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MoF plans zero duty rate on automobile imports

20/Jan/2005 Thoi Bao Kinh Te Vietnam page 1

The Ministry of Finance said it is urgently planning to make final negotiations with Asean to remove automobiles out of the Complete Abolishment List with the aim at implementing agreement on tariff cuts with Asean countries.

Double taxation guidance law issued

20/Jan/2005 Ministry of FinanceThe Ministry of Finance issued on 31 December

2004 the Circular 133/2004/TT-BTC guiding the implementation of basic contents of Agreements on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of evasion of taxes imposed on income and assets between Vietnam and other countries which have come into effect in Vietnam.

Vietnam to Protect Copyright for Foreign Firms

The Vietnamese government has decided to set up an anti-counterfeit association for foreign-invested companies to help them tackle flourishing intellectual property rights violations.

The Vietnam Anti-Counterfeit and Intellectual Property Protection Association of Foreign-Invested Enterprises (VACIP) got a license from the Ministry of Home Affairs on January 5 and will be under the management of the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The approval is very important to foreign-invested companies, as rampant violations of intellectual property rights are getting more sophisticated, analysts commented, according to experts of the field.

"The association will use the power of the business community to uncover and halt copyright violations and to fight against counterfeit goods more efficiently," one analyst said.

Most foreign investors in Vietnam fear losing copyrights over their inventions, or seeing their products being counterfeited, said Le Xuan Thao, director of copyright consultancy firm Invenco. These violations could destroy their reputation, he said.

"The association will help purify intellectual property rights activities, thus, making Vietnam's bid to join the World Trade Organization by late 2005 more feasible," Mr. Thao said.

The country had set up a similar group - the Vietnam Association for Anti-Counterfeit and Trademark Protection - to help domestic companies fight against counterfeiting and copyright violations in May 2004. (Vnexpress.net, thanhniennews.com, Vietnam Panorama Jan 25)


Govt Tightens Price Control on Foreign Drug Firms

Foreign drug companies in Vietnam are not allowed to increase drug prices without permission from the country's Ministry of Health, according to a document released on Monday.

The ministry's Drug Administration Department sent the document, which says foreign companies producing and trading medicines in the country have to keep their prices unchanged except in imperative cases, to companies on January 24.

Even in urgent cases, companies have to inform the health ministry and give detailed accounts of their plans to increase drug prices.

The health ministry must then issue its approval, before the companies can follow through with their plans.

However, drug prices will remain the same from now to the Lunar New Year festival (Tet) as the health ministry will only start considering such price increase proposals after Tet (early February) is over.

The ban on arbitrary increases of drug prices is one measure the Drug Administration Department is taking to better control drug prices.

Vietnam's pharmaceutical market is currently dominated by a total of 249 foreign-invested enterprises, especially the five firms including Swiss-owned Zuellig Pharma, Thai-owned Mega Products, French-owned Sanofi-Synthelabo Vietnam, German-owned Diethelm and Indian-owned Ranpaxyz. They import around 60% of total drugs available in Vietnam and provide 90% of the total materials Vietnam needs for medicine production.

Such firms have increased their prices many times in the past year due to loose State management, seriously hurting poor patients in the country. As at the end of last year, pharmaceutical prices soared 9.1% against a year earlier, according to official government statistics. (Young People)



Vietnam Seeking More Investment from Trans-national Companies

Vietnam's investment promotion activities will focus on attracting trans-national companies to invest in Vietnam in 2005, said a Planning & Investment Ministry (MPI) official.

"Trans-national companies will be the main target of the investment promotion programs this year. We will limit the organization of conferences to introduce investment opportunities in general without addressing particular objects," said MPI Deputy Minister Nguyen Bich Dat.

Vietnam will soon open up its banking and telecoms markets to attract investment from the US and the EU, which have high technologies that Vietnam needs for its development, Dat said. The US and the EU have not been among the largest foreign investors in Vietnam over the past years, he also said.

The further opening up of the services sector for international corporations will also be considered, he added.

"MPI is planning to set up a consultative council, which will consist of top investment and trade experts and international legal companies, to share the experience in opening the service market," said Dat.

According to the MPI's statistics, there are now some 100 trans-national groups of the US, the EU and Japan operating in Vietnam. The US trans-national groups have large-scaled investment projects with an average investment capital of $20 million each.

Last year, there were some 200 new FDI projects becoming operational in Vietnam. Most of the projects are operated in the fields of industrial production and construction.

Japan became the third largest foreign investor in Vietnam in the year with total registered capital of $224 million, thanks to the Vietnam - Japan Investment Protection Agreement.

France, Britain and the Netherlands also replaced with China, Canada and Malaysia as the big investors in Vietnam. (Investment Jan 24 p1)


Vietnam Should to Open More for Foreign Investors: Finnish Diplomat

Vietnam should further open many fields, particularly in services, to attract more foreign businesses, proposed Finnish Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Liisa Jaakonaari during her talk with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan yesterday in Hanoi.

The encouragement will help Finnish investors have more business opportunities in the Southeast Asian nation, she asserted.

At the meeting, the guest and Khoan agreed that the two countries need to increase their two-way bilateral trade value and promote their cooperation on tourism, healthcare and human resource training.

On the same day, the visiting chairman met Director of Vietnam National Assembly's Committee for External Relations, Vu Mao to discuss parliamentary activities and measures to boost bilateral ties.

The two countries posted their bilateral trade growth of 20% annually over the past few years, reaching 80 million euros in 2003. Vietnam, however, ranked at the bottom of the ASEAN exporters' list to Finland, in posting export value of only 41.4 million euros that year.

Finland's official development assistance (ODA) disbursement to Vietnam was expected to reach 10 million euros last year, against 6.5 million euros in 2003. The cooperation focused on rural development, forestry and water aiming to reduce poverty. (The People Jan 25 p1, Young People Jan 25 p16)


Hanoi Hosts First Tripartite Meeting on Ethnic Minorities

Vietnam, Cambodia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met in Hanoi on January 24 for the first time to discuss the presence of ethnic minorities from Vietnam's central highlands region in Cambodia and find out solutions for the matter.

Present at the two-day meeting were Vietnamese deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Cong Phung, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Loong Vixalo, and UNHCR representative Erika Elizabeth Feller.

Before the conference, the host's deputy minister Phung and Cambodian minister Vixalo shared the hope that a satisfactory measure will be reached, which is based on principle of each party's freedom, sovereignty and responsibility.

A memorandum of understanding on the meeting is scheduled to be signed today.

Recently, both Vietnamese and Cambodian governments have announced that no hilltribe people from the central highlands of Vietnam have fled or hid in Cambodia since an unrest occurred in the region last April.

The hilltribe people, loosely known as Montagnards, account for a third of the region's 1.4-million population. They come from 35 different ethnic minority groups, including the Ede with 17.1%, Mnong 4.4%, Nung 3.8%, Tay 2.8%, and Gia Rai 2.8% and others 2.4%. Most of these people are now still trapped in poverty and are prone to being deceived by hostile forces to protest against the government and state.

Fueled by insurgent claims that they would receive land and houses or be relocated overseas if they joined the demonstrations, several thousand ethnic minorities drove tractors and motorbikes from 17 districts in Dak Lak, Gia Lai and Dak Nong provinces to Buon Me Thuot city over the Easter weekend last April. With sticks, canes, stones and other primitive weapons, they destroyed schools, markets, and houses of the Kinh majority people, stole food, and fought against police. (Youth Jan 25 p1, Vietnam Panorama)



US Wachovia Awards Seven Vietnamese Banks


The US Wachovia bank on January 20 presented certificates of excellence to seven Vietnamese banks for international payment quality.

These are seven of the 20 banks using Wachovia's international payment service in Vietnam: Vietnam Export-Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Eximbank), the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of Vietnam (ICB), the Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam (Agribank), the Asia Commercial Joint Stock Bank (ACB), the Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial and Joint Stock Bank (Sacombank) and the Phuong Nam Joint Stock Bank.

A representative from Wachovia Bank in Ho Chi Minh City said that this is the first time they presented excellent international payment certificates for Vietnamese banks.

According to the representative, Vietnamese banks are increasingly successful at implementing and maintaining international standards in general and those of the US in particular in the integration process.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) allowed the Wachovia, NA Bank to open its representative office in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2003. (VietNamNet Jan 25)


Foreign Firms May Be Allowed to Acquire Stakes in Pacific Airlines

Vietnam's Finance Ministry is considering a plan to sell part of its 86.49% stakes in Pacific Airlines (PA) to foreign investors when the loss-making joint venture carrier goes into stable operation, a ministry official said.

The ministry is currently speeding up the restructure of the airline and the resettlement of the PA's financial problems, Deputy Finance Minister Le Thi Bang Tam said.

"At first, the ministry will hire an auditing consultancy company to assess the air carrier's financial situation," Tam said, adding that the ministry will also work with aircraft-leasing firms and PA's creditors to settle its VND200 billion ($12.74 million) debts, which is five times larger than its registered capital.

The ministry is also considering a reshuffle in the PA's current managing board.

"When the Finance Ministry completes reorganization of PA, Vietnam Airlines (VNA) will transfer its whole stake of 86.49% in Pacific Airlines to the ministry while the remaining stakes will still be held by six local companies", Nguyen Xuan Hien said, general director of the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines.

PA is now operating four Airbus aircraft A310-300, A321-200 and A310-600. (Labor Jan 25 p2, vnexpress.net Jan 25)