Vietnam needs to enact reforms so it might take advantage of economic integration agreements, according Le Dang Doanh, former head of the Central Institute for Economic Management.

Speaking at a recent conference to review Vietnam's economy this year and discuss the outlook for next year, Doanh highlighted opportunities that Vietnam could take advantage of in the near future thanks to economic integration agreements.

The conference was held on December 19 by the Foreign Trade University's Institute of Economics and International Trade.

Doanh said that by 2015 when the ASEAN Economic Community is expected to form, the country can expand its markets, at least to Cambodia and Myanmar.

Furthermore, if it is successful in signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, it can attract more investment in agriculture from Japan since, at that time, the country would open its agriculture market. Also, public procurement would be opened to State-owned enterprises, and equally with private businesses.

Doanh took note of the World Trade Organisation's Bali Agreement and its 1 trillion USD trade pact covering customs, agriculture and assistance for the world's impoverished populations and least developed nations, which was reached earlier this month.

He said that thanks to the agreement, Vietnam could increase agriculture exports and put in place customs reforms.

However, Doanh emphasised that Vietnamese enterprises must prepare for tougher competition when joining the global and regional stage, especially in service industries.

Enterprises in Vietnam were facing many difficulties, including a gloomy real estate market, bad debt caused by ineffective public investment, and ailing State-owned enterprises, he said.

"We identified causes for the ailment of the country's economy, prescribed medicine, including the restructuring of credit institutions and State-owned enterprises," he said, "but the implementation is not strong enough."

Doanh cited a reduction in investment from the private sector, which was at 15 percent of total social investment from 2007-10, and is now down to 11.5 percent. Also, the credit growth rate fell from 53.89 percent in 2007 to 23.38 percent in 2008 and only 7 percent last year.

Moreover, he said that he saw few preparations being made among enterprises for expanding the country's market opening, even while the Government was speeding up negotiations.

Vice Rector of the Foreign Trade University Dao Thu Giang said that one of the major weaknesses of Vietnamese enterprises was the poor connection among enterprises operating in the same industry, since they now sought information and were collecting data on markets and integration by themselves and rarely sharing information with each other.

"In regional and global economic integration, domestic enterprises should unite and boost their linkage to create larger strengths," she said.

Further, university lecturer and international trade expert Dao Ngoc Tien said that the world economy and the nation's domestic economy were expected to recover next year.

Also, Vietnam was negotiating economic integration agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and EU - Vietnam Free Trade Area (EFTA), which offered opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises.

However, enterprises still knew little about the agreements, which resulted in poor preparations.

"Enterprises should not expect the agreements would bring them all opportunities," he said.-VNA