Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh.
What was the significance of the 37th 'High-level
Task Force on ASEAN Economic Integration (HLTF-EI)' meeting which was held
in Hanoi on February 12 and 13?
The event drew the participation of senior economic
officials from deputy minister level from all ASEAN member states. High on
the agenda was the discussion on what should be written in the
recommendations and strategies in the economic integration vision for ASEAN.
Participants spent a lot of time discussing
co-operation among ASEAN member countries and between ASEAN and other
international economic groups. In the discussion on economic co-operation
among ASEAN member states, we spent quite a lot of time evaluating the
master plan on the course of the establishment of the ASEAN Economic
Community by 2025.
Regarding external economic co-operation, participants focused their
discussion on two points.
First, the criteria to select counterparts to
negotiate with ASEAN member countries.
Second, a special group would be created to review
the negotiation process for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Program (RECEP),
an important move for the coming negotiation sessions in 2020.
Did you face any challenges in holding the
meeting in Hanoi?
The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the ASEAN
economy, including the Vietnamese economy. Adding to that, the
representative delegation from Singapore, who is the incumbent of the
President of the group, could not attend the Hanoi meeting due to the
outbreak of the coronavirus.
However, Vietnam has done its best to co-chair the
video meeting with the Singaporean side. And the meeting took place
Vietnam played a very important role in the 37th of
the HLTA-EI meeting. Adding to that Vietnam shared its experience with other
ASEAN member countries to help them look for a better way to negotiate their
free trade agreements in the future. Vietnam also shared with other member
nations the lessons the country learned in the course of negotiating for the
Regional Comprehensive Economic Programme (RCEP).
Do you think the RCEP will be signed in 2020?
At the year-end meeting in 2019 in Bangkok, all
ASEAN member states adopted a joint statement voicing their commitment to
open their market as was regulated in the agreement.
However, India is still facing some problems in
discussions about the RCEP. Yet all 15 countries have agreed to open their
markets for other signatories to the agreement.
We have set a target to have the RCEP agreement
completed by late this year in Vietnam.
Though we have foreseen that the negotiations with
India still face certain challenges, we vow to do our best to have them
completed by late this year.
What do you think about the impacts of the
Europe-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Europe – Vietnam
Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) on ASEAN?
The approval of both the EVFTA and the AVIPA by the
European Parliament was the good news for both Vietnam and other ASEAN
member states. Vietnam and Singapore are the two countries in ASEAN that
have signed free trade agreements with the EU.
We hope in the near future, more free trade
agreements will be signed between the EU and the remaining eight ASEAN
All ASEAN members have expressed their willingness
to have an agreement between the two blocs – the EU and ASEAN.
We hope with lessons learned from the trade deals
signed between Vietnam and Singapore with the EU, an agreement between the
EU and ASEAN will soon be concluded.