As one of the most prominent ministerial meetings in APEC’s framework, MRT 23 also saw the participation of ministers responsible for trade and senior officials from 21 APEC member economies as well as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Roberto Azevedo.
In his opening remarks, PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc said since its inception in 1989, APEC has always been an important economic driver and growth engine of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. APEC has a combined population of more than 2.8 billion people, approximately 40% of the world population.
After nearly three decades, APEC member economies have strongly expanded, accounting for approximated 60% of the world GDP and 49 percent of the global trade. The regional average tariff has been reduced from 11% in 1996 to 5.5% in 2016. Income and living standards have been improved for a large proportion of the population in the region.
These outcomes have provided testament to the efforts of the region for trade liberalisation, trade and investment facilitation as well as the shared regional stability, development and prosperity, he noted.
However, PM Phuc said, the Asia-Pacific region is witnessing multiple changes in politics, economy and technology. The Industrial Revolution 4.0 as well as the emergence of the digital economy has strong impacts on the lives of citizens from all walks of life. Never before has the world been so interconnected on such a profound level.
Advanced technologies have generated many opportunities, but at the same time, brought about substantial economic, cultural and social challenges.
The PM went on to say that APEC is aiming for a truly connected Asia Pacific in terms of the people, infrastructure, technology and information in order to facilitate economic growth, trade and investment, comprehensive institutional reform in each and every member economy.
Moreover, APEC cooperation programmes on enhancing connectivity, developing value chains, connecting supply chains, supporting the business community in general and Micro-, Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in particular, among others, have contributed significantly to the development and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.
“Characterised by its member economies’ differences in terms of development levels as well as diversity in culture, political institutions, and development policy, APEC should step up economic and technical cooperation, experience and information sharing during the process of policy-making and implementation of cooperation programs to enhance the effectiveness and distinguish APEC cooperation from that of the other organizations and forums in the region and the world. We also need to expand cooperation with other regions to ensure increased connectivity and development for all,” he suggested.
However, cooperation plans and their fine goals might still fail to turn into reality when we lack trust, political determination and coordination to safeguard a peaceful environment, ensure security and safety for investment, and the flows of goods in the region, PM Phuc added.
The government leader told participants that Vietnam officially joined APEC in 1998. And since then, APEC has played an increasingly important role in the economic development of Vietnam.
As of today, APEC member economies have contributed about 78% of the total FDI inflows to Vietnam, 75% of the total merchandise trade and 79% of the total number of tourists to the country.
About 80% of Vietnamese students are studying in APEC member economies. Thirteen APEC members have become Vietnam’s strategic and comprehensive partners.
“With its strong determination and efforts to deepen reform and international integration, Vietnam has made significant contributions to APEC’s cooperation. Last time, Vietnam hosted APEC in 2006, eleven years ago. And now, we have the great honour to be host of APEC Year again with a view to enhancing cooperation with other regional economies for a peaceful, stable, connected and prosperous Asia-Pacific community,” he stressed.
PM Phuc expressed his hope that MRT 23 would have fruitful and productive discussions to review the implementation of APEC 2017 priorities programmes and approve member economies’ initiatives to report to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November 2017 in order to steer the APEC ship towards a brighter and more prosperous future for every citizen in the region.
During the course of the two-day meeting, delegates from the APEC member economies are scheduled to focus discussions on the themes of fostering sustainable, inclusive and innovative growth and strengthening MSMEs’ competitiveness and innovation; supporting the multilateral trading system (MTS) and the WTO; deepening regional economic integration; and toward an APEC Post-2020 Vision.