[Featured] People of ASEAN series is a segment where we introduce members of our diverse ASEAN community with their unique stories, perspectives, and most importantly their aspirations.

Q1) Please share an introduction of yourself. Share about your career, pastimes as well as any volunteering activities you do.

My Nguyen is currently an Official of Institute for Development Studies in Ho Chi Minh City (HIDS). Her professional works focus on the integration issues regarding free trade, FTAs or WTO. Her duties are researching and giving advices for local government in making policies in terms of importation, exportation, economic development, and trade-related integration.

My Nyguen at her office – Courtesy of My Nguyen

She was a delegate of The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI PFP Spring 2019) and a professional fellow of American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL). Besides, she was also a member of Women’s Empowerment Club (WEC), batch 4 – a project held at The American Center, U.S. General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) from September 2018 to March 2019.

My Nguyen earned her LLM degree in International Trade and Economic Law, University of the West of England, United Kingdom in 2019. She is now a member of Economic Policy Group and R&D Department in Association of Vietnamese Scientists and Experts (AVSE Global) which is a Paris-headquartered organization of Vietnamese scientists and experts with a global reach, pioneering in strategic advisory and science and policy forums, bringing innovative solutions for the sustainable development of Vietnam.

Q2) What does ASEAN mean to you and what are your aspirations towards ASEAN? What do you hope ASEAN will be in the future?

People usually say about ASEAN as a group of nations that include state members being compared to dragons and tigers of Asia. For me, ASEAN could be defined as Association of Stable, Energetic & Amicable Nations.

Over the past fifty years, ASEAN has gradually expanded, developed and become a community with 10 countries. This community was more integrated in institutions and policies, enhancing cooperation in addressing regional issues, serving the lives and businesses of the people. Obviously, the image and position of ASEAN has been affirmed widely by the international community. That is the success of ASEAN.

In the future, I hope ASEAN will become a region of peace where dynamic and friendly citizens can live, love and work freely in a common community. Although there are existing various cultures, I strongly believe that those characteristics are not only creating no barriers between countries but also being the harmony of diversity and originality like a cradle of regional culture. All people will be the members of ASEAN family and feel proud of being a citizen of ASEAN Community. Moreover, ASEAN could be a region of prosperity, where there are no gaps between countries in economic development, no country will be left behind.

Q3) Understand you currently work for the government of Vietnam in the area of economic affairs. Can you share the major challenges and opportunities for ASEAN or Vietnam for the people of ASEAN, especially the youths?

In the context that the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, regional society and economy contain many uncertainties. However, ASEAN is still a potential market with a population of over 642 million and its strategic location being at the center of a large area connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While combating the Covid-19 pandemic, ASEAN continues to face new opportunities and challenges.

“People usually say about ASEAN as a group of nations that include state members being compared to dragons and tigers of Asia. For me, ASEAN could be defined as Association of Stable, Energetic & Amicable Nations.”

– My Nguyen

The Industry 4.0 brings both advantages and disadvantages:

(+) The Industry 4.0 is an opportunity to transition to digital economy. The countries need to apply scientific and technological achievements in economic and social activities as well as in management. Besides, we also need to train and improve skills of workers in the new era, considering this as an important factor in the development of ASEAN.

The world changes rapidly, the advantage of technology skills and access to information belongs to young people, if they know how to seize the opportunities.

(-) The gaps in the development level between countries may be larger. Actually, the Industry 4.0 is not a game for the least developed countries. It is undeniable that developing and least developed countries lack the resources to keep up with others. Therefore, when the world changes too quickly, the gap between countries will be widened.

The differences in economic development among member states, in terms of higher and deeper integration requirements in the new period, require governments to make appropriate economic decisions. As such, ASEAN is facing the request to make the most of opportunities, handle challenges well, avoid the risk of falling behind to continue to achieve sustainable development.

Sustainable economic recovery after COVID-19 pandemic:

(-) Passive reaction to public health crisis: COVID-19 epidemic that occurred in early 2020 has revealed weaknesses in how ASEAN countries as well as others respond to and prevent a public health crisis. In other ways, the community resilience is not strong enough to help countries less affected by the impacts of a pandemic.

Moreover, regional health systems generally fail to address the different needs different classes have with respect to health services. One of significant reasons is the gaps in the health system of nations besides the wise response of the government. The health system and community resilience need to be raised to ensure flexible adaptation to similar pandemics in the future.

(-) Less developed digital healthcare in ASEAN countries: Nowadays, digital healthcare is growing and becoming the industry’s future. Especially, the COVID-19 pandemic causing social distance has emphasized the importance of digitalization in health services. One of the common characteristics of successful digital healthcare implementations is to promote digitization in health sectors as well as to encourage regional businesses in digital healthcare.

(+) Opportunities for investment and higher technology readiness: The coronavirus crisis will fundamentally reshape global trade as the investment is shifting from China to other regions, of which ASEAN is a safe destination and the first choice. Many digital services will be developed. Businesses that could take advantage of such opportunity to digitalize their manufacturing activities and catch the new trends in the markets will be the winners.

This is also an opportunity for young people to seize opportunities, improve skills, and learn about new technologies to ensure that they can adapt to the world in the future.

“I am a woman who believes that everything can be possible once i am alive.” – My Nguyen

My Nyugen with her YSEALI’s host Candace Gerritsen, CEO of IL Chamber of Commerce during a business meeting in Vietnam – Courtesy of My Nguyen

Increasing protectionism in many developed countries and Over dependence on external trade:

The increasing protectionism in many developed countries also contains challenges, negatively affecting the pace of economic development and international trade. During COVID-19 pandemic, the global supply chains have been broken, major manufacturing economies are seriously affected when lack of material supply. All those facts show that ASEAN needs to quickly move away from passive growth and take more proactive measures to drive its economy, reducing its dependence on other markets, and enhancing financial resilience.

In order to fulfill ASEAN’s true potential, the member states need to attract investments, develop institutions, improve technological capabilities. Especially, ASEAN governments need to apply innovative strategies, ensuring to promoting regional connectivity and improving adaptability to achieve their regional growth ambitions.

To be successful, the private sector, especially the millennium generation, will play a significant role by working more closely with governments to solve regional problems.

Q4) What inspires you? Belief and desire. I am a woman who believes that everything can be possible once I am alive. My life purpose is to contribute to the development and prosperity of Vietnam in particular and a better world in general.

My Nyugen (front row, 4th from the right) meeting with local government officials of Yen Bai Province – Courtesy of My Nguyen

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