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The transformation of Vietnamese trade policy

Chu, Thao Minh (2019) The transformation of Vietnamese trade policy. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis explores Vietnam’s trade policymaking to generate insights into the factors driving the country’s process of trade liberalization since the 1980s. Vietnam provides an important case for the study of the politics of trade policy, as its rapid transformation from isolation to active trade player has been one of the most dramatic of any country. As a developing country, such trade agreements require costly and highly politically sensitive policy reforms. Moreover, as a country with a one-party socialist political system, its capacity to engage with the capitalist global and regional trade regimes is less than for many of its peers. This situation raises questions about how and why Vietnam has so rapidly adopted a strategy of aggressive trade liberalization through bilateral, regional and global trade agreements?

Previous scholarly research on Vietnam’s trade policy reforms tends to emphasize economic rationales, such as expanding exports and/or attracting inward foreign investment. While these factors are certainly pertinent, they ignore a wider range of transformations within Vietnam that have reconfigured how it engages with the global economy. This study goes beyond economic factors to explore how changes in the actors, interests, ideas, and institutions of Vietnam’s trade policymaking have led to its distinctive type of trade reforms.

Using case study and interview methods, the thesis examines Vietnam’s domestic trade reforms and participation in key international trade agreements. The study argues that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the state took the lead role to advocate for international trade agreements. Underlying these reforms were transformation within the CPV and state, through which a new diplomatic and economic reform mindset and arose over groups opposing trade policy on the ground of potential economic and political risks. Such transformations were facilitated through more pluralistic and inclusive processes within the CPV, and the relations between the party-state and interest groups, contributing to enabling the country’s transformation into an active trade policy player.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Business
Supervisor(s): Rodan, Garry and Wilson, Jeffrey
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