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Former British leader reiterates necessity for economic reforms

Update: October, 20/2015 - 09:15
Former British Prime MInister Tony Blair is greeted by Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai in Ha Noi yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Hoa

HA NOI (VNS) — Economic reforms are important for Viet Nam to take advantage of global opportunities, when global economy is volatile and uncertain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said when attending a roundtable in Ha Noi.

Blair also met with Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai and Governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam Nguyen Van Binh on the same day.

The Chinese economy has slowed down, making a big impact everywhere, including commodity markets across the world, Blair said.

In Europe, the single currency crisis has not been fully resolved and the economies are growing very slowly with high levels of unemployment and significant political risks.

Ever since the financial crisis began in 2008, there has been a lack of confidence in the west about whether economic policies are working. In the United States and Europe, interest rates are staying at historic lows, for a historically long period of time.

"Further slowdown and increasing financial volatility are posing critical questions for policymakers across the world, particularly for those in developing economies, including Viet Nam," Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son said.

"There is no clarity about what will happen in the future," Blair said.

"There are things in the global economy that you cannot change but you have to deal with," he, however, said.

Blair said Viet Nam has taken "very important steps" in the last few years, adding that the recent conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will offer huge opportunities for the country.

He noted that Viet Nam's trade relationship with China is close, and the US$18-trillion European market is potential for Viet Nam's future access.

Blair said Viet Nam is becoming more open as a trading nation, but as there are countries competing for capital, business and trade, it has to change to stay competitive.

"This is why economic reforms inside Viet Nam are so important. The more competitive the Vietnamese economy becomes, the better able the country is to deal with the problems of the global economy, and the better able it is to take advantage of the trade agreements that you are signing," he said.

He emphasised the importance of reforms related to State-owned enterprises, public-private partnerships and the ability to attract foreign direct investment, while stressing the need to accelerate education and skills in Viet Nam.

Blair suggested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should note a trend in the developed world today, that foreign affairs departments are focussing a lot more on economic diplomacy, not just the tradition political diplomacy.

At the roundtable, Central Institute for Economic Management Deputy Director Vo Tri Thanh was interested in how to reduce the costs of reforms, while National Financial Supervisory Committee Vice Chairman Truong Van Phuoc expressed interest about making the financial market more open to the world.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shares his experience related to economic reforms at a roundtable in Ha Noi on October 19. — VNS Video Ngoc Duy 

Fruitful co-operation

During the reception, thrown for Blair yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Hai highlighted the fruitful co-operation between Viet Nam and the UK in all fields, stressing that the UK is one of Viet Nam's leading economic partners in the EU.

Economic and trade links between the two countries recorded positive results, with two-way trade hitting US$3.48 billion in 2014. The UK operates 217 investment projects worth $4.43 billion in Viet Nam, ranking 15th among 105 countries and territories investing in the country.

Hai thanked the UK government for its provision of official development assistance (ODA) to Viet Nam in recent years, expressing his hope that Blair would continue helping Viet Nam access the UK's preferential capital sources and international development assistance funds, thus enhancing Viet Nam's efforts to combat climate change, grow sustainably and improve education.

Regarding the affiliation between Tony Blair Associates (TBA) and Viet Nam, the Deputy PM praised the signing of a cooperation agreement between TBA and Viet Nam's Ministry of Planning and Investment. It focuses on attracting foreign direct investment, State-owned enterprise reform and private-public partnership (PPP).

He also spoke highly of the results of Blair's recent visits to Viet Nam, saying that they helped promote the implementation of the agreement and strengthen the Viet Nam-UK strategic partnership.

For his part, Blair said he aimed to boost relations between TBA and Vietnamese partner agencies with his visit. TBA is especially interested in Viet Nam's policy of reforming State-owned enterprises, he stressed, adding that he hoped the Vietnamese Government would create favourable conditions for cooperation in the field.

SBV leader

Governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam Nguyen Van Binh also spoke highly of Blair and his office in developing the Viet Nam – UK strategic partnership.

Binh said the Office of Tony Blair has provided practical and valuable assistance to the Vietnamese Government in strategic areas, including foreign investment attraction, public-private partnership frameworks and in State-owned enterprise reform.

He also hailed the office for pledging to deliver a speech at the seminar "Viet Nam becomes a new processing and engineering hub of the world after 2015" slated for October 24 in Ha Noi.

The former PM spoke highly of Viet Nam's positive achievements in macro-economic stability and reform, particularly in the banking sector. He said he was optimistic about Viet Nam's economic prospects in light of its membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Viet Nam-EU free trade agreement.

Both sides stressed the need to accelerate economic restructuring with a focus on the finance-banking sector in order to stimulate economic development. — VNS

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