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APEC and Vietnam’s contribution

(LLCT) - The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was established in 1989 with the initial aim of establishing a “free trade” area. Currently, APEC has 21 member economies (Vietnam joined in 1998). Since its participation, Vietnam has displayed itself as an active, dynamic and responsible member economy in all joint activities. The successful hosting of APEC 2006 and 2017 is a vivid evidence to make a good impression of Vietnam with APEC member economies as well as Vietnam’s advancement and wisdom in international integration. 

1. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Ideas of establishing an economic association among Asia-Pacific countries were generated back from 1960s and 1970s of the 20th century. In 1965, two Japanese scholars - Kojima and Kurimoto proposed, to set up a “Pacific free trade area” with members including 5 developed industrial countries and openable to associated members which were developing countries in the Pacific Rim region. After that, some other scholars(1) early realized the necessity of building effective economic cooperation in the region. This ideology promoted the efforts of forming Pacific Economic Cooperation Council(2) (PECC) in 1980. The PECC later worked with ASEAN to play an important role in shaping a broad economic consultative regime among economies in the region as well as promoting the idea of establishing APEC(3).

In January 1989, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke raised the idea of establishing a ministerial level economic consultative forum in Asia-Pacific in Seoul, Korea with the aim of coordinating governments’ activities in strengthening economic development in the region and supporting multilaterial trade system. In November 1989, Foreign and Economic Ministers of Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Bruney, Indonesia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States convened at Canberra, Australia to officially establish APEC.In November 1991, APEC admitted China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Mexico, Papua New Guinea followed in November 1993, Chile acceded in November 1994. And in November 1998, APEC admitted new three member economies including Peru, Russia and Vietnam, and decided to provisionally stop new admissions within 10 years for organization consolidation.

Over 28 years of development, APEC has 21 member economies (9 member economies of which are the G20’s developed and emerging economies), accounting for 39% of the world population and 70% of the global natural resources, contributing to 57% of the world’s GDP and 49% of the world trade(4). APEC includes the world’s strongest and most dynamic economic areas, namely East Asia and North America (the United States, Canada and Mexico) with many characteristics mixed with political, socio-econmic and cultural variousity. This is a favourable condition for APEC to further develop in the future.

APEC is an “open” forum because of its support for multilateral trade regime without discrimination between APEC and other countries or groups of countries in the world. At the same time, APEC is open to all non-member economies in the region. Despite striving for economic development for member countries as the highest goal since its establishment, APEC has shown through its operation that it is not only an economic cooperation forum but also a platform for many regional and global issues, including security. Together with that, APEC has made much substantial progress in terms of nature, content and operating regime.

During the period of APEC formation, its founding members approached the development of trade and investment issues in order to build a “free trade” region and strengthen the open multilaterial trade system. All the contents of APEC’s activities have been concretized through annual ministerial-level meetings. At the forth ministerial-level meeting held in Bangkok in September 1992, APEC affirmed to continue the implementation of 10 fields set forth at previous meetings, including investment and trade, technology transfer, development of multilaterial human resources, energy, conservation of marine resources, fishing, traffic and tourism.

One of the most characteristic features of APEC is that all the member economies agreed to hold annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings. The once-a-year meeting of heads of government from all member economies at a location rotated annually among member economies is a significant opportunity for member economies to discuss important economic and political issues. This is still the highest-level policy making agency of APEC by now.

Since its establishment, APEC’s annual activities have engaged in changes and developments of the region and the world with outstanding issues such as international terrorism, non-traditional security risks, global economic crisis, etc. Its remarkable activities are comprised of finding solutions to realize the Bogor Goals(5), supporting multilaterial trade system, supporting the resumption of the Doha Round(6), etc.

2. Vietnam’s contribution to APEC since its admission (1998)

During its renewal process, Vietnam has gradually built and completed the market regime in order to facilitate comprehensive integration into the world economy including APEC. When joining APEC, Vietnam has gained many opportunities to develop political and economic relations. APEC is currently Vietnam’s biggest development partnership area with up to 78% of the total foreign-directed investment capital, 60% of the export value and 80% of the import value. Most of Vietnam’s leading economic and trade partners are APEC member economies(7). According to statistics, 11 out of 13 free trade agreements that Vietnam has signed and negotiated are with partners from APEC. Joining APEC has opened many opportunities for Vietnam to call for other member economies to support WTO accession process, making use of cooperation programs to develop human resources and enhancing trade linkages. In reality, for economic aspect, Vietnam has encountered less barriers when joining APEC markets. APEC’s tariffs have declined nearly 70% and the average tariff rates have decreased from 16.9% (1989) to 5.5% (2004).

Fully recognizing its important role as a member economy of APEC, Vietnam has always making great efforts to be an active, dynamic and responsible member. Nearly 20 years since its official admission, Vietnam has made a lot of significant contribution as follows:

Firstly, taking part in building contents of cooperation, strategies and action plans of APEC in all fields in order to promote common consensus, enhancing expansion of trade linkages, particularly implementing the Bogor Goals and the vision for a free trade area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP vision). At the 20th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Vietnam proposed other member economies to give priority to establish reliable supply chains, ensuring sustainable supply of energy, fuel resources and food; attaching special importance to building and coordinating the implementation of policies, creating favourable conditions for developing member economies to further engage in the global supply chain.

Secondly, successfully deploying more than 80 initiatives in nearly all the fields of trade, investment, technical cooperation, health care and counter-terrorism. Vietnam has successfully held the post of chairman and managed many working groups including health care, emergency preparedness and e-commerce groups. During its operation, Vietnam has contributed many opinions in order to improve APEC’s operating mechanism towards more effective coordination, especially APEC’s relations with international economic organizations and institutions as well as regional aligned institutions. Specifically, Vietnam has proposed many concrete methods of shortening development gaps, supporting cooperation programs and projects to reduce poverty and hunger in the Greater Mekong Sub-region as well as facilitating movements in the fields of labour, education and tourism.

Thirdly, successfully hosting many APEC’s meetings such as: the Meeting on small and medium enterprises in March 2003, the Meeting on Enhancing Cooperation in Crop Technology among APEC member economies in October 2003, the 13rd Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) on October 10, 2005, the Workshop on Response to irregular floods and typhoons – New vision for APEC member economies in July 2011, the Workshop on Self-Certification of Origin in July 2011, the APEC’s meeting within the Asia-Pacific region of the 21st century in November 2013, the 6th APEC Ministerial Meeting on Human Resoucres Development in September 2014.

Particularly, in 2006, Vietnam pro-actively hosted APEC for the first time and successfully took on the chairman of APEC. With the theme “Towards a dynamic community for sustainable development and prosperity”, APEC 2006 reached substantial outcomes in contents, marking Vietnam’s impression in the APEC process.

In APEC 2006, the Hanoi Action Plan to implement the Busan Roadmap towards the Bogor Goals realizing trade and investment liberalization no later than 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies were adopted. This is an important initiative, making Vietnam’s impression in its cooperation process with APEC, providing basis for orienting APEC’s economic and trade cooperation activities in the coming years and giving long-term promises towards the goal of forming a free trade area throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The Hanoi Action Plan to achieve the Bogor Goals and its comprehensive reforms have contributed to creating new momentum for APEC cooperation. In APEC 2006, the APEC economic leaders issued a Stand-alone Statement on the Doha Development Agenda reaffirming their strong political determination and especially highlighting several methods to resume the negotiation process without further delay. As the chairman of the 14th AELM and a new member country of the then WTO, Vietnam showed its positive role in this issue.

APEC 2017 hosted by Vietnam again with the theme “Creating new dynamism, fostering a shared future”. The meaning of the theme reflected the common interest of all the APEC member economies in seeking “new dynamism” for Asia-Pacific’s economic integration, connectivity and growth, demonstrating the common denominator and long-term goal of APEC to “foster a shared future” which is peace, stability, development and prosperity.

APEC 2017 took place in the context of the regional and global changing situation. After 28 years of formation and development, this is a very significant moment to shape APEC Vision after 2020. The hosting of APEC 2017 was an important opportunity to manifest the advancement and wisdom of Vietnam’s diplomacy, especially multilaterial diplomacy in the period of the country’s comprehensive international integration(8).

APEC 2017 is one of the few APEC Economic Leaders’ Weeks to be attended by all 21 APEC member economices over the past 10 years. More than 21,000 delegates took part in the 243 activities held during the APEC year in Vietnam. The APEC Economic Leaders’ Week alone attracted about 11,000 delegates (which is the highest number in the recent years). The APEC CEO Summit attracted a record number of more than 2,000 enterprises, including about 1,300 foreign firms. The Vietnam Business Summit alone drew about 2,200 businesses (including 850 Vietnamese companies). More than 80 meetings between localities and businesses took place on the sidelines of APEC activities and many business cooperation plans between enterprises were formed(9). These figures reflected the importance of APEC as well as the world and the region’s great attention to APEC.

During APEC’s meetings, eight major documents were adopted, particularly the Da Nang Declaration and the Joint Statement of the APEC Ministerial Meeting. These two statements showed APEC’s high consensus promoting economic, financial, social inclusion and innovative startups. The APEC leaders set major plans for APEC cooperation until 2020 and beyond so as to work towards an APEC for people and businesses; help to build an Asia-Pacific community of peace, stability, dynamism, inter-connectivity and prosperity; bring into play its leadership in coping with new global challenges. Accordingly, all the APEC leaders agreed to establish the APEC Vision Group.

Through APEC events, the regional economies learned about the dynamism, innovation and creativeness of Vietnam’s economy, raising the hope of a new influx of investment, trade and tourism into the country. APEC brought many realistic economic, political and cultural benefits in multilaterial cooperation to Vietnam, and at the same time created effective channels to strengthen bilaterial cooperation with other member economies. Carrying out the active, dynamic and responsible foreign policy of APEC’s common activities, especially as a member economy of APEC, Vietnam has left a positive impression on other member economies.

 

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Huu Cat

Doan Thi Mai Lien

Institute of International Relations,

Ho Chi Minh National Acedamy of Politics

 

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