Interview: Pham Binh Minh
What goals are being set for Vietnam’s further cooperation and participation in ASEAN?
PHAM BINH MINH: Being part of ASEAN, Vietnam wishes to work with other members to build up and maintain a peaceful and stable environment for development and prosperity in the region. Considering that Vietnam and ASEAN share one common destiny, we see ASEAN as a strategic priority in our foreign policy. Apart from the concrete goals for relations with each individual ASEAN member state, the top goal in our relations with ASEAN is to build an association that is united and capable of bridging differences.
To that end, we will put in place the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and its blueprints in all three pillars – political security, economic and socio-cultural. We will promote ASEAN connectivity and promote cooperation in areas that are substantially beneficial, such as social welfare, human resource development, environmental protection and labour mobility.
How significant is APEC 2017, of which Vietnam will be the host for the second time?
MINH: Vietnam places APEC 2017 at the core of its foreign policy priorities. More than 200 APEC-related activities – ranging from economic and trade issues, to development and global challenges – will be held in various places across the country. Heads of the 20 member economies as well as thousands of delegates, leaders of top regional corporations and journalists will come to Vietnam for those events.
As the host economy, Vietnam will play a significant role in defining themes, priorities and cooperation agendas for APEC in 2017. Together with other APEC members, we will create new dynamism for regional connectivity and growth, and foster the role of APEC as the leading economic cooperation mechanism in the Asia-Pacific region.
It is also another step in realising our foreign policy of comprehensive international integration, aimed at raising the quality and effectiveness of our multilateral diplomacy to a higher level, and introducing to the world a reformed, dynamic and modern Vietnam that is taking an active part in building and shaping multilateral institutions.
Furthermore, APEC 2017 will be a venue for Vietnam to introduce our socio-economic development strategy for 2020. The dynamisms in APEC cooperation are well aligned with our domestic priorities; for example, restructuring the economy to create a more transparent and favourable business and investment environment, and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth.
APEC 2017 will also give us opportunities to connect with the international business community and promote the image of Vietnam as a country with huge potential for cooperation.
To what extent has Vietnam participated in international trade and agreements?
MINH: Today we have official bilateral ties with 187 countries, and Vietnam is an active member of more than 70 regional and international organisations.
Vietnam has now become one of the most open economies in South-east Asia with a total trade volume in 2015 of nearly $328bn, which is equivalent to 1.5 times our GDP. We have attracted a total of 21,000 foreign direct investment projects with a disbursed capital of nearly $300bn.
Vietnam has also worked with other ASEAN member states to establish the ASEAN Economic Community with a market size of 630m people and a GDP of more than $2.4trn in 2015.
Moreover, Vietnam has participated in 10 bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) and is pushing for several others, including a large number of new-generation FTAs. Once effective, those FTAs will help turn Vietnam into an important centre for trade, linking many important economic players.
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