The following is a guest editorial from Dr. Tran Dai Quang, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Twenty eight years ago, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum came into being. Ever since, APEC has been growing vigorously, living up to the role as the region’s premier economic forum. In a globalized and changing world and a dynamically growing Asia Pacific, APEC is facing both new opportunities and challenges. As the host of APEC 2017, it is Vietnam's mandate to work with other member economies to transform the APEC Leaders’ commitments into tangible results and bring APEC closer to the people and business community, thereby realizing the strategic vision for an Asia Pacific of sustainable and inclusive development in the 21st century.
APEC in its Third Decade: Achievements and Milestones
The birth of APEC in 1989 took place at a time when the world was undergoing profound changes, opening a new chapter in the history of economic cooperation in the Asia Pacific, transforming the region from a divided one into an increasingly inter-connected market toward the common goals of raising the people's living standard and increasing prosperity.
On the basis of co-operation characterized by consensus, voluntarism, mutual benefit and mutual respect, APEC is a meaningful co-operation forum for member economies to strengthen dialogue and understanding, thus making important contribution to peace, stability and development in Asia Pacific. Therefore, for the member economies, developed or developing, the Asia Pacific and APEC are always a top priority in their global strategy.
Amid the global economic turbulences, APEC continued to prove its vitality and resilience as well as its role as a key driver of global economic growth and integration. Such vitality does not only stem from its wealth of young labour force and rich natural resources. More importantly, it is the political determination and efforts that every member economy itself has exerted to promote innovation and reforms. These achievements along with APEC's progresses in trade and investment liberalization, especially the realization of the Bogor Goals, have upheld APEC's role as the region’s premier economic forum, contributing nearly 60% of global GDP and 50% of its trade volume.
APEC has also proven its pioneering role as an incubator of ideas and a leading coordinator of regional economic linkages. A number of major economic integration arrangements have originated from APEC and its member economies. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are vivid examples. APEC members have also embarked on the road to implement connectivity blueprints, facilitating the travel of business persons and promoting investment for infrastructure development, among many others. APEC economic integration, therefore, has increasingly deepened, having made more meaningful contribution to the reinforcement of the values and relevance of the multilateral trading system.
Through its three decades of inception and development, APEC has step by step proved its indispensable role in the global economic architectures. Together with other multilateral co-operation mechanisms including the ASEAN Community, bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements, connectivity and global value and supply chains initiatives, APEC will continue to make great contribution to peace, prosperity and development in the Asia Pacific region.
APEC- the Opportunities and Challenges in a Changing World
The course of economic growth and integration in the Asia Pacific is being presented with opportunities thanks to deepened globalization, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly digital technology, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, etc. The increasing interdependence and connectivity in the region as well as the need to address global challenges also open up new opportunities for member economies to foster co-operation and integration.
While global and regional economic recovery is firming, given the international economic integration slowdown, mid-term and long-term risks, rising protectionism, the increasing rich-poor gap and traditional and non-traditional security challenges, the environment for regional security and development has become ever more uncertain and unpredictable.
Against that backdrop, Vietnam and other member economies are facing challenges in pursuing the mission, values and commitments of APEC. It includes promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, supporting the open multilateral trading system and co-operation on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and respect; exerting greater efforts for an Asia Pacific of peace, stability and prosperity in which all people and economic sectors have equal opportunities to contribute to and enjoy the fruits of economic growth and connectivity.
In addition to the aforementioned challenges, there are new opportunities. Building on the successes achieved since its establishment, APEC is now in an excellent position to actively contribute to maintaining the Asia Pacific’s role as a driver for global economic growth and integration. Key APEC members will continue to be the world’s leading economic, trade and technological hubs in the coming decades. With over 150 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that APEC members are party to, including efforts to establish a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), the region will have vast potentials in terms of market, technology and financial resources. APEC also enjoys favourable conditions to bring into full play its role in a multilayered international conjuncture thanks to its flexible, non-binding and voluntary principles, thus enabling member economies to reach a common voice and consensus, even on a number of issues where differences remain.
Reality shows that in order to turn challenges into opportunities, APEC member economies must have strong resolve with concrete actions.
APEC Vietnam 2017: Fostering a Shared Future
The APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Da Nang, a beautiful, modern, dynamic and hospitable coastal city, has an important mission in creating a new dynamism for APEC co-operation, integration and growth. This is also an opportunity for APEC member economies to further deepen and elevate their co-operation towards building an Asia Pacific Partnership of sustainable and inclusive development in the 21st century. In the spirit of constructive cooperation for mutual benefit and under the theme “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future,” APEC economic leaders will discuss directions for the forum on the following issues:
First, create new dynamism for sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth of APEC member economies. This drive should be linked with Industry 4.0, efforts to equip employees with new skills to work in a digital environment, acceleration of structural reform; promoting the innovation, start-up spirit and competitiveness of businesses, particularly among MSMEs. Member economies should also work hard to build a resilient and inclusive APEC community; promoting sustainable urban-rural development, guaranteeing food, water and energy security, reducing disaster risks, increasing women’s economic power and creating a better environment for vulnerable groups. These efforts would help increase APEC’s growth quality.
Second, promote trade and investment liberalization and strengthen regional connectivity; accelerate the achievement of the Bogor Goals in 2020, deepen regional integration and connectivity, and work towards the establishment of FTAAP to enhance trade and investment flows in the Asia Pacific and foster linkages among APEC member economies. It is also necessary for APEC to promote an open, transparent, non-discriminatory and inclusive multilateral trading system. Existing global trade practices require members to enhance cooperation on issues relating to supply chain, value chain, e-commerce, and continue with capacity building and policy harmonization. This is the pre-requisite for the forum to continue its role as the driver of economic integration in the multi-layered global landscape.
Third, exert efforts in consolidating the leading role of APEC in global economic governance and response to common challenges; raise adaptability to the changing environment, take the lead in advancing reform, innovation, and increase efficiency of co-operation to generate more tangible benefits for the people and businesses in the region. APEC members also need to actively implement global commitments, particularly the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the Paris Agreement.
Fourth, in preparing for APEC’s 4th decade of development, we need to discuss the steps taken to develop the Post-2020 Strategic Vision for the forum. This vision needs to further uphold APEC’s leading role in promoting integration, connectivity, sustainable and inclusive quality growth, restructuring, digital economy, internet economy, education, training of quality human resources, reduced development gap, etc. This is also the development needs of member economies and the common trend of international co-operation in the 21st century.
Fully aware of the importance of the close relations between Vietnam and APEC, Vietnam has always made active and responsible contributions to the work of the forum over the past 20 years. Entering the phase of comprehensive reforms, Vietnam wishes, through the hosting of the APEC Year 2017, to reaffirm its foreign policy of diversification, multilateralization of international relations and intensive international integration; being a reliable friend and partner of the international community. We will continue to work with other APEC member economies in building a peaceful, stable, dynamic, interconnected and prosperous Asia Pacific community.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.