Brexit ‘will cost lamb and beef suppliers 330m in exports’

WITHDRAWAL from the EU could jeopardise jobs and investment in British agriculture, with farmers losing as much as £330 million on lamb and beef exports alone, David Cameron has claimed.

The Prime Minister warned that British farmers could “suffer enormously” if the UK votes to leave the EU in the referendum he has called for June 23.

Mr Cameron was putting agriculture at the centre of his latest appeal for voters to remain part of the 28-nation bloc as he visited a farm in north Wales. He was later due to address the Welsh Conservative conference.

He said that more than 90% of UK lamb and beef exports – worth around £605 million – currently go to the EU. The farming sector contributes £9.9 billion to the UK economy and employs almost half a million people.

If farmers had to rely on World Trade Organisation rules, rather than EU membership, to secure access to the market of 500 million people in Europe, they could be faced with tariffs costing £240 million a year for beef and £90 million for lamb, he said.

“British farmers and food producers rely on the single market,” said Mr Cameron.

“It gives them access to 500 million consumers, to whom they can sell their goods on an open, unrestricted basis. No tariffs, no barriers, no bogus health and safety rules designed to keep our products out.

“If we left this single market and – as some suggest – relied on World Trade Organisation rules, the extra costs of exporting British beef would be £240 million a year. An extra £90 million would be added to the cost of British lamb exports.

“British agriculture, British farmers and British jobs could suffer enormously if we were to leave the single market.”

His comments came as speculation continued over the source of a newspaper story suggesting that the Queen voiced concerns over the UK’s EU membership in a private lunch with former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Buckingham Palace has lodged a formal complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) about the report in The Sun which appeared under the headline “Queen Backs Brexit”.

But Mr Cameron rejected calls for an official investigation into the leak of the reported comments, insisting that the matter was being dealt with by the Independent Press Standards Organisation and there was no need for a further inquiry.

Speaking on BBC Sussex, Mr Cameron said: “The Palace has made a very clear statement, the former deputy prime minister has made a very clear statement saying that this didn’t happen and I think we should leave it at that.

“There is obviously a proper investigation now being held by the press complaints commission and I think we should let them do their work.”

His comments came as Michael Gove – an ardent Leave campaigner – emerged as the prime suspect for the source of the leak.

The Justice Secretary was one of just four ministers, including Mr Clegg, present at a meeting of the Privy Council held at Windsor Castle in April 2011 when it is thought the conversation with the Queen took place.

A spokeswoman for Mr Gove has refused to comment publicly on the claims, however Mr Cameron appeared to accept that he was not involved.

“These are very serious matters but as far as I can see Michael Gove has made clear that he has no idea where this story came from either,” he told BBC Oxford.

The editor of The Sun Tony Gallagher has strongly defended his paper’s reporting and the “Queen Backs Brexit” headline – even though she did not explicitly advocate leaving the EU in either of the reported conversations referred to in the story.

“Multiple sources – two sources to be precise – came to us with information about the Queen and her views on the EU and we would have been derelict in our duty if we didn’t put them in the paper. It’s as simple as that,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Labour MP Wes Streeting has written to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood urging him to investigate the leak, saying it would be an “extremely serious breach” of Privy Council rules if it came from one of their meetings.

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Interferry acts on ro-ro deck fire safety

Interferry.jpg

Trade association Interferry has produced operational best practice guidance for fire safety on ro-ro vehicle decks in response to a string of major incidents. Measures to enhance fire prevention, detection and suppression highlight the need for continuous monitoring, rapid response and optimum efficiency of deluge drencher systems.

The guidance is based on input from a questionnaire sent to association members last year following at least seven serious fire incidents on ro-pax ships in Europe since 2010. The two most recent incidents resulted in fatalities and total loss of the ships, prompting the initiative by Interferry’s Operators Policy Committee to identify and publicise a common set of best practice mitigating actions.

The findings have been coordinated by an ad hoc working group and are now being circulated to members. The conclusions will also provide technical and operational feedback for fire-related regulatory discussions at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where Interferry has consultative status.

The best practices identified by members are ranked on a rising scale of importance from 1 to 5, with those scoring 4 or 5 being put forward as the following key recommendations:
· Training and drills should emphasise the importance of a rapid response team proceeding directly to the scene of reported smoke/fire with fire extinguishers and without stopping to dress in firefighting gear

· Training should also emphasise the importance of adopting a defensive firefighting posture after the initial response – the paramount requirement being rapid establishment of containment boundaries on all sides of the fire

· For voyages longer than 20nm, no passengers should be allowed access to any ro-ro deck when the ship is under way without the expressed consent of the master or the designated officer. Any passengers allowed access shall be supervised

· During the voyage all vehicle decks should be continuously monitored – with particular attention to connected reefer units and electric vehicles – via technical equipment such as CCTV, by crew patrols or a combination of remote supervision and crew inspection

· The frequency of flushing existing deluge systems as prescribed in MSC.Circ.1432 9.3.1 should be increased from once to twice per five-year period

· For installations in new ships, the deluge system should be manufactured from non-corrosive materials to prevent blockage

· Operators should ensure that all vessels are fitted with addressable fire detectors, as per the mandatory requirement for new passenger ships since 2010

Among other best practices, the guidance addresses the increased fire hazard posed by reefer units and charging of electric vehicles by recommending that only connectors and cables provided by the ship should be used to supply power, with only qualified ship’s crew carrying out the procedures. Operators are also urged to review the positioning of lifesaving appliances to ensure that their integrity and accessibility are protected from heat, smoke and flames passing through ro-ro deck side openings.

Interferry stresses that the guidance is primarily of an operational nature. On design and technical issues that have emerged, operators have concluded that more research is needed to establish best practices, notably regarding the fluid dynamics effects related to crosswinds over open ro-ro decks.

Regulatory affairs director Johan Roos comments: “Work to enhance fire safety is a never-ending process and this guidance is a timely further step in that direction. The best practices suggested by our members should carry huge weight because they reflect years of hands-on experience. They share knowledge on what we already know – that prevention is better than cure – and they remind us that, if the worst happens, every second counts in minimising the effects.”

Further to this initial round of guidance, Interferry plans to issue a more comprehensive version in order to include additional input that is still being provided by members – not only operators but, importantly, also classification societies.
Source: InterFerry

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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 11/3

Damco expands logistics capacity

Damco, one of the world’s leading third-party logistics providers, has unveiled its expanded Southern Vietnam Logistics Center in Binh Duong province.

Covering 37,150 sq.m and 141 loading bays, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism-certified multi-purpose warehouse is equipped with the latest technologies such as a High Jump CFS management system, RF scanning, a sprinkler system and a digital CCTV system.

The new facility, an important pillar of a multi-year capacity expansion plan, “will enable Damco Vietnam’s customers’ supply chains to become more competitive by optimizing their logistics costs while ensuring that tangible reduction of their environmental emissions,” according to a release from Damco Vietnam.

Together with the recent development of the Hai Phong warehouse in North Vietnam to 11,500 sq.m, Damco Vietnam’s warehouse capacity stands at 73,000 sq.m across five sites.

Damco’s growing Contract Logistics operation now has over 25,000 sq.m of space to serve customers in the industrial, retail, fashion, and chemical sectors.

“Noteworthy is the acquisition of our bonded license capability in Hai Phong and the possibility to perform activities such as metal detection and CNI (Certificate of No Impediment) and inner carton checking within our HCM facility,” said Marco Civardi, Area Managing Director for Damco in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Taxi company Uber Vietnam cuts fares

Taxi company Uber Vietnam cuts fares, Piaggio recalls faulty Zip motorcycles, Ford reports record sales in February, HCM City supports new business park, Vietnam mobile phones exempt from Turkey’s safeguard duty

Taxi company Uber Vietnam has recently announced that it has cut the fare of its UberX service in HCM City by 15 percent.

The price of the service is now 7,000 VND per kilometre.

The company attributed the new price policy to a decline in petrol prices.

The prices applied at the current time may be changed based on the market, the company said.

In another development, Uber has announced many programmes to support their drivers in Hanoi and HCM City.

The programmes include a 10-15 percent reduction of maintenance service for Total, a 10-18 percent discount if family members take courses at Apollo and Language Link schools, and an 18-20 percent discount for goods bought from online retailer Zalora.vn.

Piaggio recalls faulty Zip motorcycles

More than 1,200 Piaggio Zip motorcycles assembled in Vietnam were discovered to have faulty fuel-level sensors that need immediate repair services.

In its latest press release, Piaggio Vietnam confirmed that the Vietnam Register approved the recalling of 1,201 Piaggio Zips assembly between June 10, 2015 and October 12, 2015.

The error was discovered during the periodical checks, registering that some fuel-level sensors of Piaggio Zip units failed to meet the company’s technical standards. This may cause fuel leakages and fire risk later on if left unattended.

So far there have been no incidents due to the aforementioned problem, but Piaggio decided to recall all vehicles suspected of fault and replace the sensors free of charge. The time schedule for the check and replacement is 30 minutes.

The recall and replacement campaign started on March 4, 2016.

In 2015, about 630 motorcycles assembled by Piaggio were recalled due to a malfunction of electric rotors.

Ford reports record sales in February

Ford’s overall retail sales jump 65 per cent on year to 1,524 units in February, even when the month was shortened due to the Tet Holiday.

“Our record February sales was led by our segment-leading global Ford vehicles – particularly the Ranger, Transit and EcoSport – which are continuing to widen their appeal with customers across the country,” said Pham Van Dung, managing director of Ford Vietnam.

The segment-defining Ranger led Vietnam’s pickup truck segment for the 12 consecutive months by delivering February sales that soared 247 per cent to 660 units. Year-to-date sales of the Ranger have nearly tripled from a year ago to 1,963 units.

The Transit maintained its leadership of the commercial van segment for the 41 consecutive months with sales increasing 110 per cent year-over-year to 577 units.

Transit sales year-to-date have increased 80 per cent to 1,160 units as business owners and operators across a range of industries continue to appreciate the durability, versatility and value proposition that this high-quality commercial vehicle delivers.

The EcoSport compact SUV continued as one of Ford’s best-selling vehicles with February sales increasing 2 per cent from a year ago to 222 units, helping drive its year-to-date sales up nine per cent to 670 units.

Vietnamese’s demand for cars showed no signs of cooling down as sales numbers broke the record again in 2015. According to the year-end report of Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, the total industry sales were 244,914 units in 2015, compared to 2014’s 157,810. The growth rate is also the highest ever – 55 per cent, continuing on the trend of accelerating growth of the previous years.

Finland helps develop smart power grid in Viet Nam

The Central Power Corporation and Finland’s ABB Oy Company launched mini Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system projects in the central and Central Highlands regions with the aim to develop a smart power grid there.

The introduction of the mini SCADA system in Tam Ky city of central Quang Nam province and Pleiku city of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is vital to minimise system faults, reduce the risk of accidents and improve the effectiveness of power supply. – Illustrative Image/Photo pasco.com.vn

The introduction of the mini SCADA system in Tam Ky city of central Quang Nam province and Pleiku city of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is vital to minimise system faults, reduce the risk of accidents and improve the effectiveness of power supply.

Investment for the two projects totaled around 4.5 million USD.

Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Hoang Quoc Vuong said that since 2006, with a preferential credit worth 10.5 million EUR (11.5 million USD) from Finland, the Central Power Corporation has built the mini SCADA system in four cities in the central and Central Highlands regions, which have produced positive results.

He expressed his hope that in the time to come, the electricity sector will continue receiving official development assistance (ODA) and preferential credit from the Finnish Government to invest in modernising the national grid in line with a development roadmap of Viet Nam’s power system.

According to Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Lenita Toivakka, the mini SCADA projects in Tam Ky and Pleiku cities will use Finland’s technologies to increase the efficiency and reliability of power supply systems.

A more frequent and stable power supply will help step up economic growth and raise the quality of locals’ living conditions, she added.

Finland has so far provided assistance for approximately 20 projects with a total investment of 57 million EUR in health, environment, clean water and energy in Viet Nam.

Korean investor pours $171 million in Can Tho

On March 7, the Can Tho Export Processing and Industrial Zones Management Authority licensed South Korea’s Taekwang Industrial  to implement a $171 million shoe-manufacturing factory in 2B Hung Phu industrial park in Cai Rang district in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

The factory covers an area of 62 hectares, 52 hectares of which is to hold the production area, while the remaining 10 hectares is set aside as a service and commercial area and warehouse for lease.

The investor is completing the necessary procedures to implement the project and expects to carry out the land clearance in the next three months.

The factory’s construction is divided into three phases. The first phase’s construction is expected to kick off in 2016 and last until 2019, with the second and third phases to be finished by 2022 and 2025, respectively. The factory constructed during the first phase will start operation in the first quarter of 2017, while the second phase will be inaugurated in 2020 and the third phase in 2023.

Once the factory comes into operation, it will have a total capacity of 100 million of products per year and create 30,000 jobs.

“Taekwang Industrial’s shoe-manufacturing factory has been the largest foreign investment project in Can Tho since 2008. It plays an import role in dealing with Can Tho’s employment issues,” said Le Manh Tung, deputy director of the Can Tho Department of Planning and Investment.

“The city will grant investment certificates for numerous foreign invested projects in the upcoming time, one of which will be Korean LS Mtron Company’s $20 million agricultural machine production facility. Besides, the city is considering documents from Singapore International Pegasus University, with the total investment of approximately $15 million, and a Singaporean life skills training school,” Tung added.

Furthermore, numerous foreign investors are surveying the city’s investment environment to explore investment opportunities in the hotels and resorts, energy, cosmetics production, garment and textile, garbage treatment, and hospitality industries.

According to the Can Tho Department of Planning and Investment’s statistics, as of February 20, 2016, Can Tho attracted 68 foreign invested projects with the total registered capital of $756.6 million. In 2015 alone, the city granted investment certificates for seven projects worth a total sum of $19.1 million.

Thai energy giants hope to plug into national power grid

Two Thai firms, Ratch Co., Ltd and Country Group Holdings, are seeking investment opportunities to fill  gaps in power projects in Vietnam.

Ratch Co., Ltd (Ratch) revealed investment plans for Vietnam’s Haiphong 3 thermal power project in last week’s meeting with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

Located in the northern port of Haiphong, Haiphong 3 thermal power is backed by Vietnam’s state-run mining group Vinacomin, the country’s third largest power investor. The plant has a total capacity of 600 megawatts and is expected to make a significant contribution to the electricity supply for the northern provinces.

MoIT Deputy Minister Hoang Quoc Vuong commented that Ratch should discuss investments directly with Vinacomin, as well as suggesting that the company choose other projects in Vietnam’s power development master plan for the 2011-2020 period, with a vision to 2030, such as joining with Thailand’s EGATi to invest in the proposed Quang Tri thermal power station in the central province.

After receiving government approval in August 2013, a memorandum of understanding for the 1,200MW coal-fired power plant was drawn up, classifying the $2.26 billion Quang Tri energy project as a build-operate-transfer (BOT) venture which is expected to come online in 2021. The proposal’s initial construction, currently slated for 2017, will depend heavily on the upcoming negotiation process.

Deputy director of the Quang Tri Department of Industry and Trade Ho Hiep Nghia told VIR that the Quang Tri thermal power project had completed its pre-feasibility study, after which it could begin its BOT contract negotiations. This next step is a tricky process that often causes headaches for energy projects, resulting in construction delays.

Vuong also suggested that Ratch could take part in the government-directed equitisation of state-run Electricity of Vietnam’s Power Generation Corporation (Genco) and its  subsidiaries (Genco 1, Genco 2, and Genco 3). The three Gencos began operations in 2013 and are not on the list of corporations in which the state is required to hold a controlling stake.

In the same week, Thailand’s Country Group Holdings, which provides securities brokerage, trading, and underwriting as well as investment advice, showed interest in the renewable energy sector in Vietnam.

Vuong said that in recent years the Vietnamese government has been calling for investment into renewable energy projects after realising the limited potential of traditional fossil fuel power sources, such as coal and crude oil. Severe nationwide electricity shortages have been harmful for the nation.

According to Vietnam’s power development master plan for the 2011-2020 period, with a vision to 2030, Vietnam intends to raise the proportion of renewable energy to 6 per cent of the total power supply by 2030, up from 3.5 per cent in 2010.

Tribunal to set right disputes

An efficient mechanism to resolve future disagreements within the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement is expected to ensure fairness for both parties.

Bruno Angelet, Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Vietnam, said that regarding the settlement of investor-state disputes, a unique feature of the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) was the agreement to set up an investment tribunal system.

“Vietnam is our first trade partner to endorse this innovative mechanism proposed by the EU to its partners. It will considerably increase Vietnam’s attractiveness for European investment,” Angelet told EuroCham’s Whitebook launching ceremony last week.

According to the EVFTA’s Chapter 13 on dispute settlement, the deal creates a framework to resolve any future disagreements that may occur between the EU and Vietnam about the interpretation and implementation of most aspects of the agreement.

The system is intended as a last resort should the parties fail to find a solution by other means. Should parties fail to reach an agreement through formal consultation, they can request the establishment of a panel, made up of independent legal experts. As an alternative to a formal settlement mechanism for disputes, the EU and Vietnam also set rules that will allow for mediation to tackle measures that adversely affect bilateral trade and investment.

According to EuroCham in Vietnam, with such an investment tribunal system stipulated in the EVFTA, investors may have their disputes resolved more conveniently and impartially.

In past years, when a dispute happened, investors were often reluctant to settle the issue in Vietnamese courts because they felt uncertain about the independence of the judges. In cases where the value of the contract was substantial, they would choose instead to resolve it by international arbitration. Although international arbitration is often costly and time consuming, an international arbitral award is generally enforceable in most jurisdictions around the world under the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

According to the People’s Supreme Court, from January 2005-June 2014 the number of applications for the recognition and enforcement of international arbitral awards was 52 in Hanoi and 52 in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a handful in other localities.

For example, in July 2014 the US’ South Fork Development Company tried to sue the Vietnamese government for $3.7 billion. However, the International Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favour of the Vietnamese government.

In 2004, South Fork was licensed to develop a 600-hectare property in the south-central province of Binh Thuan, which included a five-star luxury resort, golf courses, luxury apartments, and entertainment facilities.

In December 2009, the provincial People’s Committee gave 333 hectares to South Fork to develop the project. However, in 2010 the committee revoked the investment certificate due to long construction delays, but South Fork took the committee to the International Arbitration Tribunal, demanding $3.7 billion in compensation for delays in releasing land to the investor.

South Fork blamed the committee for having allowed the locally-invested Duong Lam Company to exploit titanium on the project’s site without its approval, causing delays in project construction. The committee, however, argued that South Fork had to be responsible for the delay as it had previously signed an agreement with Duong Lam for the exploitation.

In another case, in June 2012, Swiss-based Louis Dreyfus Commodities Suite SA asked Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice and Hanoi’s People’s Court to recognise and enforce the International Cotton Association arbitral tribunal’s ruling against locally-owned Dong Phat Joint Stock Company.

In October 2011, the tribunal tried a dispute in sales contracts involving the two companies. It finally required Dong Phat to return over $748,000 plus interest to the Swiss company.

Self Wing gets investment licence in Da Nang

The central city’s planning and investment department granted an investment licence to the Self Wing Viet Nam Company in the business start-up education sector yesterday.

Viet Nam is the first country where the company has set up its personal education system in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang.

As per the plan, the Self Wing International College will open in the central city next July to support an anticipated surge in Japanese investment into Viet Nam and Da Nang City in the coming years.

According to the city’s investment promotion centre, Da Nang has drawn 390 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects with a total capital of US$3.6 billion, of which nearly 100 projects, worth $390 million, are from Japan.

Last year, the city’s investment promotion centre also launched its Japanese Desk Da Nang team, which will be available every Wednesday to help Japanese investors with information about administrative procedures, investment licences, priority policies and other adjustments.

The city plans to build a 134ha industrial park for medium and small-sized businesses from Japan.

FPT Software has sent 101 information technology (IT) trainees from Da Nang, Ha Noi and HCM City to participate in a nine-month training programme in Japan.

The training is being held as part of the 10,000-Bridge Software Engineer (BrSE) programme.

Ho Chi Minh City spotlighted by international expos

More than 292 exhibitors from over 28 countries and territories showcased new products and advanced technologies at the three-day events Propak Vietnam 2016 and Plastic & Rubber Vietnam 2016 held last week in Ho Chi Minh City.

Propak Vietnam 2016 is the leading international promotion event for the growing Vietnamese food, drink, and pharmaceutical industries, featuring packaging solutions, confectionery production machinery, food ingredients, and a wide range of other products.

Meanwhile, the sixth Plastic & Rubber Vietnam is offering manufacturers a range of high-end technologies and equipment catering to all factory production demands, and is being held concurrently with Propak.

“This year’s Propak Vietnam is the biggest edition since its first launch in 2005, which indicates the growing demand for product packaging, driven both by exports and domestic consumption,” said Tran Viet Dung, deputy director of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Centre (VCCI).

He added that the events encourage industrialists to develop their businesses and seek new technologies and innovations, while networking with world-famous companies. Among the exhibitors, the Italian and German pavilions attract a substantial number of visitors and buyers, thanks to the advanced machinery and technologies showcased.

According to Vera Fritsche, the host of the German Pavilion, there is an increasing need for modern and attractive packaging solutions and Vietnam‘s demand for plastic and machinery is growing fast. In 2014, Germany, again, was one of the country’s most important sales partners in food processing and packaging machinery, following close behind China.

“Propak Vietnam 2016 and Plastic & Rubber Vietnam 2016 are the most important platforms for German companies to present their products and solutions to the Vietnamese industry,” she stated.

Experts share experience in maintaining small-scale projects

Vietnamese and Japanese experts shared experience in the sustainable management of small-scale technical projects funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) during a workshop in Hanoi on March 9.

Nakamura Tomoki, a representative from the Nippon Koei Vietnam Limited Company, said the regular exchange of information on the progress and outcome of a project as well as arising problems is essential.

This will help adjust Japanese projects to suit reality in Vietnamese localities, allowing more effective implementation, participants said.

Doctor Ngo Tung Duc from Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry suggested involving local people in feasibility study for small-scale projects, in order to mobilize local resources for project implementation.

Projects must also prove their efficiency to local development before they are expanded, panels said.

JICA has been carrying out 81small-scale technical projects in various fields in Vietnam since 2002 under the Japan Partnership Programme (JPP).

As part of the Japanese Government’s official development assistance (ODA) programme, JPP aims to support socio-economic development for developing countries, including Vietnam.

Dutch businesses seek opportunities in Binh Duong

A delegation from the Netherlands went on a fact-finding tour of the southern province of Binh Duong on March 9 to seek investment opportunities in the locality.

The delegation, comprising businesses operating in the cheese industry, logistics, and agricultural imports, was led by Cees Bijl, mayor of Emmen city, and Karel Loohuis, mayor of Hoovegeen city.

At a working session with the delegation, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Thanh Liem said that local authorities will create favourable conditions for foreign investors, aiming to encourage investment in the locality. 

Meanwhile, provincial Party Committee Secretary Tran Van Nam and Cees Bijl appreciated the implementation of the signed cooperation agreement between Binh Duong and Emmen in late 2015.

Both sides hope that the investment cooperation between them will continue to grow in the coming years, especially in the fields of technology, logistics, hi-tech agriculture, law, education, and healthcare.

So far, Dutch investors have poured about 700 million USD into 41 projects in Binh Duong.

The province now has 28 industrial parks, attracting over 2,600 FDI enterprises with total investment capital of 25 billion USD.

Last year, Binh Duong’s export turnover reached 21 billion USD, up 17.9 percent against 2014. The province enjoyed a trade surplus of 3.7 billion USD.

Binh Duong, Dutch law firms ink cooperation deal

The Netherlands’ Twiceans International Law Firm and the Becamex Law Firm of southern Binh Duong province on March 9 signed a cooperation agreement on providing legal services and sharing experience during 2016-2020.

The cooperation is under a programme to enhance the relationship between Binh Duong and Emmen city, the Netherlands, following a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the two localities’ relations in economics, trade, services, investment and judicial affairs signed on November 17, 2015.

Accordingly, domestic legal cases in the Vietnamese province will be addressed by the Becamex Law Firm, while the Twiceans International Law Firm will take over foreign-related cases.

Through this agreement on sharing the lead in cases, the two companies will exchange their legal understanding.

Also on the day, Emmen Mayor Cees Bijl and Hoogeveen Mayor Karel Loohuis along with representatives of Dutch enterprise had a working session with Binh Duong leaders to seek further investment cooperation opportunities.

Binh Phuoc builds geographical indications for cashew products

Specialists and relevant agencies of southern Binh Phuoc province are working to develop geographical indications (GIs) for local cashew products, ultimately raising the goods’ competitiveness in foreign markets.

The work is being carried out under a project on supporting GI development in Vietnam.

The project, by the National Office of Intellectual Property, is implemented at a total cost of over 1.35 million USD, including 1.09 million USD in official development assistance funded by the French Government. The remaining sum is being covered by Vietnam.

The project’s specialists found that although Binh Phuoc’s cashew products are not renowned in international markets yet, local soil and climate conditions are very favourable for large-scale cashew cultivation.

Forty-four cashew processing companies in the province have been recognised as meeting ISO standards. The quality of local cashew nuts is also much higher than that of those hailing from other Vietnamese localities.

The specialists said these are optimal conditions for developing GIs for Binh Phuoc’s cashew products.

At a meeting on March 9, representatives of State agencies, businesses and farmers pointed out an array of problems in building cashew GIs such as how to help companies work with farmers to create large-scale, stable growing areas to ensure material supplies; or how to enhance cooperation among cashew processors who always compete with one another.

Another concern is that companies might source cashews from other localities to process and label their products with the Binh Phuoc origin.

Le Thi Anh Tuyet, Director of the province’s agriculture and fisheries promotion centre, underlined the role of enterprises for successful GI development. It is necessary to make firms realise that they have to join hands in building brands, if they want the local cashew industry to enter global markets.

Binh Phuoc has 134,000 hectares of cashew which yields 190,000 tonnes of nuts annually, with an average productivity of 1.4 tonnes per hectare.

Hanoi leads in attracting foreign direct investment

Hanoi attracted the most foreign direct investment in the first two months of 2016: US$250 million, 13% of Vietnam’s total. The figure is the result of the city’s efforts to simplify administrative procedures and improve its investment environment.

FDI projects are mainly in real estate (46%) manufacturing and processing in industrial parks, trade, and services. An increasing number of Japanese and Korean businesses are investing in trade and services.

Nguyen Anh Dung of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment said “Hanoi authorities have been focusing on administrative reform and improving the investment environment to facilitate business operations. The results in the first two months of 2016 follow Hanoi’s previous achievements in investment attraction.”

Dung said the city should work hard to maintain its momentum in attracting foreign investment. The People’s Committee, the Department of Planning and Investment, and other agencies have begun to streamline administrative procedures for investors.

“We’ve proposed reducing 10%-30% the time required for administrative procedures and making a list of projects calling for investment. We are reviewing a number of investment areas for licensing,” he added.

Hanoi has consistently been among the localities attracting the most foreign direct investment over the last 10 years. It ranked 3rd in the first 9 months of 2015 after Bac Ninh and HCM city.

Dutch investors seek joint ventures with local entrepreneurs

A delegation of Dutch investors arrived in southern Binh Duong province on March 9 to explore investment opportunities in different sectors of the economy, especially in the agro-processing and hospitality sectors.

The Netherlands Emmen City Mayor Cees Bijl said the delegation is representing 30 companies across all sectors including agro-processing, manufacturing, hospitality, engineering, real estate, as well as the SME sector.

According to Mayor Bijl, the Dutch investors are seeking business opportunities and partnerships with local business people.

Chairman Tran Thanh Liem of the provincial People’s Committee welcomed the delegation saying, he appreciated the opportunity to explain to the investors the opportunities the province has to offer.

“Our task is to link them with local entrepreneurs so that they can share business experiences and, hopefully, build joint ventures with the local private sector players,” Liem added.

There are already some Dutch companies in different sectors of the economy.

The Netherlands is one of the leading exporters of agricultural produce.

On the same day, a cooperation agreement between two international law firms – the Netherlands Twiceans Internationnal Law Firm and Vietnam Becamex Law Firm –  was consummated.

HCM City supports new business park

Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong on March 7 met with Miguel Ko Kai Kwun, CEO of Ascendas-Singbridge group to discuss the “One HubSaigon complex” project in Ho Chi Minh City.

Chairman of the HCM City’s People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong (6th from left) poses in a photo with representatives from Ascendas-Singbridge group (Photo: Sggp)

The OneHub Saigon complex costing US$130 million will be located at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in the heart of District 9 and Thu Duc District.

The project is a joint venture between Ascendas Land Vietnam of Singapore and the UK’s Saigon Bund company. It received investment license in September 2014.

The city’s leader highly appreciated construction of the OneHub Saigon complex invested by Ascendas-Singbridge group. He hoped that the project will meet the demand for working, living and studying of people in the city.

The Vietnamese Government and the city People’s Committee will create safe and attractive business environment for foreign investors, and help them solve all their problems, he added.

Ho Chi Minh City’s authorities hold open dialogue with business community

Authorities of Ho Chi Minh City held a meeting on March 8 to meet with businesses in the city to listen to and discuss unresolved issues and proposals.

The meeting was chaired by Politburo member and Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City municipal Party Committee Dinh La Thang, members of the Party Central Committee and Vice Secretaries of the municipal Party Committee Tat Thanh Cang and Nguyen Thanh Phong.

At the meeting, representatives from professional associations and businesses openly stated shortcomings in relevant policies and contributed valuable ideas for the city’s development. Most of the ideas focused on policies related to tax, access to preferential capital, fees and charges, development of the support industry and human resources in order to meet requirements of international integration, and administrative reforms and regulations on wages, social and voluntary insurance.

They also asked for the early construction of an internationally and regionally-scaled exhibition centre; support to promote businesses’ brand names, develop retail markets and consume locally-made products; food security and infrastructural development.

Several delegates proposed suggestions to build Ho Chi Minh City into an economic, financial, commercial, scientific and technological centre in Southeast Asia.

Concluding the conference, Thang promised the business community that the city’s leaders would address the suggestions openly and transparently, saying that they always consider the crucial role of businesses and therefore endeavour to provide them with adequate attention in order to lift difficulties and create an open and transparent business environment, in addition to supporting businesses to access resources and stimulating start-up movements.

Thai startup business, Getlinks expands investment to Vietnam

Bangkok-based tech recruitment platform Getlinks has secured US$500,000 seed funding from Cyber Agent Ventures to expand operation to Vietnam and Singapore.

GetLinks – which counts Google, Uber, Line and Lazada among its customers in Thailand – sees a huge potential for tech recruitment offering in Vietnam, which has recorded a surge in investment inflows into the startup space.

Nguyen Manh Dung, chief representative of CAV in Vietnam and Thailand said recruiting is one of the biggest obstacles facing startups. He hoped that Getlinks will help tackle the problem not only in Southeast Asia but also global market.

DjoannFal, CEO and founder of GetLinks, said “Asia’s tech industry is entering into its golden age, startups, corporates and governments want to get into tech. But with this growth comes massive challenges for startups to build the right team due to limited talent pool and lack of quality supply channels. We aim to bring efficiency to this tech hiring market by providing a quality tech talent pipeline at an affordable price.”

To facilitate its foray into Vietnam, GetLinks will co-organize the Saigon Tech Startup Fest for startups at the Independence Palace on March 12, expecting over 3,000 tech attendees.

Wood processors weak in capital and market access

A majority of wood processing enterprises in Vietnam have limited access to capital and markets as they are categorized as small and ultra-small, according to the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (HAWA).

HAWA said up to 93% of local wood processing enterprises are small and ultra-small. Medium enterprises account for 5.5% of the total and big firms make up the remainder.

Speaking to the Daily at the opening of the Vietnam International Furniture and Home Accessories Fair 2016 (VIFA EXPO 2016) on March 8, HAWA vice chairman Huynh Van Hanh said financial capability and market access are among the weaknesses of Vietnamese wood processing firms.

The wood processing industry is expected to ship abroad US$7.6 billion worth of products this year. According to Hanh, to achieve the target, enterprises will need assistance to sell products to major markets and upgrade production technologies.

Phung Quoc Man, director of Bao Hung Co Ltd, said designs and creativity of Vietnamese enterprises remain weak. Currently 70% of wood processors in Vietnam rely on outsourcing contracts from foreign partners and just do what their customers order. A few businesses are able to develop their own designs and items.

“This makes enterprises unable to compete with foreign companies. If domestic enterprises can focus more on designs, more value could be added to their products,” Man said.

Regarding the difficulties faced by enterprises in the industry, Man pointed out the slow refunding of value-added tax (VAT) had cut into their working capital.

However, Hanh is optimistic that the wood processing industry will grow strongly  this year as there have been more orders because of the country’s signing of new free trade agreements and its cheap labor.

Wood processing enterprises have prepared themselves well to meet strict requirements of the U.S. and EU markets for product origin, he added.

Vietnam earned US$6.9 billion from exporting wooden products last year, up 10.7% against the previous year. Vietnam is currently one of the world’s six biggest wooden goods exporters.

Lasting until this Friday, VIFA EXPO 2016 at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center features 1,234 booths (a 36% rise against 2014) manned by 253 exhibitors. Of the total number, Vietnamese and foreign-invested enterprises make up 77% and 58 firms from 12 countries and territories account for the rest.

At the opening ceremony, HAWA gave prizes to top eight entries in a design contest for indoor and outdoor furniture entitled Hoa Mai (apricot). Huynh Tan Anh Tuan brought home first prize for Workspace Desk.

The 13th contest drew 191 contestants with 238 entries. Member enterprises of HAWA supported contestants to create 20 works and those outstanding designs are on show at VIFA EXPO 2016.

The prize-winning designs of last year’s contest will be displayed at the International Furniture Fair Singapore taking place in the island state from March 10 to 13.

Land use fee weighs on property firms

The HCMC Real Estate Association (HoREA) has said property firms are complaining about the current land use fee calculation method which makes life hard for them.

In a document recently sent to the HCMC delegation of National Assembly (NA) deputies, the association proposed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment make the land use fee calculation method more transparent.

HoREA proposed replacing the current land use fee with a land use tax making up a fixed percentage of land value. This will make the tax transparent and easy to calculate, and help eliminate the ask-and-give mechanism in the property sector.

Explaining why the current land use fee is a burden for property investors, HoREA chairman Le Hoang Chau said they have to pay a huge amount of money for land compensation in line with the market price but they do not have this money deducted correspondingly when they pay the land use fee for local government.

Chau took a big project under construction in District 7 as an example. The average land compensation is VND6 million per square meter but the investor got a deduction of only VND1.2 million per square meter when it made the land use fee payment for the city.

In addition, according to Chau, investors do not know exactly how much they would have to pay land use fee for the city government as it depends on each lot of land.

“The investor will only know the exact payable amount when a leader of the city signs a decision approving the project,” he said.

The association proposed permitting owners of resettlement housing to sell and transfer their units and those eligible for buying resettlement homes to transfer their home buy rights.

Nevertheless, as argued by the association based on the civil code and in line with the 2014 housing law, owners of resettlement homes have the right to make decisions relating to their properties and the right to buy resettlement homes is also their property ownership right.

According to Chau, the property market has recovered since late 2013. In 2015 alone, VND140 trillion in credit flowed into HCMC’s property market, making up 12.3% of total outstanding loans in the city. Additionally, around US$1.3 billion of US$5.5 billion in overseas remittances sent to HCMC last year found its way to the property sector.

However, the market has seen signs of the upscale housing segment being overheated with prices of high-end homes surging 5-15%.

Of around 1,400 property projects approved in HCMC, 190 projects have been recalled or had their licenses invalidated. Of some 1,220 valid projects, 405 projects have not got off the ground and 97 projects have been put on hold after a period of construction.

The association forecast the city’s property market will grow further this year and that there will be more budget apartments, commercial houses with reasonable prices, industrial properties, offices for lease and serviced apartments.

MSLGROUP acquires Venus Communications in Vietnam

MSLGROUP, a member of Publicis Groupe, has announced the acquisition of Venus Communications Ltd, one of the leading PR and communications agencies in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, MSLGROUP is a part of Publicis One, a global communications enterprise that brings together Publicis Groupe agency brands’ capabilities and expertise under one roof.

Publicis One said in a statement that Venus and MSLGROUP have collaborated successfully in numerous international client assignments across Asia and globally. Venus Communications has more than 40 employees at its offices in HCMC and Hanoi.

Venus Communications is strong in public relations and activation. Its clients include MasterCard, FedEx, Rolls Royce, BAT, Mead Johnson, and Sanofi.

After the acquisition, Venus Communications will operate under the brand name of MSLGROUP with Giang Quang Tuan remaining as managing director.

Glenn Osaki, president of MSLGROUP in Asia, said in the statement that Venus Communications officially becoming a part of MSLGROUP is a natural step after having been a trusted partner for years.

“It strengthens MSLGROUP’s position to lead the ongoing transformation of the public relations industry in Asia,” Osaki said.

Meanwhile Tuan said joining MSLGROUP will provide global and regional resources for the company’s clients and give its employees opportunities for international careers and access to world leading talent programs.

MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s strategic communications and engagement group, advisors in all aspects of communication strategy. With more than 3,000 people working at nearly 100 offices worldwide, the group is the largest PR network in Europe.

Vinamilk asked to buy fresh milk from Evergrowth Cooperative

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tran Thanh Nam has requested Vietnam Dairy Products Joint Stock Co. (Vinamilk) to purchase fresh cow milk from Evergrowth Cooperative in Soc Trang Province.

Nam made the request in a written document recently sent to the general director of Vinamilk after Evergrowth Cooperative petitioned the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to ask Vinamilk to sign a contract to buy fresh milk from the cooperative. Besides, the government of Soc Trang Province is calling for Vinamilk to open more milk purchasing points to help dairy farmers in the Mekong Delta province.

Evergrowth Cooperative used to sell fresh milk to Vinamilk before shifting to another dairy processor in 2012.

Luong Van Quyet, director of Soc Trang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the cooperative’s current daily sales volume is 24 tons but its daily output is 35 tons. The cooperative is ready to sell the surplus at reduced prices, Quyet said.

Vinamilk has clinched a memorandum of understanding with Soc Trang to assist the province in techniques and models for cow farming, food supply, and disease control.

Evergrowth Cooperative members have risen to 2,700 from 171 in 2004 and their dairy cows number 7,000, up from 477 around 16 years ago.

Over the years, the cooperative has helped many farmers in the province get out of poverty. In 2014, the province launched a project worth VND286 billion (US$13 million) to increase the dairy cow herd to 17,800 head with total fresh milk output of 23,000 tons per year in 2020.

However, Quyet said the dairy cow herd could only be expanded when the province secured contracts to sell the entire fresh milk output to dairy firms.

Vietnam mobile phones exempt from Turkey’s safeguard duty

Turkey has decided not to impose a safeguard tariff on mobile phones imported from Vietnam after calling off an investigation into the product, said the Vietnam Competition Authority under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

In July last year, Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci announced the nation might slap safeguard tariffs of 10-15% on imported cell phones. In early December 2014, Turkey opened a safeguard investigation into Vietnamese-made mobile phones following a lawsuit filed by local firm Vestel Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.Ş.

Turkish investigators worked with relevant parties, including Vietnam’s Trade Office in Turkey and a couple of Vietnamese enterprises, in the foreign country in March last year.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, which may be affected by the investigation, sent a document to oppose the plaintiff’s claim. Samsung said in a joint statement of its subsidiaries in Vietnam, China and India that the enterprise holds a big share of Turkish’s mobile phone market and makes investment in the country as well.  

According to the Vietnam Competition Authority, Vietnam exported US$643 million worth of cell phones to Turkey in the January-November period of 2014. The figure was US$418 million in all of 2013.

Vietnam is the second biggest exporter of mobile phones to Turkey, accounting for 23.4% of Turkey’s total imports, while China ranked first with 67.5%, according to Turkey’s document sent to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2014.

Vietnam’s Trade Office in Turkey said due to a huge trade deficit, Turkey usually uses trade defense measures to restrict imports. Vietnam has faced a number of anti-dumping, safeguard and avoidance of anti-dumping investigations conducted by Turkey.

The foreign country has investigated the avoidance of anti-dumping taxes on Vietnamese plywood, granite and cold rolled stainless steel welded tubes, and launched anti-dumping probes into Vietnam’s polyester fibers, fiber, air-conditioners and auto tires, besides safeguard investigations into mobile phones, woven fabric, clothing and shoes produced in the ASEAN nation.  

Among them, the safeguard investigation into Vietnamese-made mobile phones was a rare case as Vietnam usually had to deal with trade defense investigations into labor-intensive items.

VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VET/VIR

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Hakim favors Lebanon joining WTO to bolster economy

11 March 2016


BEIRUT: Economy and Trade Minister Alain Hakim said Thursday that Lebanon should draw a road map and a plan that would help it join the World Trade Organization.

These remarks came following a meeting from WTO which came to Lebanon to discuss Lebanon’s accession to the organization.

“The main goal is to improve our economy by joining WTO. Our accession to this organization has many benefits for Lebanon especially since we have sound productive sectors such as industry and agriculture,” the minister said.

He saw no reason why Lebanon should not join the WTO like many other countries around the world.

However, Hakim acknowledged that Lebanon had not reaped many benefits from free trade agreements in the past because officials did not set clear criteria in order to protect the local industries.

“We have lost a lot in these agreements because we did not introduce the proper criteria for protection. Therefore, we need to improve the current situation with our Arab and European partners,” Hakim said.

He stressed that Lebanon should be open minded about joining WTO.

Other participants underlined the importance of learning from previous mistakes, noting that some of the free trade agreements did not help Lebanon to reduce the balance trade deficit.

However, not all officials and industrialists are enthusiastic about joining WTO.

Critics say that the price of joining WTO may be too high for Lebanon, noting that many industries may close down in the face of unfair competition.

They also draw attention to the fact that the cost of labor, production and land are far more expensive that some Asian countries and most notably China and Taiwan.

© Copyright The Daily Star 2016.


© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.


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Food labelling and product safety laws in jeopardy under TPP says Choice

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TPP: five things you need to know

It’s a 12-country trade pact that accounts for 40 per cent of world GDP, but what does it mean for Australia?

Should a huge trade deal be ratified, the Australian government could be sued by foreign companies if it introduced or strengthened food labelling and product safety laws, says Choice.

In its submission to a committee examining the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership, the consumer group has urged the government to opt out of a clause that gives foreign companies the right to sue it if a new law harms their interests.

It says Australia has opted out of the clause with New Zealand, and should do the same with the 10 other signatories, including the United States and Japan.

Consumer groups protesting the TPP claim to favours business interests.

Consumer groups protesting the TPP claim to favours business interests. Photo: AAP

“A deal with the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ clause threatens future laws to protect and inform consumers,” said Choice’s chief executive Alan Kirkland.

“Laws that require food companies to list specific ingredients, meaningful country of origin statements, and health and nutritional information on food packaging could all be on the chopping block.”

But Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said it was unlikely a foreign company could successfully sue the government for passing laws that protect consumers, because those laws would be non-discriminatory and follow due process.

Then Trade Minister Andrew Robb signs the TPP in New Zealand in February.

Then Trade Minister Andrew Robb signs the TPP in New Zealand in February.

“ISDS is only available to investors who have suffered loss or damage as a result of a breach of an investment obligation,” said Mr Ciobo, who took over the trade portfolio last month.

“It is difficult to envisage any scenario is which domestic consumer protection laws would violate an investment obligation under the TPP or any other trade and investment agreement.”

To reassure the public, the TPP includes two carve-outs: one for tobacco control measures, and one general carve-out for public health and the environment, “except in rare circumstances”.

New Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said it was unlikely a foreign company could successfully sue the government for passing ...

New Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said it was unlikely a foreign company could successfully sue the government for passing laws that protect consumers. Photo: ABC

“But they’re of little value. The fact the negotiators felt they had to put in a special provision about tobacco says they don’t think the general carve-out is strong enough,” said Mr Kirkland.

Mr Ciobo said the line “except in rare circumstances” was not a loophole, but designed to prevent a foreign company from using the clause “in a manner inconsistent with its intention, which is to protect legitimate regulation”.

He added the clause was excluded between Australia and New Zealand because both parties agreed, which wasn’t the case with the other signatories.

Choice also raised concerns about procedural problems with ISDS, including the enormous costs to taxpayers, the vagueness of the clause, and the absence of review and appeal processes.

Tobacco multinational Philip Morris brought a lawsuit against Australia using ISDS for introducing plain-packaging laws, which cost the government about $50 million in fees.

It pointed to Canada’s experience, saying under the North American Free Trade Agreement the country had paid US corporations more than $CAD200 million in seven ISDS cases.

“Just defending cases that may not be successful for the US claimants has also been extremely expensive for Canada, costing over $CAD65 million to date. Canada and Australia are both dominated by US investors,” the submission reads.

Mr Ciobo said there were more safeguards in the TPP than in other international deals, including NAFTA.

Remy Davison, a politics and economics expert at Monash University, said it could take up to 18 months for a case to be heard by a tribunal, under a process that encourages governments and firms to mediate.

He said there were 2700 international agreements with ISDS clauses. As of December 2014, there had been 608 cases, with only 87 ruled in favour of corporations.

“On average, corporations were awarded financial compensation of less than 10 per cent of the dollar amounts they sought. Of these 608 cases, European corporations were responsible for more than half,” he said.

“Australia’s food and health standards remain governed by the provisions of the World Trade Organisation, which gives Australian governments the power to legislate in all areas of food standards. The TPP agreement does not change this.”

Once the TPP is ratified, it will become the world’s biggest trade deal, involving 12 Pacific Rim nations and covering 40 per cent of the global GDP.

Choice’s analysis of the TPP also found Australia could be sued if it banned the import of potentially dangerous products or strengthened Australian Consumer Law to, for example, ban unfair trading.

It said it was only granted access to the formal text in late January and only had a month to analyse and make a submission to the joint standing committee, which stopped accepting submissions on Friday.

A World Bank report earlier this year found Australia would gain a paltry 0.7 per cent lift in its gross domestic product by 2030 from the trade pact.

The TPP involves Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, and covers a wide range of areas, from labour mobility to pharmaceutical patents.

Critics have expressed fears the TPP will also affect intellectual property and domestic copyright law, access to medicines, investment and environmental protection.

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