After completing 19 official rounds of negotiations by December 2014, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the most anticipated free trade agreement at present, is expected to conclude negotiations this year.
The Vietnam News Agency interviewed Luong Hoang Thai, the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Multi-border Commercial Policy Department and deputy head of Viet Nam's TPP negotiation delegation, about issues related to the TPP.
|Luong Hoang Thai
Do we expect negotiations for the TPP to finish soon and the agreement to be signed this year?
The negotiations are very important since the TPP is one of the largest free trade agreements in the world, with the total GDP (gross domestic product) of countries involved in the agreement accounting for 40 per cent of total global GDP. Twelve countries with large economies are involved in negotiations for the TPP, and therefore these discussions are very complicated.
So far, all 12 countries have come to the end of the negotiation process. During a meeting of leaders of countries joining the TPP on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Beijing, China, the leaders had proposed negotiations related to the TPP should conclude as soon as possible.
The countries have made considerable efforts under the direction of their leaders to conclude the negotiations quickly, especially iron out the technical issues during the first or second quarter of this year. They will then submit the results of the TPP negotiations before national leaders for approval.
What are the difficulties and biggest challenges that have emerged during the TPP negotiations for Viet Nam?
During the negotiations among the 12 TPP member countries, some general difficulties have emerged, and in particular, there are some issues existing between two member countries.
The TPP intends to follow very high standards and it could be difficult for some member countries to achieve those standards, especially in key sectors, such as intellectual property and the opening up of their respective goods market.
For Viet Nam, the most difficult part is our negotiations with other countries in opening our goods and service markets for Viet Nam's enterprises so that they have the best conditions available for entering the market in the future. Especially, textiles, garments, footwear, farming products and seafood are some key exports of Viet Nam and are sensitive goods facing high trade barriers.
Another challenge is the reformation of the domestic legal system to match international standards. Viet Nam has one of the weakest legal systems among the countries joining the partnership so its main challenge would be to improve its legal system.
Viet Nam must also adjust its legal system to meet international standards, especially in terms of protecting intellectual property, customs management and enforcing labour regulations.
According to some economic experts, the TPP will have considerable effect on Viet Nam's economy in terms of tariff reductions. Meanwhile, specific information about tariff reduction has not been shared. This might create a passive situation for local enterprises. What is your opinion on the subject?
Negotiations for free trade agreements (FTAs), especially multilateral trade agreements, are expected to have considerable effect on the local economy and enterprises so the Prime Minister has directed state offices to always hold consultations on these issues, especially the ones that will have a direct impact stemming from the FTAs.
Therefore, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is collaborating with other ministries and sectors to implement negotiations and collect opinions from impacted parties, including enterprise associations and sectors, as well as the enterprise community.
The ministry has also organised meetings with local enterprises nationwide to provide information about negotiations on the TPP and have their opinion on the subject.
Additionally, for specific issues, such as negotiations related to textiles and garment, we are consulting with representatives of textile and garment enterprises via the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the associations for textile and garment manufacturers. In some cases, there is even a representative from the sectors or associations, who will join the negotiating delegation. So, the negotiators could have direct consultations with representative on the sidelines of the negotiations.
However, there is a limitation regarding the FTA negotiation rounds for all member countries in terms of the security of information shared during the negotiation rounds, which can only be made public after finishing the negotiations.
Viet Nam and other countries have proposed that some information should be provided to enterprises. But since that has not happened, we should understand that this is how trade negotiations function around the world.
Going forward, the ministry will continue to take into account the opinions related to the TPP negotiations from local enterprises. Meanwhile, the negotiation delegation will disseminate information about the negotiations under current regulations as soon as possible. Therefore, local enterprises can start preparing for production and business in advance and can take full advantage of the commitments made during the TPP.
All free trade agreements observe a period between the signing of the agreement and the day it becomes effective. That is the time when the approval of the member countries is sought and the respective business enterprises in those countries can start planning advance production. — VNS