Vietnam action agenda must focus on inclusion: APEC Secretariat

‘Growth should be more inclusive’

By Son Luong / Tuoi Tre News

November 8, 2017, 19:54 GMT+7

Vietnam action agenda must focus on inclusion: APEC Secretariat
Denis Hew, Director at APEC Secretariat Policy Support Unit (L) and Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, address a news conference in Da Nang, central Vietnam, November 7, 2017. Photo: Son Luong/Tuoi Tre News

Editor’s note: Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Secretariat Policy Support Unit, spoke to Tuoi Tre News on the challenges to be addressed at the ongoing 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Week in the central city of Da Nang. 

What are the topline points of the APEC summit most relevant to Vietnam?

One of the key issues for Vietnam is how to come up with an action agenda for economic, financial as well as social inclusion. For many years we have looked at promoting open trade, free trade and globalization, but we know that there are people left behind in this growth, and we also see a concern around job losses and long term unemployment; so growth should be more inclusive.

The action agenda that Vietnam is trying to have endorsed will be very important. In the future, if it is endorsed and implemented, when taking initiatives on trade or investment, we should take into account inclusion so people will not be left behind once we open the market and promote trade.

Another emerging issue is how to promote business opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME); how they are able to utilize technology to move forward on the global supply chain. We have come out with something we call the APEC Internet and Digital Economy, which addresses key areas like how to support and provide business opportunities for MSME.

The other worrying thing is that technology is changing things very quickly. We all know that. Of course the impacts of these new technologies are great in advanced economies. We see new kinds of technology like Uber and Airbnb that change an entire industry and how business is being done, but they can also create job losses. That’s beginning to impact developed economies, and new technology like artificial intelligence will have an impact on jobs in developing nations.

In the past, when we talked about global value chain, what companies were trying to do was to move part of their production to Vietnam and other developing countries where wages were lower. But in the time of new technology, this is not possible because they no longer have to do that: businesses will stick to their own countries and use robots or different kinds of machinery to do the job.

These are things we need to understand and find solutions that address some of these challenges.

Talking of inclusive growth, what is the simplest explanation for this? Is it that growth must be achieved in a way so that ‘no one is left behind’?

That’s right. We want to make sure no one is left behind, especially for the most vulnerable groups of society, children, women or handicapped people. The problem is what kinds of policy can be put in place so that everyone tends to benefit when we increase globalization.

There are things that have been done by a number APEC economies, and we are trying to learn from each other what we can do.

The TPP-11 is being discussed in Da Nang during the APEC summit. Do you think it can be finalized within the framework of this event?

Right now we don’t know because negotiations are still in progress. We only know they are trying to come to an agreement to move forward with the TPP-11.

The TPP is still quite important for Vietnam as it is one of the few developing economies in the TPP. Vietnam will be one of the biggest beneficiaries in terms of global chain connectivity if TPP can move forward.

We have to wait and see what happens next.

What will the upcoming official visit of U.S. President Donald Trump mean to Vietnam-U.S. trade ties?

It’s only the first year of the Trump administration and we are trying to get a clearer understanding of his view. We will know in a few days’ time what his trade policies are.

TPP is a free trade agreement previously involving 12 member states of the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, and had been expected to serve as a counterweight to China’s growing regional dominance.

However, the White House announced the United States’ withdrawal from the deal in January, leaving the remaining 11 members to adopt the new name of TPP-11 to continue negotiations without the U.S.

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