VietNamNet introduces the second part of the roundtable talks entitled "APEC 2017: opportunities and challenges for Vietnam" with two guests: Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu, Deputy Head of the APEC 2017 National Secretariat’s Standing Committee, and Dr. Vo Tri Thanh, former Deputy Director of Central Institute for Economic Management.
APEC 2017: Opportunities and Challenges for Vietnam
VietNamNet: Could you review the challenges that Vietnam has faced in 18 years of participation in APEC?
Dr. Vo Tri Thanh
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: One of the biggest obstacles is that our level of development and integration is at the starting point, but in the past 18 years we have turned this disadvantage into a positive motivation to improve our capacity from policy making to framework improvement.
VietNamNet: It is true that the gap between Vietnam and developed countries is a major obstacle in the process of participating in APEC. But at the moment Vietnam's economy is still facing many difficulties and it seems that the gap has not been narrowed much?
Dr. Vo Tri Thanh: This is also an opportunity for us to accelerate reforms. We are trying to catch up with and to overcome the countries that are more developed than us. APEC is a huge opportunity for Vietnam to learn lessons from developed countries to conduct reform while avoiding the risks that they encountered already. APEC is an opportunity to enhance the pressure of reform. APEC is also an opportunity for Vietnamese businesses to be connected, cooperate and be under competitive pressures.
Vietnam’s characteristic is always confusing in thinking, in making commitment and in action. This feature becomes our problem in integration in general and in APEC in particular. We try to fulfil promises and commitments rather than seeing these commitments as a motivation for us to go up.
VietNamNet: I wonder whether slow reforms in the state-owned economic sector or the slow development of the private sector are among the obstacles for our development?
Dr. Vo Tri Thanh: I think the latency of our business is a fact. The time when we were preparing to enter the WTO was the period Vietnam obtained impressive results.
In a short time after joining the WTO, we amended about 30 laws, which is unprecedented in the history of developing countries when they joined the WTO.
Entering the WTO we strongly promoted deep and wide integration and the proof is the signing of 16 FTAs. However, the preparation of the legal framework for APEC is not as fast as when we joined the WTO.
There are a lot of opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises to learn more and deeper understand about integration. However, it is a huge gap to turn opportunities into a desire to learn at the macro level. But we can learn from failures or competition in the market to grow up. But what worries me the most is the state apparatus.
I hope that the new government – the government of creativeness and action, with a long vision – will exert effort to create a new business environment that both fit the requirement of development and integration, including the integration into APEC. Since then it will transform into a new momentum and Vietnamese enterprises will be more competitive, more professional, more desire.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: Actually, businesses failing to take advantage of the FTAs in doing business is not only the story of Vietnam but also the story of many APEC economies.
Last year we held a workshop on this issue, which revealed the low rate of businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises that could take advantage of FTAs, with only about 20-30%. So in the story of APEC, we need to realize that we have to further enhance the utilization of FTAs, in particular with small and medium enterprises. If we can take advantage of the role of APEC, we will implement FTAs more efficiently, bringing more benefits for businesses.
APEC has a backbone channel for economic and technical cooperation, with about 200 projects for the member economies, including developing economies, in which prioritizing small and medium-sized enterprises so that they can enhance the capacity and skills to efficiently take advantage of the FTAs.
I also agree with Mr. Thanh that we should look at the role of APEC as the mechanism from which to create a change in the institution, government policies to benefit our businesses.
Many people said that APEC is an unbinding mechanism so we just participate in it for fun. I do not agree with this opinion. In fact, through the exchange with other member economies, including developed economies they said very clearly that they did not consider APEC a non-binding forum and they that engaged in this forum very seriously and they would realize what they committed in APEC because the commitment to reform in APEC is beneficial to their economies.
APEC has two channels: one is the collective action plan and the second channel is the national action plan. In the later channel, member economies make policy commitments through implementing national action plans, under which the reform on various fields is conducted, from reforms of state enterprises to institutional reform, reform of policies for small and medium-sized enterprises and reforms in the fields of services, investment, business facilitation.
Vietnam also participate in the commitment to reform through national action plans, and perhaps we should be more serious in implementing the national action plans to benefit Vietnamese businesses.
Dr. Vo Tri Thanh: I just want to emphasize one more thing: sometimes we talk and think about APEC as something that is far and high but really deep down, APEC is for development, APEC is for production and business activities, APEC is for businesses.
In APEC mechanisms, beside the general organization there is also IAP (National Action Program). At all of the most important meetings of APEC, the voice of businesses and voice of IAP always go together, forming the basis for the claims associated with the reform of corporate development.
APEC also has economic-technological cooperation program (EcoTech) to improve the capacity, including the capacity of businesses and a lot of APEC reforms are also for businesses, such as reform of mechanism, restructuring, and service.
In particular, APEC has a program to measure favorable indicators for business and its purpose is also measured.
So really behind all of the big stories at the micro-level of APEC is the story of business and production of enterprises, and the facilitation of the operation of businesses.
To be continued …