ASEAN Strongly Supports Vietnam's Approach to Economic Cooperation

09:54 | 06/02/2011 Cooperation

(VEN) - As 2010 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) chairman, Vietnam presided over dozens of meetings to promote economic cooperation within the ASEAN bloc and between ASEAN and partners and international communities. Nguyen Cam Tu, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade and General Secretary of National Committee for International Economic Integration, spent some of his precious time talking with Vietnam Economic News' Hoang Hang about this issue on the threshold of the New Year.

ASEAN member countries have agreed upon forming an ASEAN Community in 2015 based on the politics and security, economic, and cultural and social cornerstones. As an important part of the economic mainstay, how does the Ministry of Industry and Trade comment upon this blueprint?

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint is one of the four elements that make up the 2009-2015 ASEAN Community construction schedule. It means measures needed to be taken in specific cooperation fields to construct an ASEAN Economic Community in the four periods from 2008-2009, 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.

As an important unit of the economic foundation, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has assessed that it is a comprehensive blueprint that helps ASEAN member countries in full economic integration. The blueprint describes sophisticated requirements on liberalization that are aimed at lifting all of trade barriers within the bloc in 2015 and turning ASEAN into an economic community.

Commitments in the AEC blueprint are rather ambitious, the realization of which requires a high political determination, great efforts from member countries and giant resources. Actually, ASEAN member countries have encountered many difficulties when following the AEC blueprint, especially now with the global financial crisis and economic recession causing higher pressure on market protection and having negative impacts on trade liberalization. Until October 2010, ASEAN member countries had implemented 83.8 percent of all measures of the 2008-2009 period and almost 50 percent of all measures of the 2010-2011 period.

In 2010, the AEC Council defined transport, customs cooperation, services and investment as areas that remain difficult. The council invited chairmen of related ministers’ meetings to its assemblies to together discuss the hurdles and find solutions to problems. Much importance was paid to strengthening dialogue with businesses in 2010. ASEAN needs to make further efforts to promote the AEC blueprint realization in the future because the realization is integral to maintain ASEAN's central role in the regional economic cooperation structure.

Could you tell about results that Vietnam obtained in meetings presided over by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in 2010?

In 2010, the Ministry of Industry and Trade presided over dozens of meetings of different levels of the economic mainstay. They included ASEAN and ASEAN + Economic Ministers meetings, ASEAN Energy Ministers meetings and ASEAN Economic Community Council meetings.

Economic mainstay-related meetings were prepared and organized thoroughly with success in terms of both scale and quality while leaving a good impression on ASEAN and partners. Apart from functioning as a coordinator, Vietnam seriously implemented measures to construct an ASEAN Economic Community and is one of the two countries ranking first among 10 ASEAN countries in terms of AEC target fulfillment in the 2008-2009 period.

In 2010 when Vietnam performed the ASEAN chairmanship, its economic cooperation suggestions to promote AEC formation, as mentioned above, was strongly supported by ASEAN members. Vietnam also encouraged parties to commit to implementing core agreements related to ASEAN economic cooperation on time, including the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), and the 7th and 8th packages of commitments to opening the ASEAN service market, all are aimed at forming an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. As the 2010 ASEAN chairman, Vietnam activated ASEAN-EU relations that were frozen from 2008 while for the first time opening a dialogue channel at the economic minister level with Russia. The initiative to hold the annual meeting of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) Economic Ministers meeting was highly supported by the four countries.

In general, economic results obtained in 2010 have been satisfactory, while economic cooperation contents that Vietnam put forward are appropriate in terms of idea, action, overall plan and concrete schedules, which are all systematic and consistent, and have drawn an increasing level of interest from ASEAN members and dialogue countries. The successful organization of meetings of the economic backbone contributed greatly to the overall success of the year in which Vietnam performs the ASEAN chairmanship.

Vietnam and many other ASEAN member countries have benefited from the CEPT-AFTA (Common Effective Preferential Tariff - ASEAN Free Trade Area)-based preferential tariffs for one year. Could you tell about the adaptability to this change of the Vietnamese economy in general and Vietnamese businesses in particular?

2010 was marked with an important event of ASEAN economic integration: On January 1, 2010, ASEAN 6 countries completed the target of eradicating tariffs for 99.65 percent of all tax lines, while ASEAN 4 countries completed the reduction of all import tariffs of tax lines related to the ASEAN Free Trade Area to 0-5 percent.

ASEAN has always been an important trading partner for Vietnam, and trade between Vietnam and ASEAN has remained stable even in the context of economic recession. The General Department of Customs' statistics show that Vietnam exported goods worth US$8.44 billion to ASEAN in the first 10 months of 2010. The figure is expected to reach more than US$10 billion in 2010, an increase of 18 percent over 2009. Hence, it cannot be said that the tariff liberalization in ASEAN has not had a positive impact on Vietnam's exports.

However, Vietnamese businesses should not be subjective but need to attach much importance to investment and development research and have strategies and measures to increase their competitiveness especially in the coming time when Vietnam has to fully lift its tariff barriers in 2015./.