Apec will rise to the challenge of fostering greater cooperation within the Asia-Pacific in a changing world
Tran Dai Quang says as host country of the forum this year, Vietnam will act on its commitment to multilateralism and work with other member economies to accelerate regional integration and inclusive development
Twenty-eight years ago, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum came into being. Ever since, Apec has been growing vigorously. In a changing world and a dynamically growing Asia-Pacific, Apec is facing both new opportunities and challenges. As the host of Apec 2017, Vietnam has a mandate to work with other member economies to transform Apec leaders’ commitments into tangible results, to realise the strategic vision for an Asia-Pacific of sustainable and inclusive development in the 21st century.
The birth of Apec in 1989 took place at a time when the world was undergoing profound changes. On the basis of cooperation characterised by consensus, voluntarism, mutual benefit and mutual respect, Apec has become a meaningful forum for member economies to strengthen dialogue and understanding.
Today Apec continues to prove its vitality and resilience, as well as its role as a key driver of global economic growth and integration.
Such vitality not only stems from its wealth of young labour and rich natural resources. More importantly, it also stems from the political determination and efforts that every member economy itself has exerted to promote innovation and reforms. These achievements, along with the grouping’s progress in trade and investment liberalisation, have upheld Apec’s role as the region’s premier economic forum. Its members contribute nearly 60 per cent of global gross domestic product and 50 per cent of its trade volume.
Apec is also an incubator of ideas and a leading coordinator of regional economic linkages. A number of major economic integration arrangements 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 improved their connectivity, easing the travel of businesspeople and promoting investment for infrastructure development.
Growth and integration has brought regional economies many opportunities. Today, these opportunities are fuelled by deepening globalisation, and the so-called fourth industrial revolution of digital technology, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and so on.
But our increasing interdependence also means the region needs to jointly address global challenges. Confronted by mid- and long-term risks, rising protectionism, the increasing rich-poor gap and traditional and non-traditional security challenges, we find the environment for regional security and development becoming more uncertain and unpredictable.
Against this backdrop, Vietnam and other member economies face various challenges in pursuing Apec’s mission, values and commitments. This mission includes promoting trade and investment liberalisation, supporting the open multilateral trading system and cooperation 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.
To overcome its challenges, Apec must build on the successes achieved since its establishment. It is in an excellent position to 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 free trade agreements that Apec members are party to, including efforts to establish a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, the region has vast potential in terms of market, technology and financial resources.
Furthermore, with its flexible and voluntary principles, Apec member economies are able to reach a consensus, even on issues where differences remain.
To turn challenges into opportunities, Apec member economies must combine strong resolve with concrete action. 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 cooperation, integration and growth. This is also an opportunity for Apec member economies to further deepen and elevate their cooperation towards building an Asia-Pacific partnership of sustainable and inclusive development.
In the spirit of constructive cooperation for mutual benefit and under the theme “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future”, Apec leaders will discuss directions for the forum on the following issues:
First, create new dynamism for sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth for 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 the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
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 improve the quality of Apec’s growth.
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Second, promote trade and investment liberalisation and strengthen regional connectivity; accelerate the achievement of the Bogor Goals in 2020, deepen regional integration, and work towards the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific to enhance trade and investment flows in the region and foster linkages among Apec member economies.
Apec must promote an open, transparent, non-discriminatory and inclusive multilateral trading system. Existing global trade practices require members to enhance cooperation on issues relating to the supply chain, the value chain and e-commerce, and continue with capacity building and policy harmonisation. This is the prerequisite for the forum to continue its role as the driver of economic integration.
Third, exert efforts in consolidating the leading role of Apec in global economic governance and in the response to common challenges; improve our adaptability to the changing environment, take the lead in advancing reform, innovation, and increase the efficiency of our cooperation to generate more tangible benefits for the people and businesses in the region.
Fourth, in preparing for Apec’s fourth decade of development, we need to discuss the steps to developing a post-2020 strategic vision for the forum. This vision must further uphold Apec’s leading role in promoting integration, connectivity, sustainable and inclusive quality growth, restructuring, the digital economy, education and training, while reducing the development gap.
Fully aware of the importance of the close relations between Vietnam and Apec, Vietnam has made active and responsible contributions to the work of the forum over the past 20 years. Vietnam has entered the phase of comprehensive reforms. Through the hosting of the Apec forum this year, it wishes to reaffirm its support for a foreign policy of diversification and multilateralisation of its international relations, global integration, and its commitment to 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.
Dr Tran Dai Quang is president of Vietnam and chairman of the 25th Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting