Under Vietnam’s leadership, ASEAN prioritizes intra-regional trade

09:06 | 27/02/2020 Vietnam - Asean

(VEN) - Vietnam is hoping transaction costs within the 11-nation bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can be reduced 10 percent this year, with a view to doubling intra-regional trade by 2025, according to Luong Hoang Thai, Director of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade. 

under vietnams leadership asean prioritizes intra regional trade
Luong Hoang Thai, Director of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade

Thai, speaking to Vietnam Economic News in Hanoi on the sidelines of the year’s first meeting of ASEAN senior economic officials (SEOM), said one of the priorities proposed by Vietnam is to promote ASEAN unity and strength, and sustainable growth of intra-regional investment and trade is crucial to that end.

Vietnam hosted the senior officials within the framework of its 2020 leadership of the bloc. Despite the many challenges it faces as chair of the organization, the year is expected to bring great opportunities for ASEAN in general and for Vietnam in particular in strengthening cooperation and promoting trade and investment in the region.

Despite state leaders’ strong political commitments and member countries’ determination, which have helped zero tariff lines in ASEAN countries, intra-regional trade growth remains incommensurate with the potential. Thai attributed that to non-tariff barriers and insufficient trade facilitation measures.

“The number of initiatives proposed by Vietnam is more than in previous years, and Vietnam has sent countries detailed plans for realizing these initiatives. ASEAN countries have highly rated Vietnam’s promotion of initiatives for ASEAN Year 2020 while providing practical suggestions for the country to help it further improve these initiatives before submission to ministers for discussion and approval,” Thai said.

under vietnams leadership asean prioritizes intra regional trade
SEOM 1/51 from January 12-14 in Hanoi

Based on the theme of the ASEAN Year 2020 “Cohesive and Responsive”, Vietnam proposed 14 initiatives, priorities and cooperation plans for discussion at the senior officials’ meeting, and participants reached a high degree of consensus.

They discussed ASEAN’s 2020 priorities and proposed specific solutions to review the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) in accordance with changing realities, address problems related to ATIGA implementation, and give necessary instructions to working groups in order to speed up the realization of uncompleted tasks.

The meeting proposed dividing the existing outstanding issues into three groups. The first group includes essentially procedural problems. For example, country ratification of an agreement entails lengthy domestic procedures. The second group consists of technical issues, such as the need for more resources in certain countries to collect additional data for analysis. The third group is the most important, consisting of lingering issues that have not been settled due to different policy viewpoints.

One of the most important tasks of the SEOM forums is to review and provide directions for economic cooperation with partner countries. Within that framework, the meeting reviewed and proposed priorities in ASEAN cooperation with external partners; directions to the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in compliance with ASEAN leaders’ guidelines; and East Timor’s accession to the bloc, among others.

Participants also discussed and approved reports on goods, service, investment, trade facilitation, quality standard, small and medium sized enterprises, and rules of origin working groups.

The meeting’s main results will be submitted to the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting scheduled to be held on March 11, 2020, in Da Nang.

Within the framework of the first meeting of the ASEAN senior economic officials, the 18th Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam senior economic officials meeting (CLMV SEOM) took place on January 12 in Hanoi to review and implement action programs, and propose directions and action plans for the near future.

Nguyen Huong