A footwear producing plant in southern Binh Duong province (Photo: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) - Economic co-operation should be the key component in Vietnam's strategy for its integration into the ASEAN community, an official said at a conference in Hanoi on December 11.

Big differences between the 10 members of the biggest regional community – including the diversity of government institutions, development levels, languages and religions - at some point may hinder ASEAN nations from reaching a consensus, said Nguyen Son, deputy chief of staff for the Inter-agency Steering Committee for International Integration of the Economy.

The conference was organised to discuss Vietnam's plans to brace itself for deeper ASEAN integration."ASEAN cannot always voice a common political viewpoint," he said.

"The economic aspect, at such a time, would be the motivation for co-operation."

However, he said the emphasis on the economy does not necessarily mean Vietnam will weigh lightly on other integration pillars, including political security and cultural-socio communities, adding that "Viet Nam would take part in the three communities on an equal basis".

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), due to be official in three weeks, is the biggest effort of the regional bloc so far, aiming to create a single market with the European Union deemed as a role model.

More economic opportunities will open to Vietnam with the establishment of the AEC, said Son, but big challenges remain and require sweeping actions.

Economic integration would bring about development only when Vietnam is able to raise its competition capability via creating "connectivity", said former Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Pham Chi Lan.

She said the country should promote more effective connectivity in Governmental institutions, for example customs or taxes, from low levels that work directly with the enterprises, while devoting more efforts to human resource connectivity.

English language is not the country's mother tongue, and despite being ranked 29 out of 70 nations and territories in terms of English proficiency by the Education First's English Proficiency Index, the world's largest English ranking system, Vietnamese workers are known to be particularly weak at conversational skills in both listening and speaking.

"Vietnam should also have a plan on international infrastructure connectivity, for example, acting as a gate for maritime transportation to island nations like the Philippines or Indonesia," she added.

“There is not much time for Vietnam anymore," Lan warned. "If we can't radically change how things function now, in five more years the challenges might outnumber the opportunities."./.