Next month, Viet Nam will enter the 15th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh spoke to the newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) about the process
What are the advantages and disadvantages facing Viet Nam in the upcoming negotiation?
The biggest advantage that Viet Nam will enjoy is that most of the participating nations know each other rather intimately by now. We won't have to spend much time ironing out trivial issues. Rather, we will discuss compromises which will balance the interests of all parties.
The first round of negotiations started in March 2010 with the participation of eight countries: Brunei, Chile, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam.
At the third round in November 2010, Malaysia joined this group.
In the upcoming 15th round scheduled for December 2012, Canada and Mexico will join the negotiations, bringing the number of countries to 11.
However, I don't expect much progress will be achieved in this round of negotiations. There are two reasons: first, the United States – the biggest party in the TPP – is busy with its domestic affairs following the presidential elections. It is unlikely that they will make any major concessions in this round. Second, there are two new countries joining this round of negotiations – Canada and Mexico. It will take some time for them to understand what happened in the previous 14 rounds.
In your opinion, what are the gains and the losses that Viet Nam will see if it joins the TPP?
First let's talk about the gains Viet Nam saw when it joined the WTO in 2006.
Notably, it gained a friendly business atmosphere compatible with international standards – a very important factor in attracting more foreign investors to come to Viet Nam, particularly in 2007. However, I have to concede that the flow of foreign investors to our country has gradually decreased due to both objective and subjective reasons.
TPP is a free trade region. It will bring about similar effects as the WTO: improving both the business environment and investment climate. Significantly, it will also open our market to the USA due to the decrease in trade tariffs. Yet, the challenge presented to us from TPP will be much bigger than those from the WTO.
You have participated in many trade negotiations, ranging from bilateral trade negotiations with the US and Japan to multi-lateral negotiations to the WTO. How do you assess Viet Nam's position in the ongoing TPP negotiations?
Joining the WTO is a one-way street. We had to negotiate separately with each WTO member. In other words, we were placed in passive positions in which we had to defend ourselves while trying to win their support.
However, in the TPP rounds, all parties are on equal footing in terms of rights and obligations. All country representatives at the negotiations must figure out how to balance these two factors.
I can say that Viet Nam is a big and lucrative market. And our position at the TPP negotiation is somehow different from that of the WTO negotiation. I think other parties also recognise that.
There are three objectives for Viet Nam to join the TPP. They are:
First, to further expand the export market.
Second, to attract more foreign investors into Viet Nam by utilising opportunities presented to us by the TPP.
And finally, to support the country's ongoing process of economic restructuring geared toward a new, sustainable, dynamic and effective growth model. — VNS