The Strategic Vision behind Vietnam’s International Trade Integration

Sophie Deprez


This paper evaluates the positioning of Vietnam in international trade. It addresses the key question of how Vietnam uses its participation in international trade agreements as a tool to ensure and advance national interest and security through increased economic power. The paper first examines how Vietnam participates in the international integration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and then looks at the importance for Vietnam to be outward-looking; that is, to participate in trade agreements outside the South-East Asian region. Finally, I examine how reforms required under international trade agreements push Vietnam into domestic economic reforms. My conclusion is that the political elite of Vietnam has identified trade, export-oriented growth and international economic integration as international policy preferences and has used international trade integration as a strategic instrument to maximise these national priorities within the regional and international trade system. Therefore, Vietnam has a very strategic view on international trade integration and uses it as an instrument to ensure its national interest and security through increased economic power. Through careful selection of trade agreements, Vietnam aims to position itself in a strategically advantageous position vis-à-vis other economies of the AEC, to ensure continued economic growth through preferential access to key markets and to push through some of the more difficult and sensitive domestic economic reforms, using its commitments under external trade agreements as a lock-in mechanism.

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