International Conference: Towards ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and policy implications for Vietnam

On 28th October, 2014, VNU University of Economics and Business and the Central Economic Committee jointly organized the international conference with the theme "Towards ASEAN Economic Community and policy implications for Vietnam" funded by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam.

Following the success of two conferences “Participations in ASEAN Economic Community: International Experiences and Implications for Vietnam” held in October 2013 in Hanoi, and "New international context and its impacts on ASEAN Economic community" held in May 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City, this conference continues to be held in the framework of the research project "ASEAN Economic Community in new context of the world and the participation of Vietnam" under the Key State-Program KX.01/11-15, chaired by Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son, UEB Rector.

Chairmen of the Conference

The conference aims to strengthen academic exchanges as well as practical experiences to provide local and international scholars and experts with a forum to discuss the integration process of ASEAN countries into AEC; the readiness of Vietnam for AEC; opportunities and challenges for Vietnam in the integration; and policy recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of Vietnam’s participation in AEC.
The workshop was attended by representatives of government agencies, Office of the Prime Minister, Office of the Government, representatives of the Central Economic Committee; the ministries such as the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, National Financial Supervisory Commission; some research institutes including Institute of Economic Research Institutefor ASEAN and East Asia - ERIA, Central Institute for Economic Management...; representative of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), representatives of the research institutes and universities in economic, business and management sector, enterprises who are partner of UEB; Management Board, Director of subordinate units, Dean of Faculties, Lecturers, UEB graduates and the various central and local media.

Prof. Dr. Vuong Dinh Hue made opening speech at the Conference

Opening the Conference, Prof.Dr. Vuong Dinh Hue, Member of the Party Central Committee, Chairman of the Central Economic Committee delivered his opening speech, emphasized the significance of the Conference because this is the "sprint" time in the route of ASEAN Economic Community formation. The Conference is an opportunity for the domestic and international guests, scientists and experts to exchange their ideas and give some suggestions to the committee, ministries and especially Vietnamese enterprises to be ready to grasp opportunities, overcome challenges and work out the plans to deploy so that Vietnam can be totally confident and participate effectively in the mutually regional playground. Following the opening speech, Mr. Hans-Georg JONEK, Chief Representative of FNF in Vietnam, representative of the sponsor made a speech to express the views on the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community which is not only important for member nations but also has the impacts on other economies in the world.

Mr. Hans-Georg JONEK, Chief Representative of FNF in Vietnam made a speech at the Conference

The Conference was then divided into two main sessions. The first session included the presentation of Mr. Yoshifumi Fukunaga, Economist, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the other of Mr. Le Trieu Dung - Deputy Director General of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade focusing on introducing the main contents of the AEC, AEC implementation process as well as various impacts on Vietnam.

Mr. Yoshifumi Fukunaga, Senior Economist, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), delivered the speech at the Conference

Reviewing the process of ASEAN countries’ integration into AEC, Mr. Yoshifumi Fukunaga indicated that so far ASEAN has achieved 82.1% of the measures outlined in the roadmap of establishing AEC in 2008-2013 period. Mr. Fukunaga also mentioned some contents that Vietnam needed to perform in the future such as tariff elimination during  2015-2018 period, soon implementation of measures for trade facilitation, strengthening and facilitating the standard measures, conformity assessment, further trade liberalization through the package 10 and simultaneously negotiation for RCEP and TPP. This requires Vietnam to implement the reform initiatives in the country to maximize the benefits that AEC brings. Next, Mr Le Trieu Dung talked about the overview of the formation process of AEC and its commitments toa united single market and manufacturing unit, a competitive economic region, equitable economic development and integration with the global economy. Mr. Le Trieu Dung emphasized AEC is an ongoing process and after 2015, the member countries should continue to review non-tariff barriers; implement trade facilitation; remove exceptions, become flexible, reservein the services sector, investment and human mobility...; continue to expand the areas that affect competitiveness, narrowthe development gap as green growth, sustainable development; upgrade integration with FTA partners and other partners through the new FTA negotiations and upgrade the existing FTA.

Mr Le Trieu Dung, Deputy Director General of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade made presentation

The second session deeply focused on the assessment of the preparation of Vietnam to the AEC and the implications for Vietnam through two presentations by Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son, UEB Rector and Dr. Vo Tri Thanh, Vice Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management.Based on the survey results in five major cities directly under the Central Government, Assoc.Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hong Son pointed out two important issues for Vietnam. Firstly, there was a gap between the views, perceptions about AEC between central-local management agencies and businesses. The central management agencies had a clear view of the AEC integration; however, the local authorities were not totally concerned about AEC; now not knowing much about the AEC. The businesses were not aware of AEC’s impacts on their industry as well as the opportunities and challenges that AEC might bring to their business.
Secondly, local authorities and businesses of Vietnam were not really ready for the AEC. Most businesses did not have integration strategies in general and AEC in particular. Many of the businesses only developed the strategy to improve their competitiveness in the domestic market. Most of them did not have long-term strategies as well as specific actions to develop the ASEAN market, graspedthe opportunity from the AEC. There are three reasons to explain these two issues: the importance of ASEAN market are not well defined; the competitive nature of ASEAN and coordinating mechanism to handle communication and integration information is not really effective. To be able to participate effectively in AEC, Vietnam needs to reposition the ASEAN market, promote cooperation and cohesion in the region, build up coordination mechanisms to process integration information and to enhance the role of the Association.

Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son, Rector of UEB delivered a speech

Looking from the perspective of business opportunities for enterprises resulted from the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community, Dr. Vo Tri Thanh said that AEC created a shared playing field for businesses, helping enterprises engage in the production network and taking advantages of tax incentives. In addition, businesses had the ability to capture and leverage business opportunities through the experience of uncertainty management; to seek the opportunities for production and business such as expanding the exporting markets, find opportunities to produce on a segment, network, clusters, chains, participate in the development of infrastructure and know "regulatory dialogue".
Beside analyzing business opportunities for businesses, presentations also indicated the expected impacts on the scenario to expand ASEAN linkage, in which the greater the level of associated expansion, the greater the impacts on income growth of the ASEAN countries in general and Vietnam in particular. Again, this confirmed that the AEC was a process and it was neccesary to recognize ASEAN and beyond: AEC after 2015.

Dr. Vo Tri Thanh, Vice Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management presented at the Conference

The presentation has attracted the attention and interest of the participants in the Conference. The speakers and participants actively joined the discussion section about a number of contents related to the AEC including measures to implement the roadmap of AEC, the AEC model after 2015, the issue of labor mobility in ASEAN, the impact of the AEC on ASEAN Political and Security Community, ASEAN Culture - Social Community, challenges that AEC brings, solutions to overcome specific challenges...
After more than four-hourworking, the Conference was a great success and received many important ideas and comments. On behalf of the conference organizing committee, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son has delivered the closing speech, again confirming the AEC would be put into place by the end of 2015 as a indispensable result in the process of long-term economic cooperation among ASEAN countries.
The preparatory activities were being urgently carried out, but the readiness of each country was quite different. For Vietnam, there were many more to be done by the Government and business Community to create the most favorable conditions for joining AEC. In the future, the Government should promote a mechanism to exchange integration information efficiently and transparently; business consultation in the preparation, negotiation and implementation of commitments; timely support businesses in access to information. To the business community, business associations needed to promote their role in providing information, doing research of business needs and business links with each other. Businesses needed to reposition the ASEAN market; become more proactive in accessing information, update regularly to develop new strategies to suit their business in the future.
Finally, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son expressed his sincere thanks and wished to continue to receive the cooperation of local and international experts, especially the Central Economic Commission, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Foundation - Für Die Freiheit (FNF), Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Central Institute for Economic Management in the upcoming research activities organized and chaired by UEB.

The conference has attracted the attention of various media. In pictures: Assoc.Prof.Dr. Nguyen Hong Son had an interview with the Press

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