November 15 this year marks 15 years since Vietnam became a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, a move which has proved greatly beneficial to the country’s international integration policy.

The decision to join APEC, the largest economic cooperative mechanism in the region, was part of Vietnam’s external policy of multilateralisation, diversification and economic integration.

As an APEC member, Vietnam has actively participated in the forum’s activities by proposing new ideas as well as implemented joint initiatives in trade, investment, emergency response, health care and anti-terrorism.

The country has undertaken several key positions in APEC, serving as vice chairman of the committee on trade and investment and chairman of the working group on Small and Medium Enterprises in 2006, chairman of the budget and management committee in 2007, vice chairman of the health working group in the term of 2009-2010 and chairman of the working group on emergency preparedness in the 2012-2013 tenure. In particular, Vietnam successfully assumed the role as APEC Chair in 2006, hosting the 14th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the 18 th APEC Foreign and Economic Ministers’ Meeting and more than 100 related events. During these meetings, APEC set out the long-term outlook towards forming an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area, issued the Hanoi Plan of Action on implementing the Bogor goals and overall reform measures, creating new impulse for APEC cooperation.

This year, Vietnam has proposed and implemented an initiative, the first of its kind in APEC, on search and rescue at sea. The country hosted several APEC events, including the 40th meeting of APEC experts on new and renewable energy in April, a seminar on hydro and renewable energy electricity integration into grid also in April, and a seminar on business continuity planning for disaster resiliency in May.

Vietnam has submitted its bid, and received support from most APEC members, to host the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in 2017.

APEC will continue to be an important cooperative mechanism for Vietnam, as the Asia-Pacific region has close connections with the country’s development in all fields from economics, external relations, to security and development. Most leading economic-trade and strategic partners of Vietnam are APEC members. APEC member economies account for 65 percent of foreign direct investment and 75 percent of international arrivals in Vietnam. APEC markets also consume 60 percent of the country’s exports and supply 80 percent of Vietnam’s imports.

However, economic connectivity in the region in general and within APEC framework in particular is shifting into a new period on broader scale and stronger commitment, posing challenges to countries at lower development level including Vietnam. It is urgent for the country to make more efforts to strengthen domestic capacity, enhance social consensus as well as promote the involvement of the business sector, in order to reap the most from international economic integration and serve the nation’s socio-economic development.-VNA