APEC Summit in 2006 and 2017. At the APEC Summit Week in November 2006, for the first time APEC leaders identified the prospects for the formation of the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP). This was an important decision, laying the foundations for a strategic vision of economic connectivity across the region. In addition, the Hanoi Plan of Action aiming at implementing the Bogor Goals, the APEC reform package, commitments on cooperation in human security, human resources development, structural reform, assistance to developing member country to improve their integration capacity were also considered as timely and effective solutions to issues APEC faced at that time. Results of the APEC 2006 in the spirit of "Towards a Dynamic Community for Sustainable Development and Prosperity" contributed to creating more impetus for promoting APEC cooperation in a more efficient and dynamic way.

Vietnam was chosen by APEC members to host the second APEC 11 years after. Assuming the task, Vietnam faced many challenges, especially in 2017 which was considered one of the most difficult periods of APEC, with the emergence of protectionism, populism, anti-globalization as well as challenges of climate change, social inequality, aging population. In such a difficult context, with stuff, wisdom, will and consensus, Vietnam successfully organized APEC 2017 with nearly 250 events, culminating in the 25th APEC Summit Week in the dynamic and modern city of Da Nang.

With the theme “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future," Vietnam chaired and coordinated with members to promote many cooperation contents, stimulating new dynamism for sustainable growth, creativity and inclusion, strengthening regional trade liberalization, investment and connectivity, promoting APEC leadership in global economic governance and response to common challenges. The Joint Statements of the 25th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and the 29th APEC Ministerial Meeting, together with accompanying documents contributed to maintaining the momentum of cooperation and linkage and preserving APEC's core values on promoting free trade and investment, expanding and supporting multilateral trading system. Vietnam's role and contribution were particularly highlighted when we led the discussion on building a new vision for the APEC after 2020.

In addition, the imprint of Viet Nam is also manifested in the success of the first dialogue between APEC leaders and ASEAN and Vietnam's active contribution to the formation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) during the APEC Summit Week in Da Nang. Vietnam's successes and attractiveness were also reflected in the record number of participants and contribution of the business community during the APEC Summit, highlighted by the APEC Business Summit with the attendance of more than 2,100 leading businesses in the world and the region, and the first Vietnam Business Summit held in Vietnam.

It can be said that the success and imprint of the two APEC Summits confirm that Vietnam’s proactive, active and responsible contributions in jointly shaping regional economic connectivity, maintaining the role of Asia-Pacific is the driving force of global economic connectivity and growth.

Second, Vietnam is one of the most active members of APEC in proposing initiatives and programs with more than 100 projects in various fields. Many of them are evaluated as pragmatic, meeting common concerns, especially in inclusive development, human resources development in the digital age, facilitating e-commerce across borders, green, sustainable and creative micro, small, medium enterprises (MSMEs), food security and climate change, rural and urban development.

Third, Vietnam has made significant contributions to the management of APEC's operations by assuming the post of Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat (2005-2006), Chair or Vice-Chair of various committees and several key working groups, such as the Trade and Investment Committee, the Budget Management Committee, Working Groups on SMEs, health and emergency response. Between 2016 and 2018, Vietnam worked as the chairs, and vice chairs of 18 Committees and Working Groups of APEC and ABAC and has been highly appreciated by APEC members.

Fourth, the role of Vietnamese businesses in APEC cooperation is increasingly recognized. Vietnam's businesses have actively participated and made many recommendations to APEC leaders and ministers. In particular, during the APEC Year 2017, Vietnamese businesses made contributions and directly participated in many activities, affirming the maturity, integration capacity, roles and responsibilities towards APEC cooperation as well as regional economic linkages.

APEC: A key forum for the promotion of multilateral foreign relations

In a super-connected world, the Asia-Pacific region continues to be one of the world's leading dynamic development centers, having strategically geo-economical and geopolitical importance, a dynamism of global economic growth and linkage, and a major political center of the world. As the most important leading economic linkage mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region, APEC continues to promote trade, investment, connectivity, strong leadership in global economic governance, implement the Sustainable Development Goals to 2030 and respond to common challenges. In the fourth decade of its development, in face of rapid and profound changes of the world and region, under the strong influence of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), APEC is making fundamental changes, expanding more practical cooperation in the interests of people and businesses.

After more than 30 years of innovation and international integration, Vietnam has entered a stage of strategic development with new position and stature. Vietnam has continued comprehensive reform, deepened international integration and increased multilateral foreign relations. Asia-Pacific and APEC continue to be two among the focuses of Vietnam's foreign policy in the new era.

As a member of APEC for 20 years, Vietnam will continue to heighten its contribution to the mechanism. Vietnam will work with its members to accelerate the implementation of long-term commitments and strategies for the completion of the Bogor Goals by 2020, growth strategies, overall connectivity, and realization of APEC 2017’s results. In its capacity as APEC Vision Group Vice President, Vietnam will actively expedite ideas initiated by Viet Nam in 2017 - building new visions for APEC in the post-2020 development period.

Implementing guidelines of the 12th Party Congress on proactive and active international integration, contributing to shaping multilateral institutions and the Party Secretariat's Directive on elevating the level of multilateral foreign relations, Vietnam will continue to accompany APEC in the next stage of development, jointly building a strategic vision of the Asia-Pacific community of peace, stability, dynamism, creativity, cohesion and prosperity.

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Source: Communist Review Online on 14 November 2018, External Relations and International Integration column

Pham Binh MinhMember of Politburo, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs