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US Shrimp Importers Return to Vietnamese Market
A number of US shrimp importers and distributors promptly contacted their Vietnamese counterparts right after the US Department of Commerce (DOC) announced its final determination on lower anti-dumping duties on Vietnam's shrimps.
Ho Quoc Luc, President of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said that business contacts between US customers and Vietnamese enterprises have returned to normal.
"The Vietnamese shrimp export prices would rise slightly early next year as local exporters and processors have received increasing orders, particularly those from their US counterparts," Luc said.
Shrimp prices in the Mekong Delta region, the country's largest shrimp raising area, increased by VND5,000-10,000 per kilogram as supplies are currently limited.
The HCM City Coastal Fisheries Development Corporation (Cofidec) received a shrimp order worth $2 million for December from a US client on December 2m, only one day after the DOC's decision. "The company began seeking information for future orders through e-mails," said Cofidec Director Vo Hue Tran.
According to the DOC announcement, final anti-dumping margins on imports of shrimp for mandatory respondents from Vietnam ranged from 4.13% to 25.76%, which were lowered considerably compared to the its preliminary determination of between 12.11% to 93.13%.
In a recent press release, VASEP said that the tariffs imposed on Vietnamese shrimp in DOC's final decision are closer to the reality in Vietnam. However, the association said the decision still does not truly reflect the fact that Vietnamese shrimp enterprises do not dump shrimp on the US market or other foreign markets.
The association noted that Vietnamese shrimp products have a strong competitive edge thanks to a good breeding environment, the cheap cost of labor, skillful workers and advanced technology for breeding and processing seafood.
VASEP will continue to ask for the tariffs to be reconsidered for fair deals in international trade. The association is preparing evidence and a case for following hearings at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) before the commission issues a final ruling on the lawsuit.
"All Vietnamese businesses, who are defendants in the US anti-dumping lawsuit, have never dumped shrimp in the US market, and even if they had intended to do so they would be unable because these businesses operate independently in a market mechanism," said Vice Minister of Trade Tran Duc Minh.
According to the American Seafood Distributors Association representing for rights of US customers, the DOC decision will result in higher prices for America's favorite seafood and pose new challenges for the US shrimp processing industry. Vietnamese shrimp exported to the US does not cause any material losses to the US shrimp processing and production industry. Indeed, it helps generate jobs and bring more income to thousands of US laborers.
The final ruling on the lawsuit will be issued by mid-January, 2005. (VNA Dec 6, VNS Dec 7 p15, VietnamNet Dec 6, Liberated Saigon Dec 6 p2) 
Vietnam, Singapore Wrap up WTO Negotiations
Vietnam and Singapore have agreed to complete their bilateral talks on the former's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), making Singapore the first ASEAN member to conclude negotiations with Vietnam on the issue.
The signing ceremony was made yesterday with the presence of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and his Singaporean counterpart PM Lee Hsien Loong, who is currently on his first visit to Vietnam.
During a talk before the signing, the two senior officials discussed measures to realize initiatives to link the two economies proposed by former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to Khai at the latter's visit to Singapore in March this year. They committed to push up bilateral cooperation in the following fields of investment, trade and service, transport, IT and telecommunications, banking and education.
Mr. Loong also pledged that his country would further help Vietnam to promote the private economic sector and draw more investors from Singapore and other countries to do business in Vietnam.  
The guest has a meeting with President Tran Duc Luong on the same day.
Singapore is Vietnam's leading foreign investor with $7.95 billion committed to 332 projects in the country. Vietnam is also one of three countries that receive the most technical assistance from Singapore.
Last year's two-way trade hit $3.9 billion, the figure was posted at $3.62 billion in the first nine months of this year. (The People Dec 7 p1, Young People Dec 7 p1, Youth Dec 7 p16, Labor Dec 7 p1) 
United Airlines to Launch Flights to Vietnam This Week
United Airlines will open the first direct route linking Vietnam and the US with one stop-over in Hong Kong later this week, becoming the first US airline to fly to Vietnam since 1975, according to United Airlines' officials.
The first flight will start from San Francisco on December 9 and stop at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport one day later.
The carrier will use the Boeing 747-400 aircraft to carry 250 people that includes Vietnamese and US's diplomatic officials, leaders of San Francisco, businesspeople and the first passengers on the flight.
This kind of aircraft is designed to have 14 seats for VIPs, 73 for businessmen and 260 for ordinary passengers.
Before opening direct flights, United Airlines had code-share flights with three airlines to use the Vietnam-US route.
As air travel between Vietnam and the US is increasing fast, United Airlines hopes that it will reach high seat occupancy on the route, about 60-70% over the first several months of operation, according to United Airlines vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Mark Schwab.
However, he is not certain when United Airlines will operate non-stop flights on the route.
To boost demand for the route, the airlines are encouraging American tourists to travel to Vietnam. "We have provided information about Vietnam for our 60,000 employees worldwide to tell to customers. We are running a special promotion for travel to Vietnam among 44 million frequent fliers", Schawab said.
The airline is also trying to make its presence felt in Vietnam. It is undergoing a strong restructuring to help it cut costs and improve competitiveness. (Pioneer Dec 7 p1, Saigon Times Weekly Dec 4 p14-15) 

Ford Beats Toyota for the First Time in Nov
Ford recorded total sales of 952 automobiles in Vietnam in November, surpassing its key rival Toyota with 912 units sold for the first time in the Vietnamese auto history. They represented a year-on-year rise of 33% and a fall of 31%, respectively.
However, Ford still followed Toyota in the January-November period sales with 4,601 units and 8,158 units, up 10% and down 31%, respectively.
In October, Ford took third place with sales of 694 units after Toyota with 930 units and Vinastar 826 units.
Vinastar sold 903 automobiles in November, up 59% on year, and 3,999 units in the January-November period, up 5%.
VMC sales were down 12% to 553 units in November and 2% to 2,216 units in the whole period.
Hino enjoyed the highest sales rate of 158% on year in the month to 49 units and 67% in the eleven-month period to 332 units. It holds 1% of local market share.
According to the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA), eleven foreign-invested auto assemblers in the country sold 5,537 units in November, up 16% on year, bringing the total sales in the eleven-month period to 32,847 units, down 6% on year.
This is the first month in the year auto sales exceeded sales of the same period in 2003.
In 2003, foreign-led automakers sold 42,557 units, up 59.4% over 2002.
* Car sales figures of eleven VAMA members in Jan-Nov
Automaker      Nov 04      Jan-Nov 04
      Sales (units)      Share (%)   Growth rate (%)      Sales (units)      Share (%)   Growth rate (%)
Ford  952      17.2      33      4,601      14.0      10
Toyota       912       16.5      -31      8,158      24.8      -21
VinaStar      903       16.3      59      3,999      12.2      5
Vidamco       683       12.3      30      4,376      13.3      -2
VMC   553       10.0      -12      2,216      6.7      -35
Visuco      428      7.7      61      3,435      10.5      35
Isuzu       420       7.6      93      2,383      7.3      55
Mercedes       388       7.0      13      2,114      6.4      -19
Vindaco      132      2.4      106      648      2.0      -29
Mekong       117      2.1      07      585       1.8      -40
Hino  49      0.9      158      332      1.0      67
TOTAL       5,537       100      16      32,847      100      -6
(VAMA Release November 2004)
US-Invested Disneyland Project Licensed in Central Vietnam
[USVTC NOTE: VIR reported that the project was licensed in Phan Thiet.]
The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has granted the license to the U.S. South Fork Co to set up a luxury Disneyland complex in the central coastal province of Binh Thuan.
The move came after the government's approved the project in principal.
Initial investment for the first stage of the project is registered at $25 million and in the next five or seven years, six investors, all part of leading American companies, will inject an additional $1 billion to build five resorts, said Le Thi Dzung, a representative of the project owner.
Investors are Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, MGM, Warner Bros. and Hong Kong Disney. MGM and Warner Bros. are known as the biggest filmmakers in the US while the others are the world famous developers of Disney entertainment parks.
The complex, covering an area of 600-hectare resort in Bac Binh district, will comprise five beach resorts with 900 rooms, two 18-hole golf courses, a 6,000-seat international convention center and a Disneyland park.
It will also have an area designed as a miniature quarter featuring the typical cultural traits of the Asian nations.
Dzung said the American investors, who planned the project four years ago, expected to develop this international standard complex into a miniature Hawaii to lure visitors from all over the world. (Youth Dec 7 p11, Saigon Times Daily Aug 10 p1)

Occupancy Rates Soar in HCM City Hotels
Hotels and travel agencies in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, have been overcome by a strong surge in international tourist arrivals, leaving major hotels awash with visitors for the rest of the year.
The wave of international visitors began in October with hoteliers reporting higher occupancy rates, especially with key business clients.
Hotel Sofitel Plaza Saigon reported a 90% occupancy rate in November, an on-year increase of 20%, which is set to be repeated this month.
"This rate is even higher than that in 2002, when the City's hotels enjoyed so much successful business. The majority of guests coming in the next two months are attending conferences. The ratio of business and travel guests is 65/35. This is a good balance, as in 2002, the ratio was about 50/50," the hotel manager said.
Occupancy rates at other joint-venture hotels such as the Omni Saigon, Caravelle, Legend, the Sheraton Hotels & Towers, Renaissance, New World and the Equatorial have also surged to peak levels.
"These days our rooms are so full of guests we are finding it hard to accommodate those who have made reservation three or four days in advance," Caravalle spokesperson Do Thi Bao Tram said. Tram reported a 90% room reservation rate at her hotel for this month.
According to Renaissance marketing director Daniel Kipping, the hotel occupancy rate for December is now 60%.
Kipping said Ho Chi Minh City's future infrastructure development and mushrooming growth in international operating companies, reflected in the number of new flight routes to the southern economic powerhouse, signaled continued demand for top-end accommodation.
However, the situation also showed the lack of rooms for MICE in the city. Several delegations had to move to neighboring nations for MICE, said an official from the City Tourism Service.
The city now has eight five-star hotels with 2,760 rooms, seven four-star hotels, 22 three-star hotels with a total of nearly 3,100 rooms.
According to the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, the city reported a 23% on-year increase in international tourist arrivals in November to some 145,178 arrivals, taking the year's tally to nearly 1.4 million, or more than half of the total number of international visitors to Vietnam. (Vietnam Investment Review Dec 6-12 p19, Youth Dec 6 p2, Liberated Saigon Dec 6 p2)