Over the past decades, Vietnam has been an active and responsible member which has a significant influence on ASEAN’s structure, contributing to maintaining unity, peace and security in the region, and the building of a people-centered ASEAN community.
Since it became a member of ASEAN on July 28, 1995, Vietnam has made important contributions to the development of the bloc.
The country has coordinated with other member nations to build important orientations and policies for the bloc, including the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the ASEAN Vision 2025, the Hanoi Plan of Action, the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II on the formation of the ASEAN Community, the ASEAN Charter, and the 2009-2015 Roadmap for an ASEAN Community.
Vietnam’s increasingly important role in ASEAN serves as catalysis to raise the country’s values and strengthen its ties with ASEAN’s partners.
Vietnam affirms its role in ASEAN
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established on August 8, 1967. It has become the third largest market in Asia with 650 million people, accounting for 8.59 percent of the world’s population. Per capita GDP stands at 4,305 USD and is expected to double by 2030, turning ASEAN into the seventh economic community in the world with total GDP of 2.766 trillion USD.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Community officially came into being on December 31, 2015 with a view to becoming a community that is “politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible, oriented towards the people and centres on the people” on the basis of the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said over the past 50 years of co-operation and development, besides security, political, cultural and social cooperation, ASEAN has been focusing on economic co-operation through the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community. This economic co-operation is considered one of the most important things to support the development of each ASEAN member, he added.
Trade facilitation is of the bloc’s focus. Accordingly, ASEAN member states have carried out such activities as one-stop-shop custom procedure, mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) on electricity, rubber, processed food, pharmaceuticals, etc.
Statistics by the Ministry of Industry and Trade reveals when Vietnam joined AFTA in 1996, the country’s two-way trade turnover with other countries in the bloc was only some 5.9 billion USD. In 2018, this number increased by more than 9.5 times and reached about 56.3 billion USD.
In the first six months of 2019, Vietnam’s exports to ASEAN reached 13.067 billion USD, up 6.7 percent year-on-year.
Notably, the introduction of the AEC marked a new integration step of ASEAN economies with a goal of building a competitive, dynamic and innovative ASEAN.
Tran Thanh Hai, deputy head of the Import-Export Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that entering the ASEAN market, many Vietnamese products have had positive changes and become more competitive.
For example, Vietnam used to acquire shrimp cultivation methods from other countries, such as Thailand in the past. However, it has made it to the list of biggest shrimp exporters in the world.
On the other hand, having joined the AEC, enterprises now pay more attention to product quality, including technical standards.
Even when Vietnam enters a new era of integration with global-scale free trade agreements already put on the table for negotiation, the role of ASEAN Economic Community is still significant. AEC lays a firm foundation for Vietnam to continue its journey of global integration, insiders said.
Vietnam should be ready for upcoming opportunities
The implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint 2015 has been substantively achieved in, among others, eliminating tariffs and facilitating trade; advancing the services trade liberalisation agenda; liberalising and facilitating investment; streamlining and harmonising capital market regulatory frameworks and platforms; facilitating skilled labour mobility; promoting the development of regional frameworks in competition policy, consumer protection and intellectual property rights; promoting connectivity; narrowing the development gap; and strengthening ASEAN’s relationship with its external parties.
Under the Blueprint, Vietnamese enterprises’ export turnover of key productsis also expected toincrease;exporting markets are expanded; andeasier access to materials, commodities and partners from other ASEAN member states is forecast.
According to Nguyen Tue Anh, deputy director of Central Institute for Economic Management, in order to make full use of potentials brought by the AEC, Vietnamese firms are advised to change their mindset toward considering competition a growth momentum.
She also suggested them being more proactive in updating information on tax preferences, rules of origin, etc. given that Vietnam has inked numerous free trade deals with foreign partners. Moreover, the firms are advised to invest properly in production technology, management protocol and quality of human resource, she added.
It could be seen that Vietnam’s economy has been significantly improved since joining ASEAN over 20 years ago. Still, insiders suggested domestic firms to improve their competitive edge and equip themselves with knowledge on rights and obligations of Vietnam when joining FTAs./.