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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 09:49
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A seminar on “Vietnam and Spain’s experience of regional integration: Comparative approach”

(LLCT) - Adding to the framework of cooperative relations and strategic partnerships between Vietnam and Spain, on November 19th of 2015, the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, the Embassy of Spain in Hanoi, and the Alternatives Foundation held a seminar called: “Vietnam and Spain’s experience of regional integration: Comparative Approach” in Hanoi.

Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan, President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, opened and presided over the seminar.

In attendance were Professor Josep Borrell, former President of the European Parliament and former Spanish Minister for Public Works, Transport and Environment; Prof. Vincete Palacio, deputy director of the Alternatives Foundation; the Vice Presidents of the Academy and many Vietnamese and Spanish experts and scholars.

Vietnam and Spain established diplomatic relations in 1977 and became strategic partners in December of 2009. In his opening speech, Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan lauded the cooperative relationship, which covers many fields, and acknowledging its strengthening in recent years. The bilateral economic and commercial relationship between the two countries, for example, has been incessantly improving. It had a twofold increase over the past three years, from USD 1.33 billion (in 2010) to USD 2.4 billion (in 2013) and USD 2.92 billion (in 2014). Spain now has 27 FDI projects in Vietnam with a total investment capital of USD 27 million. Spain quickly recognized the potential of Vietnam’s market economy and has always supported the country at regional and global forums for peace, security and cooperation in development. On the other hand, Vietnam also regards Spain as an important partner in terms of relations with the EU and cooperation for regional and global security. Thus, the multi-faceted exchanges of mutual interest between the two countries have been increasing, which has contributed to the process of integration between Spain and Vietnam as well as between Asia and Europe as a whole.

Vietnam is currently in the midst of expansive integration with regional and global institutions, especially the ASEAN community. Vietnam’s integration into ASEAN (1995-2015) has actively contributed to socio-economic development and has enhanced the standing, prestige, and responsibilities of Vietnam on the international arena. In the near future, Vietnam will face new opportunities and challenges when the economic ASEAN Community officially comes into being. Therefore, Spain’s experience with the EU may prove valuable as a political reference point in the coming years.

The Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and the Alternatives Foundation established cooperative research and training relationships during September of 2015 when the leaders of the Academy visited and worked in Spain. This seminar was held with a view to improve the process of sharing knowledge and experience among the fields of research, education, training, and policy consultation between the two countries.

The seminar included the participation of more than 70 representatives, with 20 speeches on crafting, implementing, and supervising national, regional, and international legislation from experienced Vietnamese and Spanish specialists. Together, participants of the seminar elucidated the theories and realities of regional integration from the angles of political science, international relations, economics, and international studies.

Ambassador Emilio Fernander Castano affirmed the positive relations between Vietnam and Spain across many fields during the past 40 years. Vietnam’s integration into ASEAN and Spain’s integration into EU open up numerous opportunities and challenges for the two countries. With its experience of 20 years with the EU, Vietnam will take full advantage of its own opportunities and cope with the challenges of being involved with a regional organization. As a result, the strategic partnership between the two countries as well as the relations between the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and the Alternatives Foundation could be strengthened.

The seminar had three sessions that covered four main topics: questions related to regional integration, the economic and political impacts of regional integration, changes at the national level as a result of international integration, and the global vision for the future of international integration.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Viet Thao, Vice President of the Academy, and Prof. Josep Borrell, former President of the European Parliament and former Spanish Minister for Public Works, Transport and Environment, presided over the first session. This discussion focused on the significant problems in bilateral relations and experiences of the two countries during regional integration: Spain with EU and Vietnam with ASEAN.

Prof. Josep Borrell’s speech on “The European regional integration: General policies and difficulties for institutions”provided a general outline of the organizational structure, operational capacities, and treaties of the EU. Overall, the EU may be regarded as a “supernation”, a conglomerate of sovereign nations, which aspires to peace and prosperity. He also shared various opportunities and challenges for Spain and other countries’ integration into the EU. In addition to its advantages, the EU is now facing a number of challenges, including the issues of opening its borders to the influx of refugees and threats of terrorism. Mr. Borrell also shared the ten leading priorities for Spain and the EU, including: promoting investment, developing the digital market, creating interest in clean energy and climate change technology, building an economic and monetary alliance more impartially and expansively, and building free trade agreements in balance with the United States.

According to Assoc. Prof., Dr. Phan Van Ran, Le Van Toan and Pham Minh Son, the model of association in the EU and ASEAN share some similarities, but there remain several key differences. While the EU forms a “supernation” of sovereign nations, ASEAN is an international association, the ASEAN Community (since December 2015), with a less rigid organizational structure than the EU. The Associate Professors pointed out that, in the trend of multilaterism and a changing world environment, the EU and ASEAN should pay close attention to security, especially in matters of anti-terrorism, marine and aeronautical security.

The second session, called “The economic influences of regional integration: The experiences of Spain/EU and Vietnam/ASEAN”was presided over by Assoc. Prof., Dr. Le Quoc Ly, Vice President of the Academy and Prof. Emilio Ontiveros from the Autonomous University of Madrid, President of International Financial Analysts.

Prof. Emilio Ontiveros had speech on “The dynamism of the EU Economic and Monetary Union and its influence on the economy of Vietnam”, and described the forms and stages of economic integration amongst nations and the purposes of forming a common monetary area, using the European Union as a model. He also talked about Spain’s experiences with integration and its participation with the monetary union, and mentioned the problems that arose as they combated the economic crisis.

According to Prof. Emilio Ontiveros, Vietnam has enjoyed certain advantages in the region while a member of the WTO. These include a comparative advantage on labour cost and the attraction of a large amount of FDI. Its export turnover was more than 80% of total GDP in 2014. Moreover, ASEAN is the 3rd largest trading partner of the EU. Of the ten ASEAN members, Vietnam  is the EU’s fifth most important trading partner. Recently, with the TPP agreement, Vietnam will enjoy advantages in tariff reduction, which may allow Vietnam’s exports to increase in competitiveness with commodities from other Asian countries not participating in the TPP.

In his speech“The economic impacts of Vietnam involved in regional integration”, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Le Quoc Ly iterated that Vietnam’s expansive regional integration has brought with it numerous opportunities and challenges across all fields, primarily related to the economy. Advantages include: (1) regional integration improves renovations of the economic institutions in Vietnam and creates favourable conditions for the development of the Vietnamese economy; (2) regional integration has an influence on the Vietnam’s legal system, creating a healthier and more effective business environment; (3) it advances the Vietnamese economy by applying modern science and technology to production and business practices, thereby developing the economy gradually and expansively.

According to Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan, Vietnam and Spain hold similar positions on the level of economic development in their respective regions. Therefore, learning from Spain’s valuable experiences can assist Vietnam consolidate its economic strength in the process of integration.

The third session, called “The political impacts of regional integration”, was presided by Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Tat Giap, Vice President of the Academy and Emilio Fernandez Castano, Ambassador of Spain to Lithuania.

With his speech, entitled “The political implications of regional integration - The case of Spain/ EU”, Ambassador Emilio Fernandez Castano shared Spain’s experience as a member of the EU. He also affirmed that Spain and EU would support Vietnam during its process of international integration.

During his speech, “The political significance of regional integration: Vietnam’s experiences in ASEAN integration”, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Tat Giap pointed out: in order to meet the demands for national development in the integration process, Vietnam must give priority to cooperative relationships and alliances with regional countries. This way, it may re-evaluate external relations and gradually form open, multilateral, multiform foreign policies. At the same time, Vietnam is determined to perform its commitments to regional cooperation and integration in order to achieve lasting peace and security in the region. Vietnam has effectively participated in multilateral cooperative mechanisms as a key member of ASEAN and thus has already taken advantage of favourable elements of current international relationships.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Vu Tung, Deputy Director of Vietnam Diplomatic Academy, and Dr. Ngo Huy Duc, Head of the Institute of Politics, introduced the idea that the two countries began their integration process at a relatively low point compared to other regional countries. However, they have achieved positive results thus far; the interests of each country have been ensured and the lives of their peoples have been improved. These are the results of sound governmental policies and the unanimity of the people in both countries, which continue to foster economic growth and diplomatic relations, enhancing their relative positions on the international stage and consolidating their strength to overcome territorial disputes and the dangers of non-traditional threats to security.

The fourth session, called “The global vision of the future: EU and ASEAN in the process of international integration”was co-chaired by Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan and Prof. Vicente Palacio, Deputy Director of the Alternatives Foundation.

Prof. Vicente Palacio gave a talk on the challenges of European integration, the foreign policies of EU, and its role as a global organization, comparing them with relations between ASEAN and Vietnam. Specifically, when the Asia-Pacific region became a centre of geo-economics, the EU signed updated cooperation and strategic partnership agreements with regional countries and territories. The ASEAN Community and Vietnam have the potential to cooperate with the EU in many fields, not limited to economics. However, the FFA and the cooperation framework agreements between the EU and Vietnam also pose challenges for the two sides. To improve this state of affairs, the following steps must be taken: 1) strengthen the role of Vietnam in ASEAN; 2) improve the integration of ASEAN with the global community; 3) foster the close cooperation between the EU and ASEAN in key economic and social fields; 4) arrange the agenda of the EU and ASEAN to address transnational issues.

According to Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Viet Thao, the Vietnam - Spain bilateral relationships offers many advantages. First,despite frequent changes, the trend of peace, cooperation, and worldwide development is emerging as a major trend along with globalization, which has caused intense pressure for countries to expand their international integration policies and create conditions for global production and business to operate as an uninterrupted chain, or even a “flat world”. Second,the achievements of bilateral relations during the past 40 years have created a strong driving force for the development of Vietnam and Spain. Third,both countries have innovative political thoughts, high political aspirations, and consistent policies concerning international integration. Fourth,practical needs of the two countries are multifarious, which creates favourable conditions for economic relationships

Internationally, and in terms of private institutions, the bilateral relations of the two countries meet difficulties and limitations. First, Vietnam is not included in the traditional priorities of Spain while Spain does not occupy a geopolitical space that directly influences the country’s security or economy. In order to overcome these obstacles, it is necessary to be comprehensive and clear in developing goals for the bilateral relations so that Spain may become a bridge for Vietnam to penetrate the EU and Latin America. Vietnam, in turn, may also act as a bridge for Spain to penetrate the markets of Southeast Asian countries. Second,both Vietnam and Spain must compete for new economies in the complicated space of the global market. Therefore, the two nations should maintain strong political allegiances and consider mutually beneficial policies during every instance of cooperation.

At the closing ceremony, Prof., Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan recognized the value of the seminar in providing an opportunity for experts and scholars from the two countries to exchange, share experiences, and learn from each other in analyzing theories and realities of regional integration. The lessons from Spain’s integration into the EU hold particular relevance with Vietnam’s integration into ASEAN. The results of discussions held at this seminar may contribute to the cooperation and educational research between the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and the Alternatives Foundation, and may also improve relationships between Spain and Vietnam, not to mention between Europe and Southeast Asia as a whole

Le Bao Ngoc


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