For the second time in its history, Vietnam is set to host the APEC summit and related activities in 2017. Focusing on the overarching theme of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future”, the summit will gather economic leaders of 21 APEC members to discuss the future of free trade, new drivers for economic growth and the role of APEC in tackling common challenges in the region.
These are issues of high importance given the current state of global trade and growth, and that the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement seems increasingly unlikely to move forward as planned. APEC 2017 will also help speed up implementation of the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment by 2020.
The 2017 summit also offers Vietnam an opportunity to showcase itself as a business tourism and conference destination. This has prompted the government to invest in several new infrastructure projects in Da Nang, which will host the final event, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Summit.
In June 2015 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced the country had been selected to host the 25th APEC summit in 2017, with Pham Binh Minh, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, telling media the hosting duties will dovetail with ongoing efforts to enhance foreign trade and international integration. APEC is a key trade bloc, comprising 39% of the world’s population, 59% of its GDP and 48% of its trade. It is also a proponent of free trade, and since its inception in 1989 average tariff rates among members has fallen by nearly two-thirds, while intra-regional trade rose more than seven-fold. Vietnam joined the association in 1998 and also hosted the 2006 summit.
Significance For Vietnam
Joining APEC in 1998 was a key step in Vietnam’s international economic integration. Membership and participation in it is now a critical part of its foreign trade and policy. The MFA reports that APEC members make up some 78% of its foreign investment, 75% of its foreign trade revenues, and 79% of foreign arrivals. Out of 16 free trade agreements either signed or currently under negotiation, 13 are with APEC members. “Hosting APEC for the second time after a decade is a top priority in Vietnam’s foreign policy agenda,” Bui Thanh Son, permanent deputy minister of foreign affairs, told OBG. “It is a vivid reflection of Vietnam’s commitment to comprehensive reform and international integration, and a proactive contribution to shaping multi-layered regional and multilateral cooperation mechanisms.”
Vietnam has taken part in APEC activities since joining the association nearly 20 years ago, including by hosting the APEC year in 2006 and APEC Human Resources Development Ministerial Meeting in 2014. It proposed and co-sponsored more than 100 APEC projects between 1998 and 2016, focusing on growth, emergency preparedness, facilitating global value chains, competition policy, intellectual property, aquaculture, agriculture, science and industry. All of them were implemented. “Playing host to APEC will also add momentum to the economic reform agenda Vietnam is pursuing, since APEC’s cooperation priorities are very much in line with our reform directions,” Son said.
Da Nang Benefit
The year-long summit will be hosted in locations across the country, although the main city and tourist hotspot, Da Nang, will host the culminating event: the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week. Da Nang is already benefiting from APEC upgrades: its People’s Committee announced in 2016 that it had approved a VND243bn ($10.8m) budget to upgrade 34 roads in the city in time for the summit. Also, a new, VND3.5trn ($156m) international passenger terminal at the Da Nang International Airport is slated to open in March 2017.