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Taking Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts, the Party and the State of Vietnam have been applying appropriate policies, guidelines and measures for international economic integration. As such, we have recorded important and enormous achievements, contributing to the cause of socio-economic development and creating a new position and strength for Vietnam.
We are now witnessing strong developments in globalisation and international economic integration which allow an economy to be connected to the regional and the world economies and participate in the international distribution of labour. International economic integration is an objective trend that attracts all nations and exerts deep and wide impact on the world economic and political life.
After Vietnam gained its independence, President Ho Chi Minh advocated the ideas and policies of openness and diversification of international cooperation. However, they were not fully implemented due to historical conditions.
Taking Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts, in the last 20 years of reform, Vietnam has gradually been applying suitable policies and measures for regional and international economic integration. Therefore, we have been making enormous and important achievements, effectively taking advantage of international resources and assistance to contribute to the cause of socio-economic development, thus creating a new national strength and position that we have never experienced before. Besides, as we integrate deeper and wider into the regional and international economies, we also have to overcome quite a few difficulties and handle various matters so as to make the country’s integration process more solid and effective.
Fundamental achievements of Vietnam’s international integration
First and foremost, the most important achievement of our international economic integration is the reform of our economy itself as per requirements of integration, the active preparation and effective and broadening participation in globalisation through the establishment of relations and participation in bilateral, sub-regional, regional and inter-regional international economic institutions.
By implementing the policy of international economic integration during renewal, our country has been able to get out of isolation and embargo and gradually integrated into international cooperation mechanisms. At first, we revived our relations with other countries, financial and monetary centres and the international donor community, and signed bilateral economic, trade and investment agreements throughout the 1990s. Then we participated in such regional, inter-regional and global cooperation mechanisms as ASEAN, ASEM, APEC and WTO. So far, we have established economic and trade relations with more than 170 countries and economies and signed almost 60 bilateral economic and trade agreements with other nations and economies, including all developed countries and major markets. We are working more and more actively and effectively, thus promoting Vietnam’s prestige and position in international cooperation institutions. In particular, Vietnam has become the 150th member of the global trading and economic institution, i.e. the World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 01, 2007 after 11 years of negotiation.
Such steps and activities taken on the road of integration have brought about enormous opportunities to make full use of important foreign resources to supplement our domestic ones, thus strengthening the cause of national construction and defence, ensuring at the same time sovereignty, independence, security and national defence and the socialist orientation, thus enhancing Vietnam’s role and prestige in the international arena.
Second, we have been able to strongly enhance our external economic activities and their effectiveness, thus consolidating the strength of our economy and promoting growth and development.
International economic integration has contributed significantly to expanding our market and economic and trade partnership and promoting export and import. From a mere trade turnover of less than US$ 5 billion with most of key trading partners found in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s, our two-way trade in 2006 reached nearly US$ 85 billion with more than 170 trading partners all over the world. In the years to come, this trend is set to continue with high growth.
Thanks to integration, we have recorded considerable achievements in foreign investment and ODA attraction. Vietnam now has investment relations with more than 70 countries and territories, many groups, big MNCs and TNCs that possess great technological and financial capability. With more than US$ 60 billion in about 7,000 projects, Vietnam is now considered one of the most attractive countries for FDI in the region as a new wave of foreign investment flows in. FDI has helped accelerate economic restructuring, industrialisation, modernisation, development of productive forces and job creation. The FDI sector has become an important part of the national economy, accounting for 16% of GDP and 60% of export. Through integration, we have been able to avail ourselves of a rather large amount of ODA with a total commitment of US$ 35 billion from 1993 to date. This provides an especially important source of capital to develop infrastructure, narrow down the development gap and reduce poverty.
Openness and integration also push up tourism and services. With about 4 million foreign visitors every year, Vietnamese tourism has become a spearhead sector, creating jobs and speeding up economic restructuring.
Third, international economic integration helps speed up our reform and strengthen the internal strength of our economy on the basis of improving competitiveness and integration capability.
Our reform towards trade and investment facilitation and liberalisation came from the urgent needs to overcome crisis, generate growth, open up the economy and push up international economic integration. As a result, we have been able to form and accomplish a socialism-oriented market economy, improving the necessary legal framework for macro-economic management, thus creating favourable conditions for production, business and growth. Besides, through integration, our economy and enterprises gradually get themselves familiar with and participate in international competition, thus improving our competitiveness capacity. Our human resources have been trained to meet with the demands for integration and as such, see new level of maturity.
Opportunities and challenges facing our country during international economic integration
First, it must be said that the prerequisite and decisive factor to the win and fall of the entire integration process of the country is the correct viewpoints and policies of our Party and State on globalisation and international economic integration depended on which we could arrive at appropriate roadmaps and measures. On the basis of comprehensive and objective assessment of the situation and globalisation trend, the 9th National Party Congress in April 2001 mapped out the important policy to “proactively integrate into the international and regional economies in the spirit of fully tapping internal strength, improving the effectiveness of international cooperation, ensuring independence, sovereignty and socialism, safeguarding national interests and security, preserving national cultural identity and protecting the environment” and to “promptly prepare and implement the plans for international economic integration with reasonable roadmaps and concrete action plans” [1].
To concretize the policy of the 9th National Party Congress, in November 2001, the Politburo announced Resolution 07/NQ/TW on international economic integration, clearly stipulating targets, guiding principles and specific tasks. This is a breakthrough Resolution, playing a crucial role as a guideline to unify the awareness and actions in the whole Party and people on international economic integration. The Party and State’s positions and policies on international economic integration of the Party and State get high consensus, support and active participation of the entire society, especially the business community.
Another major advantage of our integration into the world economy is the strong platform built by the reform launched since 1986 by the Party. The implications and comprehensive achievements of the reform have created favourable conditions to implement and speed up our international economic integration. Apart from great records in economic growth, other achievements in maintaining political and social stability and broadening and strengthening external relations have also constituted firm foundation and favourable environment for us to enhance our international economic integration. Besides, the initial encouraging results of our economic integration in turn serve as new driving forces to further the reforms in general and international economic integration in particular.
Moreover, we are carrying out our international economy integration in a favourable regional and international context with peace, stability and cooperation as the prevailing trend. At the same time, the process of globalisation and international economic integration in the world is accelerating, granting an impetus to our own course. Our special geopolitical position in the economic development map of the region and the world also provides us with certain competitive advantages during globalisation and international economic integration.
Finally, the pressure to take part in international economic integration requires us to determinedly carry out institutional reforms, change our mind-set on development to be able to seize the opportunities, overcome challenges, and more importantly to turn challenges into opportunities.
However, apart from the said fundamental advantages, our international economic integration is also facing with various difficulties and challenges both from inside and outside, subjective and objective.
Subjectively speaking, we have difficulties and challenges in terms of awareness, viewpoints and policies, weaknesses in management and limitations in integration capability.
To date, we can say that our Party’s and State’s objective and correct understanding and viewpoints have led to sound and appropriate policies on globalisation and international economic integration. However, a considerable number of people and businesses, even Party members and officials, particularly those in the provinces cannot catch up with the requirements of the situation to renew and update their understanding and views on globalisation and international economic integration.
In terms of guidance and management, we are yet to be able to achieve a high consensus of all levels, sectors and the whole economy on proactive preparation and integration into the world. We are still working on a comprehensive strategy and roadmap for integration and so far, we remain passive and our different integration levels and channels are yet complementary and uniform. As such, our economic integration remains slow and ineffective. Some steps and measures still show signs of protectionism and vested interests of various branches and sectors, not founded on the larger interests of the whole economy or society.
Reflections of the limitations and inadequacies in our integration capacity
The competitiveness of our goods, services, enterprises and the whole economy remains low as we started our international economy integration from an underdeveloped economy with slow economic transition, an ineffective State sector and slowly developing private sector. This is one of the major factors hindering the Vietnamese economy’s deep and effective integration into the world and regional economies.
Our market economy mechanism is far from complete and shows fundamental shortcomings. Major markets, especially the capital, labour, real estate, science and technology markets, etc. are still underdeveloped.
Weaknesses in management and operation of state agencies also create obstacles for international economic integration. Our legal system is still deficient and inconsistent, especially in economic and trade areas. Many legal provisions are obsolete as compared to international practices on economics, trade and investment, thus obstructing the planning of integration roadmap, activities and failing to protect our own interests when necessary.
Together with subjective and internal problems, our international economic integration also faces objective difficulties and challenges from outside, namely:
Globalisation and liberalisation create both opportunities and challenges. Developed countries are often able to grasp more opportunities and avoid or overcome challenges and risks thanks to their economic strength while developing countries, including Vietnam, often fall on the opposite due to internal weaknesses. Apart from opportunities and favourable conditions for development, we are always prone to the risk of being lagged behind, inequitable development and suffering negative impacts of international economic integration.
The multilateral trading system has been inherently initiated, formed and dominated by developed countries and as such, contains unequal and disadvantageous rules for developing countries, including Vietnam, who join it later. On the other hand, principles and regulations have become stricter and more demanding.  As a new comer, Vietnam has to implement the rules and regulations long agreed on and carried out by other members. Flexible and preferential principles for developing countries have become more and more limited and difficult to negotiate and achieve.  
Globalisation and liberalisation entail an increase of sophisticated trade barriers and protectionist measures from developed capitalist countries, causing difficulties and damages to developing ones. The increase of trade lawsuits and disputes that we have to deal with in recent years is the clearest evidence for this.
Non-economic impacts of globalisation and international economic integration are not at all marginal. These include challenges to independence, sovereignty, national security, social law and order as well as negative social and environment impacts.
Vietnam’s proactive, comprehensive and deep integration into the world economy           
Our international economic integration is still in the initial phase with so many difficulties and challenges ahead. Therefore, given Vietnam’s proactive, deep and comprehensive integration into the international socio-economic life, it is necessary for us to further build and improve our policies and measures so that international economic integration could bring about more effective outcomes, thus contributing to our cause of national construction and development.
In regard to policies and directions, it is necessary for us to consistently pursue the policy of “actively implementing deeper and fuller international economic integration…. on the basis of serving national interests as the most important target and the key principle” and “in the spirit of taking full advantage of internal force, improving the effectiveness of international cooperation, ensuring independence, sovereignty and socialist orientation, protecting national interests and security, national culture and environment”. These policies and directions were reaffirmed at the 9th and 10th Party Congresses as well as in the resolutions of the Politburo and the Party Central Committee.
Besides, globalisation and international economic integration are still evolving and would definitely undergo many changes in form and nature. As a result, we should closely follow the situation and conduct in-depth researches in order to acquire a comprehensive and accurate understanding of these phenomena as well as the opportunities and challenges on the offer, their pros and cons in order to make necessary adjustments and improvements in our international economic integration policies.
From the policy perspective, we need to promulgate an adequate and synchronous economic policy framework at both macro and micro levels. It is critical to build a socialist-oriented market economy with a high degree of self-reliance and competitiveness able to integrate widely and effectively into the world economy. Policies should be able to enhance efficiency of integration while addressing the relationship between growth and sustainable development as well as providing satisfactory solutions to socio-economic problems.
Apart from improving the policy framework, we should promptly implement a number of measures. First and foremost, it is critical to implement Resolution 08-NQ/TW on Major Policies and Directions for Rapid and Sustainable Economic Growth and Resolution 16/2007/NQ-CP of the Government on the Action Plan to Implement Resolution 08-NQ/TW. Accession to the WTO is the ultimate achievement that we have made in joining international economic institutions. Yet, it is only the first step on the long road to integrate widely and deeply into the world economy.
Second, it is of great significance to enhance the awareness of the Party and people, particularly the business community, on the issue of globalisation and economic integration as well as policies of our Party and State on this matter. The business community is the primary force directly taking part in economic integration. Therefore, they need more information on international economic and trade institutions, of which Vietnam is a member and our international commitments in economic and trade cooperation.
Third, we should finalise the strategy and overall roadmap on economic integration to lay the ground for our relations with different institutions. It is also aimed at putting the whole economic integration process under a single effective command.
Fourth, we should conduct an overall assessment of the competence and competitiveness of all industries, sectors and even enterprises to make right decisions on the roadmap of opening up. It is imperative to carry out thoroughly the policies and guidelines of the Party, State and Government on restructuring, reforming, developing and enhancing the productivity of enterprises. Due attention must be paid to human resources development to meet the demands of integration.
Fifth, it is necessary to continue renewing policy planning activities in the business sector with a view to facilitating the development of enterprises and enhancing their competitiveness in the world market. Our legal system must be improved to make it more compliant with international laws and practices, thus creating basis for our fulfilment of international commitments.
Most importantly, to make the process of integration a success, our economic integration policies and measures must be worked out and implemented under the overall umbrella of the general policies for national construction and development. Economic integration should be consistent with our foreign policy as well as defence, security, cultural, social and economic policies.
Capturing the prevailing development trends of the era and precisely assessing the existing competence of the economy with all its strength, advantages, opportunities, difficulties and challenges, the Party, State and Government have adopted relevant policies, solutions and action plans to further our integration process in a steady and efficient manner. Under the clear-sighted leadership of the Party and firm management of the Government and given the strong support of the society and whole-hearted participation of the business community, we have all the clues to believe that Vietnam is advancing on the path of integration for the sake of “wealthy people, strong country, and just, democratic and civilized society”.

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