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 Vietnam Food Standards Need Updated: Expert

Around one fifth of Vietnam's 799 standards for agricultural and food products are too old to be of any use and need to be upgraded, an expert at a standards and quality center said.

Nguyen Van Xuan, an expert at the Vietnam Standards Center (VSC), said his institute found 191 Vietnamese standards for agricultural products that have been in place for more than 15-20 years.

These standards mostly use references from the former network of socialist countries, which at the time set low criteria for the production of industries. "Normally standards must be reviewed every 5-6 years in order to fit in the new production and consumption realities," said Xuan.

But Vietnamese standards in general and standards on agricultural commodities in particular have not been updated as required by production and management. This has resulted in a situation where domestic producers get away with writing information on product labels which is a far cry from production reality, he added.

The institution fears that if the current situation remains unchecked then the national standardization system will never meet the requirements of State management and the country's international economic integration.

However, a review of all 799 standards could take up to 30 years reviewing at a rate of 20-30 standards a year.

Xuan added that Vietnamese standards are also failing to catch up with international standards, and updating must become a priority as the market demand has been changing so quickly and is rapidly becoming so diversified.

However, it is not easy to keep things under control. Local authorities are also having difficulties enforcing current standards as recent trade fair and exhibition inspections have shown that many local producers fail to meet registered standards.

Xuan said most businesses report their compliance with the TCVN, the short code for endorsed Vietnamese quality standards, but it is almost impossible for local authorities to run a check on whether they really meet the standards. (VNA Feb 14, VNS Feb 8)

Vietnam Government Gets Tough on Corruption

The government of Vietnam is preparing new measures to fight mounting corruption, which is considered one of the biggest problems facing the development of the country, according to the resolution of the monthly cabinet meeting in January.

As part of this effort, the government has assigned its inspection agency to compile a resolution on anti-corruption, thrift and anti-waste to submit to the government in the next cabinet meeting at the end of this month.

The Government Inspection Agency is also tasked to compile the draft Law on Anti-corruption to submit to the National Assembly (NA) for consideration at the mid-year NA session and for approval by the year's end.

The government has also instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs to collect the opinion of cabinet members and compile a resolution on administrative reform and public affairs inspection in 2005. At the same time, this ministry will take in charge of designing a Government's decree on public affairs inspection to submit to the Government in the February cabinet meeting.

To realise the above resolutions and decrees in order to make strong changes in administrative reform, anti-corruption, anti-waste and thrift, the government has requested all ministries and chairmen of municipal and provincial People's Committees to closely combine with Party and justice agencies to build specific plans and guide local bodies.

The government has also assigned the Ministry of Finance to work out a mechanism on the purchase and use of public cars at State-owned enterprises in order to prevent the waste of State budget on mission cars.

In related development, the Ministry of Finance has recently submitted to the government a draft regulation limiting the use State budget to buy presents with appropriate punishments for violators.

Many observers, however, remain doubted about the effectiveness of such measures, saying that Vietnam needs more specific and stronger ones against corruption.

In the past ten years, Vietnam detected as many as 9,454 corruption cases causing total losses of more than VND10 trillion ($639 million), according to the country's Police Ministry. Such large number of uncovered cases, however, is said to be only the floating part of the iceberg and the recent crackdown on deteriorating officials is highly selective and some high-ranking cadres have acquired de facto immunity from prosecution.

In 2003, Vietnam received a corruption perception rating of 2.4 in a global corruption survey undertaken by Transparency International, where 10 equals little or no corruption and zero represents a highly corrupt country. That figure was unchanged from 2002. (Vietnamnet Feb 14, Countryside Today Feb 15 p5)


Vietnam Appoints Chairman of Securities Commission

Vietnam's Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has appointed Tran Xuan Ha to be the chairman of the State Securities Commission (SSC) from February 2005. Earlier, Ha held the post of vice chairman and acting chairman of the commission.

Ha was promoted to the post of acting chairman last February when the commission moved under the management of the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

Last year was considered a successful year for Vietnam's stock market with more than 20,000 accounts opened at securities companies. More foreign investors got involved in share transactions, accounting for 48% of the total share value.

The Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center, Vietnam's unique stock exchange so far, also bounced back in the year with VN-Index reaching 239.29 points on December 31, 2004, an increase of 43% over the figure of December 31, 2003.

The total trading value in the center in 2004 was VND20 trillion ($1.3 billion), representing a rise of 6.6 times from 2003.

SSC will put into operation the country's second bourse namely Hanoi Securities Trading Center (HSTC) on March 8. The new bourse is expected to bring more investment choices for both local and foreign investors.

The SSC estimated by that this year will see around 40 firms to be listed on both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi securities trading centers. To date, there have been 26 stocks listed on the first bourse in Ho Chi Minh City with combined market capitalization of $243.4 million, and 207 government bonds valued at around $1.6 billion. (VietStock, VNS Feb 16 p14, VoV Feb 16)


Importers Want Vietnam's Import Quotas Removed

February 15, 2005

Domestic importers of textiles and apparel are urging the US government to remove quotas on imports from Vietnam. In letters to the US Trade Representative and the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USAITA), New York City, said continuing the quotas "undermines the ability of American firms to do business in Vietnam competitively and limits the choices available to American consumers."

Pointing out the European Union (EU) and Canada recently abolished their quotas, USAITA said continuation of quotas would restrict sourcing opportunities for importers. The association also noted continuing quotas would run the risk that when Vietnam makes decisions regarding investments and market opening, the EU and Canada would be perceived as closer allies than the United States.

Vietnam, which is not a member of the WTO, did not benefit from the abolishment of quotas at the end of 2004 by all WTO members. At present, Vietnam is not a major exporter to the United States, as its total shipments of textiles and apparel in the past 12 months accounted for just under 2 percent of US imports. However, Vietnam is of interest to importers as an alternative to becoming too dependent on trade with China.


VIETNAM: Textile Industry Steps Up Expansion Plans

14 Feb 2005
Source: just-style.com

In an attempt to reduce its production costs, Vietnam's garment and textile sector plans to increase investment in newly-built textiles plants and expand its cotton output. The industry aims to use 40 per cent local raw material in production in 2005 according to the Vietnam Garments and Textiles Association (VITAS). The output of cotton in the central region and the Central Highlands will be increased to 30,000 tonnes in 2005, meeting 30 per cent of domestic demand. This year, the sector plans to produce 175,000 tonnes of fibres, 600 million metres of silk and 769 million garments.
The sector also plans to speed up the construction of garment and textile complexes in the central province of Da Nang and northern province of Hung Yen. Vietnam's production costs are currently around 20-30 per cent higher than those of China.
VITAS also revealed plans to set up two centres in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City where garment and textile materials will be imported tax-free from the first quarter of this year.

Customs seizes contraband clothing

February 16, 2005
From AAP

THE largest shipment of fake brand clothing intercepted in Australia had been seized at Burnie, northern Tasmania, Customs said today. The haul comprised more than 600 pieces of clothing and a further 100 labels were imported in a sea container shipped from Vietnam.
Customs regional director Steve Wood said the items included US National Basketball Association polo shirts and children's Pokemon clothing. "This seizure also represents the largest seizure of fake goods coming into Tasmania since the detection of a container of fake shoes over five years ago," Mr Wood said in a statement.
He said Customs officers in Burnie used a mobile X-ray van to examine boxes within the 13-metre container.
The items were detained under provisions of the Trade Marks Act 1995. The first-time importer surrendered the goods and was given a warning. Mr Wood said importers should be aware of intellectual property laws and that items may be inspected by Customs to determine their authenticity. Penalties can be up to $55,000 and/or two years' imprisonment.


U.S. officials taking Asian bird flu threat seriously; disease has killed more
than 12 in Vietnam this year

Feb 14, 2005

Officials at the United States Center for Disease Control say they are keeping close watch of the deadly bird flu virus that has broken out across Asia. The disease has, so far, proven unable to spread among humans, but experts say that may be only a temporary comfort. Dozens of people across Asia have caught the flu from chickens, and at least 12 have died in Vietnam since January 1.


Vietnam to Open 2nd Stock Market in Hanoi

02.15.2005, 12:58 AM

AP - Vietnam will open the country's second stock market in Hanoi early next month as the government works to speed the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, a government official said Tuesday.

Vietnam opened its first stock market in Ho Chi Minh City in July 2000. The second one in Hanoi is aimed at boosting that city's profile as the country's major financial center, said Tran Van Dzung, director of the new Hanoi Securities Trading Center.

The Hanoi market will open March 9 and operate a public auction system for state-owned enterprises to offer their shares to investors, Dung told Dow Jones Newswires.
He noted that the government has required state-owned enterprises to sell their shares, if they are valued at more than VND10 billion (US$636,000; euro490,475), to the public via the stock market.

"It's obligatory for SOEs to offer their shares to the public in an effort to boost the efficiency and transparency of the economy," Dzung said.

On its debut day, the Hanoi exchange will offer shares worth VND15 billion (US$954,000; euro735,713) of the Post Equipment Factory company, and it is expected to be able to auction the shares of hundreds of state-owned enterprises this year.

"Our prime tasks will be focusing on auctioning shares from SOEs that are selected for equitization, and later we will add other activities such as trading shares and various bonds," he said.

The government uses the term 'equitization' in reference to share sales of state-owned companies rather than 'privatization' since it would continue to hold majority stakes in these enterprises even after such share sales.

Dzung expects that, after a few months of initial testing, the Hanoi exchange could launch over-the-counter trading operations for the stocks of unlisted firms starting in the second half of the year.

"Later, we will also help private firms which want to offer shares valued at more than VND1 billion (US$64,000; euro49,356) to the public," he added.

Vietnam started its privatization program in 1992. It has privatized about 1,800 state-owned companies so far, and plans to privatize more than 2,000 of them between 2005 and 2008, government figures show.

Since the Ho Chi Minh City market's launch in 2000, trade there has developed slowly, with only 26 companies listed with a combined market capitalization of US$240 million (euro185 million), and 213 government bonds with a total market value of US$1.57 billion (euro1.21 billion).