Viet Nam News
Bùi Thanh Sơn, deputy minister of Việt Nam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and chair of the APEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM-3), spoke with Việt Nam News about the Dialogue on Regional Trade Agreement (RTAs) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
What is the role of APEC’s Third Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 3)?
This SOM 3 has a very important meaning because it has gathered many senior officials from APEC economies to discuss and prepare documents to submit to the APEC Economic Leaders Week which will be held in November in the central city of Đà Nẵng.
This is also a good chance for us to prepare our agenda and review all documents, many of which have been suggested by Việt Nam since the beginning of the year. These will be submitted for the APEC Economic Leaders Week as well.
This meeting is an annual event, where APEC economies meet and share experiences. The ultimate goal of all APEC economies is one fully free trade region. To reach the goal, APEC economies have created many FTAs in different sub-regions and this is a long-term foundation to build one FTA for the whole Asia – Pacific region.
In the annual meeting, APEC economies share experiences about FTAs: what is new content, how FTAs are approached, the scale of FTAs, and how APEC can build one FTA for the whole region. We also learned experiences from other regions, such as Latin America, East Asia, and Eurasian Economic Union to prepare for APEC free trade agreements.
Why has comprehensive development been chosen as one of the co-operation priorities in APEC this year?
Comprehensive development has received a great deal of attention from APEC economies as well as all around the world. It means that during globalisation, development and integration of some regions, some residents (in remote and mountainous region, and ethnic minorities) and enterprises, especially small ones, have not caught up with the process, and have even been left behind.
The development gap among different economies is bigger and even in each economy, some sectors have strongly developed while others have been left behind. The situation requires one common strategy to attract participation from all social classes and all kinds of enterprises to the development process (comprehensive participation). In return, all participants will receive benefits from globalisation (comprehensive benefit-getting). With the theme of comprehensive development, this year Việt Nam has launched an initiative to build an action framework for comprehensive development in finance, economy and society.
This is an important Vietnamese initiative that can attract support from APEC economies in general, as well as meet the desire of regional economies. Today, one important seminar about the topic will be held. With results from the seminar, we will collect contributions and prepare documents to submit to the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders Week.
How has Việt Nam participated in RTAs/FTAs?
Multilateral and bilateral FTAs have recently strongly developed. Over half of the world’s FTAs originate from the Asia – Pacific region. For the past 30 years, RTAs/FTAs in the APEC region have flourished in number, scope of work and sophistication. According to the APEC Policy Support Unit, as of December 2016, 165 RTAs/FTAs signed by at least one APEC member economy have gone into effect, 62 of them intra-APEC agreements.
During international integration, Việt Nam has paid attention to its approach to new foreign markets for exporting products. Việt Nam has signed and implemented 12 Free Trade Agreements with important partners. The country is continuing to negotiate other FTAs with different partners throughout the world.
Generally, getting multilateral and bilateral FTAs is the common trend of the region and Việt Nam is on the right track. FTAs have created favourable conditions for our products to enter many different markets all around the world.
What are the challenges and advantages for Việt Nam in promoting RTAs/FTAs?
There are many challenges, but also advantages. The biggest challenge is that there are so many risks in the global economy, despite its recent development. Risks have appeared in different development areas, in different sectors and regions. Additionally, the trend of protests against and concerns about globalisation has emerged in many places. Furthermore, many economies have only focused on what they are interested in and they have hindered great efforts from other economies, which want to promote free trade, investment, and opening and approaching markets to serve development.
With current global economic fluctuations, over-production is also another challenge. Economies have already set up different protective barriers, both tariffs and non-tariffs. In this context, FTAs are the answer for countries which want to support each other in opening and approaching new markets over the long-term to meet benefits for all sides.
However, we should also notice that most economies in the world have recognised that they need to co-operate with each other, and need to open their markets for better development. With the foundation of free trade in the World Trade Organisation, economies will negotiate with each other about new versions of FTAs. In the new version, market openings will include not only products but also services, public investment and other new fields on a larger scale.
Under these basic challenges and advantages, Việt Nam has strengthened FTAs and taken advantages to approach markets and expand exports. However, the country should enhance the competitive ability of enterprises and the national economy in the development process. — VNS