VietNamNet: Dr. Vo Tri Thanh has mentioned the return of protectionism while APEC always targets at trade and investment liberalization and business facilitation. So how will the return of protectionism affect the implementation of common goals?
Dr Vo Tri Thanh: As we all know, protectionism not only affect the economic recovery process in the world today, but also makes weak trade growth. In terms of thinking and vision, it runs counter to the goals of APEC so it is a major obstacle.
However, we still have to try to come to a common view: no matter what obstacles appear, APEC must retain its original goal, which is trade and investment liberalization, in association with development.
Vietnam's role is very important. Vietnam is a member country with the lowest level of development of APEC, but we still believe in liberalization of trade and investment, associated with reforms. Because looking at the history of APEC and the world, contribution of trade and investment liberalization is huge.
Trade and investment liberalization has contributed greatly to the development of the Asia-Pacific region and Vietnam in particular. The questions are whether the sharing of that benefit is equal or not? Whether development is sustainable? Have we considered the new thing of the requirement for development as the 4th industrial revolution or climate change?
In recent years APEC has closely linked the liberalization of trade and investment with overwhelming growth, sustainable growth, and innovative growth. APEC is also associated with the development of entrepreneurship, of microenterprises, small and medium enterprises, and these are also the priority of Vietnam in the APEC Year 2017.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: If we look at the history of the development of APEC, many times people wondered whether APEC confronts the protectionism or not? After every crisis in 1997, 1998, 2001 and most recently in 2008, the protectionism and the anti-globalization ideology resurfaced. We can see that every time, APEC continued to assert and strongly support the process of liberalization of trade and investment, because this leads to poverty reduction and to have more resources for growth.
Last year at the APEC Summit in Peru, APEC leaders continued to assert that APEC would not apply protectionist policies until 2020.
However, I would like to say that this time the protectionism and anti-globalization ideology have new features, which is not the issue of trade liberalization but also the emerging of new technology and automation which lead to fears of the loss of jobs, particularly for the poorly-trained workers who don’t have necessary expertise or skills to adapt to current trends.
During the process of seeking the theme and the priorities for APEC 2017, we organized a lot of workshop to learn the consultation of scholars at home and abroad as well as APEC members in order to come up with an agenda that is most suitable for the interest and benefit of the member economies in the current situation.
As Mr. Thanh has said that one of our priorities is to promote the overwhelming, sustainable and innovative growth.
In particular, we emphasize a lot to the field of skills development in the 21st century. We will have a summit meeting on the development of human resources in the digital era, emphasizing the strengthening of developing new skills for workers to adapt to the new context, the issue of overwhelming growth to ensure the benefits of growth and globalization shared equally to all communities.
At the same time we also emphasized the further strengthening of innovative capacity and competitiveness of small and medium sized businesses in the digital era.
These are the priorities that Vietnam has suggested and recently in the APEC officials’ informal conference, members highly appreciated the topics as well as the priorities proposed by Vietnam.
VietNamNet: A prominent political event that occurred recently is Donald Trump became the elected president of the US. His ideology is very different from that of Obama. He stated that the US would not join the TPP while the US is a major member of APEC. How will Trump’s view affect economic discussions of APEC that aim to trade and investment liberalization?
Dr Vo Tri Thanh: We see very clearly that the commitments and statements made by Trump before and after the presidential election are different. Therefore we should wait until Trump officially takes office as the US President in order to have a better recognition of the US policies, especially for the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
Personally, I think that anyone can see the support for the return of the isolationism and protectionism in commitments and statements made by Trump.
However, two points should be noted that APEC will undoubtedly have a very important role and I hope that the voice of the US at this conference as well as the role of the US in the promotion of the theme and priorities for APEC proposed by Vietnam will create new momentum for development and growth in the region. That is also the future of APEC. They are:
Firstly: The role and the interests of the US are tied to the Asia – Pacific region, which is shown not only in the number of services, trade and investment relations between the US and the region but also in the political aspect, non-traditional security in the region.
Thus, whether the new balance point of the US in the interaction with this region may be higher or lower, deeper or more hollow in this aspect or that aspect, or more advantageous for this partner, and more difficult for others but the US will still have to connect with this region for its own benefit.
Secondly, the US President has a great role and great responsibility, but the US president alone cannot decide everything because under the President is an entire institution of American. The US President is always very wise and is a good listener.
In the telephone conversation between Vietnamese President and the US President-elect Donald Trump, Trump said: "The US highly appreciate the role and position of Vietnam". Thus, besides difficulties and unexpected future, Vietnam can still have high hope.
Vietnam needs to and can become a comprehensive partner of the US and Vietnam can make worthy contribution to APEC in 2017.
VietNamNet: How does the new developments in the relationship between the three major powers of Russia - China – the US influence APEC?
Dr Vo Tri Thanh: The Asia - Pacific region and especially the interests of APEC members are connected closely.
Vietnam has certain advantages of a latecomer, of a weak country that desires to strengthen integration, to link integration with reform for development.
At the recent ASEM summit, members admitted the important role of Vietnam. Vietnam exerted efforts and they agreed with the topic and objectives suggested by Vietnam for the APEC 2017.
So with what Vietnam has done and contributed to APEC, Vietnam is a very good forum for members, including the major ones as China, Russia and the US to come to share, to confirm their stature, their significance, for the benefit of all and also for the benefit of individual members including the US, China, and Russia.
VietNamNet: How have we prepared specific initiatives for APEC 2017?
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: We successfully held the Informal APEC Senior Officials Meeting (ISOM). In February, we are going to organize the first Official Senior Officials Meeting, where relevant agencies will share some ideas to concretize the topics and priorities in APEC 2017.
We have prepared carefully but we still need to consult more from other economies. It is too early to disclose specific policies and initiatives. I can only say that they will be very practical initiatives.
The initiatives around the four priorities in the APEC Year 2017 include: strengthening regional economic integration; promoting sustainable, overwhelming and creative growth; improving the competitiveness and creativity of super-small, small and medium enterprises in the digital era; ensuring security, sustainable food and agriculture linked to climate change.
We will recommend specific initiatives and measures to concretize these priorities. These are the priorities attached to the interests of businesses and citizens.
VietNamNet: what opportunities and benefits that Vietnamese businesses will find at APEC 2017?
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: APEC 2017 will host nearly 200 activities, various conferences at all levels, from the level of experts, senior officials, to ministers and the summit week from November 5-11 in the central city of Da Nang.
Enterprises will be one of the areas that will be most benefited from these activities. We will hold eight Ministerial Meetings that are relating to the field of small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism, security, food and sustainable agriculture, human resource development, women and economics.
In all of these conferences there will have interactive activities between enterprises and senior officials. Enterprises will be involved in the discussion and policy sharing activities. Especially, the most awaited event of businesses is the Business Summit that will be held in Da Nang City.
This is one of the most expected activities in the APEC Year 2017, which will attract hundreds of leading groups in the region.
I think this is a great opportunity for our business for having access to, exchange with and to seek business and investment cooperation opportunities with the region's leading corporations.
VietNamNet: I know that Mr. Vo Tri Thanh met with a lot of Vietnamese enterprises, where many businessmen asked the same question: how can we seek opportunities in APEC 2017?
Dr Vo Tri Thanh: There are three things that make positive impact on Vietnamese enterprises at present.
Firstly, Vietnamese businesses are highly influenced by the institutions and policies. This is a very close, practical interaction at many forms and that’s the interaction between businesses and policy makers.
This interaction and especially the listening of policy makers will be transformed into policies, programs, and commitment of APEC and these will again facilitate the production and business process of enterprises.
Secondly, APEC is a unique opportunity to connect Vietnamese businesses with leading businesses around the world.
Thirdly, I think that all of the meetings of APEC are opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to market and advertise themselves.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: Perhaps there is no forum where interaction between enterprises and government officials is as close and systematical as APEC.
APEC has the mechanism called APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). Each economy chooses three leading enterprises to participate in this council.
This year, regular conferences of ABAC will be held as normal, besides connections between channels of ABAC and APEC officials. Those are very important opportunities for businesses to interact and to influence on policies.
I hope that the APEC 2017 will mark a positive and a changing year for enterprises.
VietNamNet: How has Vietnam prepared for the APEC Year 2017 by this moment?
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: This is the 2nd time we hosts the APEC summit and we prepared for this event very early.
In July 2015 the National Committee for APEC 2017 was established, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, with two Vice Chairmen - Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son and the Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade. Members of the committee are representatives of 23 ministries and agencies. At the same time, the government established the APEC 2017 National Secretariat and 5 sub-committees on protocols, cultural content, security and health.
These organizations have worked very positively and so far preparations in all fields have nearly been completed. We are speeding up preparations and we believe that preparations for APEC 2017 will be perfect.
VietNamNet: This is the last question: what do you expect from APEC 2017?
Dr Vo Tri Thanh: I expect that Vietnam will successfully organize the APEC Summit, will strengthen its position, its voice, and all members of APEC will appreciate not only the organizational task but also the contribution of Vietnam to APEC in a moment of many difficulties and complexities.
The second expectation is that our entrepreneurs, businesses will get the best of this opportunity to not only advertise the image of Vietnam as a dynamic country that is promoting innovation, integration, creativeness and is really connected to the APEC 2017 process to bring about the best benefits.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Vu: Through the preparation for APEC 2017, we continue to receive the expectations and respect of APEC members, who believe that Vietnam will continue to lead APEC 2017 on the way to promote trade liberalization, sustainable development and prosperity.
We expect that Vietnam will fulfill its mission and through which enhance its international status.
Secondly, we hope that besides Vietnam’s contribution to the success of APEC 2017, through APEC 2017 Vietnam can further its cooperation with APEC economies.
We hope that the APEC 2017 will bring about good opportunities for the people and businesses of Vietnam. Vietnamese people and businesses should be prepared and proactive to take full advantage of this opportunity.