It is a different Vietnam that is hosting 21 leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 in the beautiful coastal city of Danang compared with 11 years ago when it hosted the same summit in Hanoi.
The Vietnamese economy is currently booming, exports are surging and foreign investment is flowing into the country, thanks to its strong commitment to free trade, globalization and effective economic and political reforms.
Vietnam has been undergoing a major transformation from a poor agricultural country to an export-oriented economy as well as an industrialized and modernized country. It reduced the poverty rate to just 7 percent in 2015 from 58.1 percent in 1993.
Vietnam – as China has also done in East Asia – has benefited greatly from joining various organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, APEC in 1998 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. It has become a prominent advocate of free trade as it has already signed more than 10 free trade agreements with various countries as well as organizations.
With this impressive economic growth, surging exports, low poverty rate and unprecedented economic reforms, Vietnam – a communist country but a champion of free trade – is fast emerging as a darling of global investors. It is the new star of Asia.
With the theme “Creating new dynamism, fostering a shared future”, the APEC Summit in Danang will focus mainly on sustainable inclusive economic growth and regional economic integration.
All APEC members, including Indonesia, have fully agreed with Vietnam’s theme and its ideas on economic integration. Vietnam has also selected four priority areas for this year’s APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting.
The first priority is promoting sustainable, innovative and inclusive growth, a top priority for the Asia-Pacific region in the context of global economic uncertainties and rising inequality.
The second one is deepening regional economic integration. This is in line with the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment, which must be achieved by 2020 by all APEC member economies. The Bogor Goals were set during the APEC Summit in Bogor, Indonesia, in 1994. In order to fulfill the APEC economies’ demand for greater economic linkages and development, there is an urgent need for a deepening of regional economic integration and improving connectivity in the shape of physical, institutional and human links.
The third priority is strengthening the competitiveness and innovation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital age. Because MSMEs are the key drivers of growth and employment for APEC member economies.
On the issue of MSMEs, both Vietnam and Indonesia have common perceptions.
“We need to improve the capacity of our MSMEs to compete globally, Indonesian Trade Ministry’s APEC director Deny Wahyudi Kurnia said in a statement recently after attending the APEC Senior Officials Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in August.
The fourth priority is enhancing food security and sustainable agriculture in response to climate change. Food security, a vital issue and also the second goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, has acquired an importance in all Asia-Pacific countries because the region produces 55 percent of global agricultural produce.
Vietnam has become a victim of climate change. As a result of rising sea levels, some parts of Vietnam’s most fertile Mekong Delta region have been submerged. Climate change poses a major threat to not just Vietnam but also other countries. On this issue also Indonesia and Vietnam are working closely to garner the support of other APEC members during the Danang Summit.
It will be a tough challenge for Vietnam and other members to convince United States President Donald Trump, who has reversed his country’s stance on climate change, about the strategic importance of sustainable agriculture and to take measures to curb global carbon emissions.
Since joining in 1998, Vietnam has become a key member of APEC, a forum that aims to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.
“Entering the phase of comprehensive reforms, Vietnam wishes, through the hosting of APEC 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,” Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang said in an op-ed article recently.
Vietnam realized the strategic importance of APEC right from the beginning and seeks to benefit from it.
“As a forum representing 39 percent of the world population, contributing 57 percent of global GDP and 49 percent of global trade, APEC has a very important role in global economic development as well as in the strength and prosperity of each member,” Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh told the Vietnam Economic Times newspaper recently.
Vietnam will deploy around 2,800 security personnel – including 1,500 special and mobile police officers, 800 traffic police officers and 500 firefighters – in Danang to secure the APEC Leaders’ Week.
The APEC-related meetings or APEC Leaders’ Week, which were kicked off on Nov.6 and would end on Nov.11, will be attended by top leaders of APEC member economies, 42 economic and foreign ministers and around 10,000 delegates from various organizations.
Vietnam, whose economy grew 6.2 percent in 2016, will showcase its economic progress to APEC leaders during the summit in Danang.
Nobody ever imagined that Vietnam, where the US dropped 260 million cluster bombs or 7.66 million tons of explosives during the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1973, would one day become a close friend of the US. Today, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the US. US President Trump will be in Vietnam to attend the APEC Summit.
This year, Vietnam’s exports – more than 60 percent of which comprise smartphones, computer chips and other technological products – will surpass the US$200 billion mark for the first time in its history, thanks to free trade and the excellent investment climate in Vietnam.
Vietnam is expecting a lot from the APEC summit and seeks the full support from all members, including Indonesia, for the Danang Declaration.
“Vietnam hopes other APEC members will share the same vision and join hands in building a peaceful, active, self-sustaining, inclusive and comprehensively connected Asia-Pacific, creating equal opportunities for people to participate in growth,” Bui said.