USAID Vietnam Mission Director Joakim Parker has told Viet Nam News that the ongoing public-private collaboration in regulatory reforms has had positive impacts.

Q: What is your assessment of the regulatory reforms that Vietnam has already undertaken, and what, in your opinion, are the main areas where further reform is required?

A: Vietnam has made significant progress in regulatory reform. For example, Project 30 has set a target to reduce by 30 percent the administrative burden in Vietnam, and is viewed as a successful programme that has resulted in greater transparency and a significant reduction of bureaucracy. This programme was highlighted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a success story and appreciated by the business community.

Recently, Vietnam has begun a new wave of regulatory reform under the flagship of Resolution 19, which instructs ministries and localities to reform administrative procedures and regulations to bring the nation's business indicators to the ASEAN 6 standard in 2015, and ASEAN 4 by 2016. USAID is providing technical assistance in implementing these sweeping reforms. USAID's Provincial Competitiveness Index is one of the most widely-regarded tools for measuring progress.

Regulatory reform is a continuous process, and a requirement for all countries wishing to remain competitive. Effective regulatory reform requires agencies to work together to reduce red tape and enhance efficiency, an important challenge Vietnam is working on.

Q: What are the benefits that will accrue from greater private sector participation in the regulatory reform process? Can you give some specific examples?

A: Public-private dialogue can help achieve sustainable and meaningful reform of Vietnam's regulatory framework - nobody knows the investment climate better than investors. It is very encouraging to see a robust dialogue and partnership between the business community and government underway in Vietnam. The private and public sectors are working together to design solutions that best serve Vietnam's business environment and national competitiveness. Both sides understand the importance of a transparent and inclusive partnership that can drive inclusive growth and take advantage of the free trade agreements that Vietnam is entering, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

A great example of the positive impact of the private sector working with the government has been the impressive results of Resolution 19. Vietnam's businesses and citizens are already beginning to feel the benefits of the lighter touch mandated by Resolution 19. The practical improvements so far include a reduction in the time taken by businesses to pay taxes, which was achieved through concerted efforts of the Ministry of Finance and Vietnam Social Insurance in amending laws and regulations. Businesses that trade across borders and citizens starting a new business should soon find it easier, faster and cheaper to do so as Vietnam implements the new Enterprise and Investment Law and new Customs Law, with added impetus from Resolution 19.

Q: Could you share with us some international experience in partnering with businesses on regulatory reforms?

A: The commitment of top leadership is important for success in regulatory reform. Vietnam has shown this in a practical way with the engagement of the prime minister and deputy prime ministers in key regulatory reforms. Participation of the nation's business community is also indispensable for success and the recent call by the PM for businesses and the media to participate and monitor administrative and regulatory reform is a very positive development.

Vietnam's business community has participated actively in Project 30 with the establishment of an advisory council, and I hope this council will also participate in implementing Resolution 19.

The development and operation of the Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations (COAC) is a good example of the participation of businesses in regulatory reform. The committee is made up of private sector representatives working with US Treasury (equivalent to the Ministry of Finance in Vietnam) and US Customs to improve trade facilitation. They meet regularly with leadership of US Customs and Treasury and related agencies to deal with complicated trade facilitation issues.

USAID is supporting the establishment of a similar mechanism with the Vietnam Trade Facilitation Alliance in HCM City and we hope that this will grow into something as successful as the COAC in the US.

Q: What more can the Government do to enhance participation of the business community in regulatory reforms?

A: The Government can support the private sector's engagement in public policy making in a variety of ways, including demonstrating that it is truly listening to, and not simply receiving feedback from businesses. The engagement of the Ministry of Finance and the business community in Project 19 has had a significant impact that is vital to successful regulatory reform.

Q: What should Vietnamese businesses do to improve their competitiveness and trade efficiency in the current context?

A: Businesses benefit when they speak with one unified voice to government. It is important to support and encourage the private sector to establish committees, working groups and form alliances together to enable them to work together to provide common solutions and design reforms.
Businesses can also benefit from staying updated on new free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam is negotiating or signing, and learn about issues that will affect their own businesses or new markets. Vietnamese businesses can learn about new rules in the new-generation FTAs in order to improve their competitiveness. The Vietnam Textile and Garment Association and Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers are good examples of business associations that are actively involved in getting information about industry issues that are being negotiated in TPP rounds.-VNA