The ASEAN Economic Community recorded many successes in 2010, said Chairman of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council Vu Huy Hoang while reviewing the AEC’s operations this year.

In his review, Hoang, who is Vietnam ’s Minister of Trade and Industry, stated that during Vietnam ’s term as chair of ASEAN in 2010, the bloc had achieved a great deal.

The group hurried up the implementation of its internal and external cooperation goals to realise an ASEAN Community by 2015 and has increasingly strengthened its position and power in its role as a driving force and the centre of the cooperative architecture in the region.

As one of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community, the AEC has made many important contributions to ASEAN in both regional and national spheres, said Hoang.

In the region, Vietnam has led the AEC Council in a stable and effective manner.

Vietnam undertook the ASEAN Chair at a time when the plans for building the ASEAN Community began and economies in the region and the world were suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis.

In such difficult and challenging circumstances, Vietnam, as AEC Chair, has guided the AEC Council to work in a regular and effective manner and monitored the implementation of the targets set for the AEC.

According to Hoang , Vietnam has defined the focus and priorities of the ASEAN Economic Community’s agenda in 2010.

These included ensuring the implementation of goals to create the ASEAN Economic Community, maintaining ASEAN’s central position in regional cooperative architecture, speeding up the ASEAN connectivity process and enhancing the private sector’s role and involvement in carrying out and supervising economic integration programmes.

The contents introduced by Vietnam have been highly appreciated and have enthusiastically received by the other ASEAN member countries, said Minister Hoang.

Under the ASEAN’s 2010 theme “from vision to action”, Vietnam has contributed several important initiatives aimed at promoting the AEC and increased the process of economic integration.

Vietnam was one of the two countries in the group that has achieved the most in carrying out its commitments to AEC.

In the capacity as AEC Chair, Vietnam has played a coordinating role by identifying areas where problems existed and pooling the relevant professional agencies’ views to address these problems while pushing up the implementation of commitments in these areas.

The key contents chosen for 2010 focus on transportation, services and customs affairs.

Vietnam has boosted and step by step institutionalised dialogues activities between businesses and the State to heighten businesses’ role in the policy-making process through various forms and at different forums.

The country has also worked to enhance the capacity for coordinating and supervising the AEC’s operations in ASEAN member countries and at the ASEAN Secretariat, to raise the effectiveness of previously made commitments.

Vietnam has also suggested that ASEAN’s leaders approve the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Sustained Recovery and Development, at the 16 th ASEAN Summit.

While implementing its commitments to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the AEC Council defined and reported to ASEAN top leaders the achievements and challenges made while establishing the AEC and proposed solutions to ASEAN’s leaders.

Many important achievements were made in all cooperation areas related to the AEC such as goods and services trade, investment, finance, food security, competition policy, intellectual property, energy, transport, trade facilitation, information technology, tourism and the development of small and medium sized enterprises. The achievements that were strategically important for realising the AEC by 2015 were grouped in accordance with the four major points as follows.

On tariffs, the ASEAN-6 countries have abolished tariffs on 99.65 percent of their tax lines regulated by the Agreement on the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT)/ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), while the ASEAN-4 countries have 98.86 percent of their tax lines regulated by the agreement cut to between 0-5 percent. In addition, the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) came into effect on May 17, 2010. These are the most important achievements towards the goal of forming a free exchange of goods.

To facilitate trade, the heads of ASEAN customs departments have finished negotiations on Protocol 7 under the ASEAN Framework Agreement to facilitate goods in transit, to be signed in 2011, thus helping to designate ASEAN transit routes and to end negotiations on the Protocol 2 on frontier transit posts. They have also completed negotiations on a memorandum of understanding on a pilot project to set up a national one-stop-shop customs mechanism as a basis for a similar mechanism for the whole of ASEAN.

In services trade and investment, besides completing the seventh package of commitments, the ASEAN Economic Ministers signed a protocol on October 28 to introduce the eighth package of commitments under the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS). The implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement has also been stepped up, helping to form the free circulation of services and investment capital in the bloc’s internal trade.

2010 also saw various achievements made regarding ASEAN’s integration into the global economy thanks to the ASEAN-China and the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Free Trade Area Agreements as well as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area Agreement and the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement.

In 2010, Vietnam contributed to boosting and strengthening ASEAN’s central role by deftly dealing with relations between China , Japan and other countries participating in the East Asian cooperation framework as well as warming ASEAN-EU relations.

In addition, as ASEAN Chair, Vietnam actively participated in forums and cooperation organisations like the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the G20. The country also created a channel for dialogue at economic ministerial level with Russia and drew up an initiative to hold the annual Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam Economic Ministers meeting.

As ASEAN host, Vietnam prepared and successfully organised conferences of the ASEAN economic community, winning applause from all the participating parties and raising ASEAN’s standing in general and Vietnam’s position in particular at the regional cooperation forum, which left a good impression of Vietnam and its people with international friends.
The country has been able to harmonise its own national interests with regional interests during its tenure as ASEAN Chair.

On reviewing this year, the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN member countries shared the same view that the ASEAN Economic Community Council has had a successful year. Vietnam , as Chair of the council, worked well and professionally with many practical initiatives contributing to the success of the council and the ASEAN 2010 Year.

These achievements are attributed to efforts made by not only officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, but also the close guidance of Government leaders and officials of the National Committee on ASEAN 2010.

The achievements were also made possible thanks to close and effective coordination between sub-committees under the National Committee on ASEAN 2010 and member ministries and the sectors of Vietnam AEC council./.