Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh (Photo: VNA)

Singapore (VNA) –
The 50th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM-50) Meeting and Related Meetings, which freshly concluded in Singapore on September 1 after four days of working, is an important event in the context of rising global trade protectionism and unilateralisaiton, said Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh in a recent interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency.

The main goal of these meetings is promoting multilateral economic cooperation and trade liberalisation through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), affirming the central role of ASEAN in creating new regional trade architecture, he added.

The AEM-50 and related meetings are not only important to Vietnam, which will host ASEAN meetings in 2020, but also practical to other ASEAN member states to boost free trade agreements between the bloc and its partners, including the RCEP, as well as implement effectively signed deals and direct negotiations with new partners such as Canada, Russia and the US.

Ministers reached consensus on these matters and the outcomes will be continuously realised to report to the 33rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Singapore in November, he said.

At the sixth RCEP ministerial meeting, countries set the target of basically concluding negotiations on opening the goods, service and investment markets as well as some technical contents in 2019. To do so, ministers issued some commitment packages to conclude the negotiations and demonstrate the leading role of ASEAN in the field.

Regarding Vietnam’s contributions, Minister Anh said the country has closely coordinated with other ASEAN nations to maintain the bloc’s leadership while concurrently promoting negotiations and maximally protecting the interests of the member states, including Vietnam, in the RCEP talks.

As the chair of talks on investment in the RCEP, Vietnam has built the set of negotiations on investment to be submitted to the regional ministers for approval and serve as the orientation for talk conclusion. Chairing the talks on government procurement, at the 23rd discussion in Bangkok last July, it actively contributed to the finalisation of talks on the government procurement chapter. The country has also joined other ASEAN members in wrapping up the negotiations on a chapter on customs procedures and trade facilitation.

Within the framework of the AEM-50, the Vietnamese minister had a separate meeting with the Singaporean Minister of Trade and Industry, who is also Chairman of negotiations this year, to reach an agreement on the talks’ targets.

He said Vietnam has been actively implementing the signed documents, including proposing its Prime Minister revise relevant legal documents to carry out the self-certification of goods origin programme, which used to help businesses save much time and cost.

In terms of negotiations on services, Vietnam has submitted concrete recommendations so that the ASEAN agreement on trade in services could be signed in late 2018. It has also suggested how to select partners for the bloc to negotiate free trade agreements with in the time ahead, and these proposals received support from other countries of the grouping.

The minister noted the RCEP is the first agreement ASEAN has played the central role in promoting negotiations on. Finalising talks on this deal will reflect the bloc’s centrality in regional cooperation mechanisms.

The RCEP will create a market with about 3.4 billion consumers and total GDP of some 49.5 trillion USD that accounts for 39 percent of the global GDP. With the commitments to opening the goods, services and investment markets, simplifying custom procedures, setting up rules of origin that facilitate trade, and minimising trade barriers, it is expected to form the biggest free trade area in the world, promote value chains in the region and around the globe, and step up economic development in the ASEAN nations, including Vietnam, and their partners, he added.-VNA