Overseas remittances continue to increase

Overseas Vietnamese have remitted nearly US$2.8 billion through HCM City-based banks in the first eight months of this year, 6.2 per cent higher than in the same period last year, according to the deputy head of the State Bank of Viet Nam's city branch.

In August alone the amount was worth $333 million, nearly double the July figure.

The full-year figure is expected to be $4.8-5 billion compared with $4.7 billion last year, the deputy head of the State Bank of Viet Nam, HCM City branch, Nguyen Hoang Minh, said.

The proportion of the remittances invested in housing is slightly higher this year at 21.5 per cent.

Most of the remittances were channelled into business, which accounted for 71-72 per cent of the total amount.

The amount used to support families in Viet Nam has shrunk slightly this year.

The Viet Nam Economic Times newspaper quoted an analyst as saying that the Government's recent policies have created favourable conditions for Overseas Vietnamese to remit money home.

The exchange-rates adjustment in June and the difference in interest rates between the dong and the US dollar have also helped attract more flows.

Minh said the Government has liberalised policies related to inward remittances.

Recipients do not have to pay income tax and can keep the remittances in foreign currencies and deposit them in banks.

The stability of the dong has also been a factor, Minh said.

Besides banks, many newly opened companies are also providing remittance services.

The deputy general director of a joint stock bank based in Ha Noi, who declined to be named, said banks have focused on diversifying remittance services, expanding distribution channels, and reducing the time to make payments, and have launched attractive promotion campaigns.

Pepper price seen increasing

The destruction of pepper in the Central Highland and East Southern regions of Viet Nam is expected to drastically reduce the production volume and increase the price of the crop.

Tran Duc Tung, chief of the Viet Nam Pepper Association (VPA), said diseases, climate change and the use of fake fertilizers have destroyed around 600 hectares of farms planted to the crop. He predicted that the market price of pepper would likely increase in 2015.

Pepper in the Central Highland and East Southern provinces is now worth between VND184,000-187,000 (US$8.6) per kilo, or an increase of VND42,000 to 45,000 over its price last April.

Australia business guide released

The Viet Nam Embassy and Commercial Affairs Office in Australia have collaborated on the writing and publication of a book providing information for Vietnamese enterprises seeking business opportunities in Australia.

The information in the book includes Australia's importation policy, market culture, import and distribution channels and standards and regulations for imported goods, as well as effective ways to approach Australian importers and effective sales methods.

Australia is viewed as a potential export market with a large purchasing capacity for consumption goods and industrial products.

More tourists visit HCM City

The number of foreign tourists who visited this city in August increased to 309,587, or 7 per cent more than in the same month last year. Figures from the city government also showed that of the total number of tourists in August, those traveling by air reached 247,108, or 6 per cent more than that of same month last year.

In the first eight months of 2014, the total number of tourists who visited the city was estimated at 2.7 million, a 10 per cent increase compared with that of the same period last year.

City revenue from tourism totalled VND60,253 billion (US$2.8 billion), a 10 per cent increase from that of the same period last year.

Quang Ninh export turnover rises

The export turnover of this northern province reached US$121.5 million in August, or 32.5 per cent more than that of July.

Figures from the provincial government also showed that the province's total revenue from tourism during the first eight months of the year was $1 billion.

Coal is the province's main export. But in the first eight months of the year, the province's volume of coal exports decreased by 37 per cent compared with that of the same period last year.

According to the provincial department of planning and investment, the import turnover of the province in the first eight months was $1,035, a five per cent increase year-on-year or 89.6 per cent of the province's annual goal.

Housing sector targets middle class

Property developers have been launching a slew of apartment and residential land projects targeting both middle- and high-income earners, sparking off a new race in the market.

HungThinh Real Estate Company recently began to sell its 12 View project in District 12, which is around 80 per cent finished.

Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspaper quoted the company's general director, Nguyen Nam Hien, as saying the 400 apartments there cost over VND11 million (US$518) per square metre. Buyers have to put 20 per cent down and pay the remaining amount based on construction progress at the rate of 8 per cent per instalment.

Tanimex plans to start selling its Tanibuilding apartments in Tan Phu District on Sunday at VND11.9 million per square metre.

Kim Oanh Real estate Company will begin selling 400 land lots for street houses in Di An Dist in the neighbouring province of Binh Duong next week at VND170 million and above for a piece.

In the higher segment, Phu Long Co began selling its Dragon Parc villas at a starting price of VND5.5 billion ($260,000). Phung Chu Cuong, its general director, said 10 customers had registered to buy before sales opened.

CapitaLand Thien Duc has sold 100 out of almost 1,200 units at its Vista Verde apartment project in District 2, which will be completed in 2017. Prices begin at around VND1.5 billion for a unit of less than 50sq.m.

Him Lam JSC said that its Him Lam Cho Lon project in District 6 with 1,400 apartments would enter the market in mid-September at prices starting at VND18 million per square metre.

Phu My Hung is making final preparations to sell its Scenic Valley targeted at young buyers and newlyweds. Model houses will be open for viewing on Saturday.

According to statistics from the Vietnam Real Estate Association, in the second quarter 11 residential projects went on sale in HCM City with more than 3,200 units, 70 per cent higher than in the first quarter and 140 per cent up from the same period in 2013.

German firms to explore VN market

A 12-member business delegation from eastern Germany will visit Viet Nam from September 15 to 19 to look for partners and trade opportunities.

Following successful visits by earlier delegations in 2010 and 2011, this time the group is headed by Benno Bunse, chairman and general director of Germany Trade and Invest, and Ines Koerner of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

There will be 12 businesses from sectors like renewable energy, biogas factory construction, bio-technology, healthcare, education, tourism consultancy, and consultancy for construction design, banking, foreign trade, business administration, and business start-up.

There will be a Viet Nam-Germany business forum in Ha Noi on September 16 for businesses and investors from the two countries to introduce opportunities to them.

Bunse said: "Viet Nam's economic growth rate in recent years has created many opportunities for medium-sized German enterprises, helping turn Germany into one of the biggest trade partners of Viet Nam in Europe. Besides, we hope to attract more and more Vietnamese businesses to invest in our country."

In the past 20 years, eastern Germany has developed into a tech hub with a network of 59 universities and many technology centers and great success in education and research, attracting more than 100,000 Vietnamese students.

Since the reunification of Germany 20 years ago, the country's GDP has grown rapidly, strongly driven by increasing demand from Asia.

With Germany's experience in modernising communication and transportation infrastructure in its eastern part in the past two decades, Vietnamese companies can leverage German firms' expertise for Viet Nam's own infrastructure expansion and modernisation.

Germany's exports to Viet Nam topped $2.9 billion in 2013, a 27 per cent year-on-year increase. Of this machinery and equipment accounted for 30 per cent.

Germany Trade & Invest is the country's foreign trade and inward investment promotion agency. It advises foreign companies looking to expand their business activities in the German market and provides information on foreign trade to German companies.

The delegation's visit will be organised by Germany Trade & Invest, Delegate of German Industry and Commerce in Viet Nam, and the State Development Corporation of Thuringia.

Construction starts on $575m aluminium plant

Bulldozers yesterday began clearing the 114-ha site for the construction of the US$575-million Dak Nong aluminium smelting plant in this Central Highland province.

At the ground breaking ceremony for the project, Trade and Industry Minister Vu Huy Hoang said the plant would be the first of its kind in Viet Nam to produce aluminium bars and would play an important role in the sustainable socio-economic development of the Central Highlands.

Hoang added that the plant, with a capacity of 450,000 tonnes, would also play an important role in the comprehensive development of domestic bauxite exploitation and aluminum production projects.

Tran Hong Quan Trading Ltd Company is investing in the construction and development of the plant at Nhan Co Industrial Park in Dak R'Lap District, Dak Nong Province and is expected to be completed in two years.

The Nhan Co alumina project, which the Viet Nam National Coal and Mineral Industries Holding Corporation will put into operation, will be supplying all materials for the plant. The project is divided into three phases. In the first phase, the plant is expected to achieve 150,000-tonne annual production capacity by 2016. In the second phase, the plant is expected to have a 300,000-tonne annual capacity by 2017. In the last phase, it is expected to have a 450,000-tonne annual capacity by early 2019.

Figures show that Viet Nam has the world's largest bauxite reserves, and Dak Nong alone has more than five billion tonnes. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is still in the process of exploration, with high hopes of finding around 11 billion tonnes in reserves.

Le Dien, chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, said this was the first aluminium project in Viet Nam with a domestic company as investor, and it was expected to play a key role in the socio-economic development of his province and the country as well.

Tran Hong Quan, the company director, said the Government has accepted the new aluminium electrolytic technology to be used in the project, and this was expected to attract more investors in the country's aluminium industry.

Last May 30, the Prime Minister issued Decision 822-QD-TTg, on tax exemption policies covering the Dak Nong project. The policies include four-year total income tax exemption from the time the plant generates taxable income; 50-per cent income tax exemption to take effect for nine years after the four-year total tax exemption period, and a 10 per cent tax rate to take effect for 30 years, after the nine-year 50-per cent income tax exemption in 30 years.

Ministry data shows factories consume less steel in August

The steel consumption of Vietnamese factories has remained low in the first eight months of 2014 and was mainly for buildings under construction, said the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Figures from the Ministry showed that raw steel output in August was 280,500 tonnes, a nine-per cent increase over that of the previous month, while rolled steel output posted a 16 per cent year-on-year increase to 291,100 tonnes, and bar steel output was 294,600 tonnes.

In the first eight months of the year, raw steel output was estimated to be 1.9 million tonnes, a 0.01-per cent reduction compared with that of the same period last year. Rolled steel output was estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, a 23 per cent year-on-year increase, while bar steel output was 2.28 million.

In August, steel imports increased by 43 per cent in terms of quantity and 39 per cent in terms of value compared with that of the previous month. From January to August, steel imports increased by 14 per cent in terms of quantity and seven per cent in terms of value compared with that of the same period last year.

The Ministry attributed the low consumption to economic difficulties and the fall in construction demand among households during the rainy season.

It added that some steel factories in the north had to stop production because of low consumption and high inventories while others had to reduce their selling prices by supporting transport fees and increasing discounts, in order to compete with steel imports.

IFBO Vietnam kicks off in HCM City

Over 80 leading int’l franchisors from 14 countries assembled in HCM City on September 4 for the opening of the International Franchise & Business Opportunities Vietnam (IFBO Vietnam) exhibition.

Chua Wee Phong, Managing Director of the Bizlink Exhibition Services PTE Limited, said the IFBO has been held in many countries around the world but this is its first debut in Vietnam.

The event aims to help investors seek new business opportunities and support international brand names desiring to do business in Vietnam.

At the exhibition, international brand names, including SUBWAY, Action COACH, Sarnies Cafe and Sumo Salad introduced their attractive franchise and business opportunities as well as commitments on prestige.

The event also provided major international firms with opportunities to expand their investment in Vietnam.

During the exhibition running until September 6, a number of seminars on franchise and legal issues when trading in Vietnam are scheduled.

Step by step guide for Australian exporters launched

An eBook aimed at equipping Vietnamese enterprises with the necessary skills and knowledge to expedite export procedures with Australian companies has recently been launched.

The eBook, compiled by the Vietnamese Embassy and the Vietnam Trade Office in Australia, contains all the vital information enterprises should know, such as goods imports policy, market characteristics and sales promotion strategies.

It is based on a book "Australia-A Guide to the market," and has been rewritten with more statistics and information specifically about trade relations between Vietnam-Australia.

The eBook is designed for PC and Mac computers and is optimized for reading on handheld devices.

Readers can download the eBook via the link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/5541112/ebook/content.html.

Australia is a great potential market for foreign and Vietnamese enterprises thanks to its high purchasing power and heavy dependence on imported goods.

Under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) agreement, about 96% of Australia's tariffs were eliminated in 2010 and the remaining tariffs are set for abatement by 2020.

Seminar boosts Vietnam-Cuba investment cooperation

A number of representatives from agencies, ministries and enterprises of Cuba and Vietnam attended a conference in Hanoi on September 4, introducing investment opportunities in the Caribbean island.

The event, co-organised by the Ministry of Construction of Vietnam and Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba, helped Vietnamese businesses get updated on investment policies and special incentives when investing in the Mariel district of Cuba.

Photo: VGP

At the conference, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba introduced his country’s investment law and new policies aimed at attracting foreign investment to the country.

Cuba is focusing on attracting external resources through long-term credit and foreign direct investment (FDI).

To achieve the goal, the country has issued a new foreign investment law (Law 118) which defines a clear-cut legal framework for facilitating foreign investments.

Vietnam, Norway step up fisheries cooperation

A Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) delegation led by its Deputy Minister Vu Van Tam recently visited Norway seeking alternatives to promote comprehensive fisheries cooperation

During the visit, Tam held a meeting with his counterpart Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries Amund Dronen Ringdal.

The two deputy ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in science and technology to enhance capacity in fisheries product inspections, supervision on food safety and quarantine, technology transfer in sweet water aquaculture, offshore fishing and climate change adaptation in the fisheries sector.

They agreed to boost cooperation in producing veterinary medicines and vaccine for the fisheries sector, epidemics control and training through short-term and long-term training courses and granting scholarships for Vietnamese experts and scientists to study in Norway.

They will promote trade by offering the best possible conditions for businesses to seek shipbuilding cooperation opportunities fisheries exploitation, upgrade facilities on surveillance and offshore fishing vessels and intensify information sharing, exchange visits, and take part in fairs, exhibitions and forums in each country.

During their stay, the Vietnamese delegation worked with the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), the University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Bergen School.

At a working session with the Institute of Marine Research, Director of the Seafood Research Centre in Norway signed a MoU with Deputy Director of the Vietnamese Research Institute for Marine Fisheries on fishery resources research, exploitation technology, training and experience sharing in related fields.

AEC offers 10% increase in employment for Vietnam by 2025

The introduction of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by next year would spur growth in Vietnam’s GDP by 14.5% and in jobs by an additional 10.5% by 2025, said a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The study, entitled ‘ASEAN Community 2015: Managing integration for better jobs and shared prosperity’ was released in Hanoi on September 4, at the national policy dialogue with the same theme organised by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

According to the report, on a broader scale, economic integration could generate 14 million additional jobs in ASEAN and improve the livelihoods of 600 million women and men living in the region, but only if decisive action is taken to manage it effectively.

The AEC establishment at the end of next year will allow for a freer flow of skilled labour, services, investment and goods among the 10 ASEAN member states.

The new report foresees robust employment growth in sectors such as construction, transportation, garment and food processing.

It also indicates that Vietnam’s productivity could more than double by 2025, compared to 2010, if determination and efforts are realised.

Vietnam would be among the countries that benefit more than others from the deeper regional integration, as its economy was heavily reliant on external trade, said Yoshiteru Uramoto, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

With increased trade and investment flows, the pace of structural change to higher value sectors would accelerate, and this could allow Vietnam to compete in global markets based on higher productivity and skills, said Tomoyuki Kimura, Country Director of ADB Vietnam.

To take full advantage of the deep and broad economic integration, the report suggested ASEAN member states boost productivity and job quality in agriculture and diversify manufacturing employment into new sectors, while continuing to support the garment industry.

Social protection coverage needs to be extended, including the national unemployment insurance scheme, to help cushion the effects of structural transformation and ease workers into emerging, more productive sectors.

In addition, there is a need to improve both the protection of migrant workers and systems for recognising their skills, particularly in sectors dominated by low and medium-skilled workers, such as construction.

Labor export sets new record

Viet Nam sent 73,727 people to work overseas over the past eight months, achieving 84.74% of the year’s plan and equaling 134.52% of the same period in 2013.

In August only, 9,389 Vietnamese went to work abroad.

The number of Vietnamese guest workers is expected to exceed 100,000 this year.

Taiwan (China) topped Viet Nam's labor export markets, hiring 44,535 people, accounting for 60%, followed by Japan with 12,606, accounting for 17%, the Republic of Korea, 4,615, Malaysia, 3,833 and Saudi Arabia, 2,407.

In 2013, Viet Nam sent more than 89,000 workers overseas, of whom 40,000 working in Taiwan.

HCM City vows to eliminate hurdles for IT enterprise development

Authorities are ready to solve any remaining problems that could be a hindrance to development of the information technology sector, a key industry for the country, the deputy chairman of the HCM City People's Committee said at a meeting yesterday in the city.

"The city wants to support enterprises but policies have not been updated and have been unreasonable, and State offices have been slow in implementation and have harassed enterprises," said Le Manh Ha at the meeting with IT enterprises.

"The city has tried to support and talk with enterprises to allow us to adjust policies so they can be suited to reality," he added.

Representatives from IT enterprises in the Tan Thuan Processing and Industrial Zone said while technical and service infrastructure in the zone had met the requirement of IT and high-tech electronics businesses, companies had not received full tax incentives for investment in high-tech parks.

Also, the Thanh Nhan Computer Limited Company asked local authorities to allow companies to sell IT products at big discounts six months after being imported, because IT products have a short-life circulation and become outdated quickly.

They also asked the city for permission to reduce by 20 per cent prices on such products after six months, 35 per cent after nine months, 50 per cent after 12 months, and 90 per cent after 24 months.

Representatives from the municipal Industry and Trade Department replied that the suggestion needs to be approved by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The department will submit statements about the problems to the ministry.

At the meeting, the Sao Thang Joint Stock Company pointed out that even though State offices were asked to give priority to purchase IT products from local companies, companies were not required to have a fixed number of human resources or quality certificates such as ISO and CMMI.

Representatives from software enterprises said they wanted to invest in many new fields like cloud services, e-commerce and database centres, but there were no regulations that allowed implementation.

"The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications should regularly update new trends and provide conditions to operate," said a representative for software enterprises.

Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Minister Nguyen Minh Hong said: "The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications will try our best to solve all problems in order to support enterprises. The Ministry has released many decrees and we would like to get feedback from the business community to make such decrees useful."

Gold traders take aim at new jewellery regulation

Regulation of the gold jewellery market has not improved as expected after the Government stipulated that purity and measurement must be clearly indicated along with gold content.

This was the verdict of gold producers, traders, and industry executives who took part in a seminar on jewellery quality management in HCM City last Friday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology's Circular 22 had taken effect on June 1.

It also says that 18-carat gold jewellery must be at least 75 per cent pure, while for 24-carat jewellery it is 99.9 per cent.

Nguyen Van Dung, chairman of the Sai Gon Jewelry Association, said that the circular is a legal foundation for restoring order in the gold jewellery and fine arts market and protecting the benefits of consumers.

The circular was meant to eliminate sub-standard gold in the market and provide managing agencies the legal wherewithal to tackle violations, according to an official from the HCM City Department of Science and Technology.

Due to a lack of oversight and control, most 18-karat jewellery sold in the country only has 58-68 per cent gold.

Some businesses representatives said that gold producers sell 61 per cent pure gold to traders but charged for 65 per cent purity, and this is then sold to consumers as 67 per cent pure.

This causes big losses to consumers, they said.

"Because of this, Circular 22 was issued to ensure that all jewellery items available in the market must meet measurement and quality requirements to protect the interests of customers," Nguyen Hoang Linh, head of the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality's Conformity Assessment Department, said.

However, three months after it took effect, many gold traders in HCM City do not understand the circular's provisions and claim they are too complicated and stringent.

Dung admitted this, saying of the 3,000 businesses involved in the production and trading of jewellery, only around 20 per cent have full understanding of the circular and made necessary preparations to meet its requirements.

More than 22,000 jewellers told a poll that they had heard about the circular but did not know clearly about it.

A majority of small jewellers have done nothing to comply with its provisions, Dung said.

"This seminar is organised to help gold businesses resolve the difficulties they face in implementing regulations included in the new circular."

Gold producers and traders told the meeting that the biggest problem was to remake jewellery to fulfill the new regulations, a very costly affair that could ruin them.

Besides, some of the regulations are impractical or hard to comply with, they said.

For instance, the hallmark on gold jewellery must be placed directly on the metal through mechanical engraving, laser engraving, embossing, or other methods, or on documents enclosed with the products, something that requires huge investment in equipment, they said.

Dung pointed out that the circular lists jewellery with 18 levels of purity — from 33.9 per cent to 99.9 per cent — thus creating a bewildering array of products in the market.

"This will make all producers, sellers, buyers, and even Government officials confused."

He suggested having just four categories instead: 24, 18, 16, and 8 carats.

Tran Van Vinh, deputy director of the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, said the regulations on gold content in Circular 22 are similar to those applied in many countries, especially those stipulating that jewellery purity must not be lower than indicated to buyers.

Quality directorate head, Linh said customers have the right to choose from among various gold contents and prices and not be shortchanged.

"However, managing gold products, particularly jewellery and objects of fine arts, has always been a difficult task for authorised agencies especially with the operations of many gold businesses remaining opaque and fraudulent practices in the gold market being widespread.

"The department will closely co-operate with relevant agencies and branches to help gold businesses overcome obstacles to implement Circular 22 in order to make it effective."

Dong Nai continues to attract record levels of FDI

Southern Dong Nai province has issued investment certificates for 103 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects, valued at over US$922 million during the first eight months of the year.

The provincial Department of Planning and Investment reported the total consists of US$391 million for 52 new projects and US$531 million in supplementary investment for 51 projects.

The province also revoked the investment licences for 8 FDI projects with registered investment capital of US$86 million, comprised of 3 projects located outside and five within industrial zones (IZ).

Roughly 1,442 projects capitalized at US$25.25 billion have been licensed to operate in IZs to date, of which 1,117 valid projects has a combined capitalization of US$20.80 billion.

According to the IZs managing board, in the first eight months of this year, FDI businesses in IZs reported US$10.37 billion in revenue, including US$5.6 billion from exports. They contributed more than US$374.2 million to State budget, up nearly 8.5% on-year.

Thirty-one IZs have leased out more than 120ha since early this year, reaching 120% of this year’s plan, bringing the cumulative leased areas to 6,350ha, accounting for nearly 67% of total space available in IZs.

Shipping industry to be developed by 2020

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently approved a development plan for Vietnam’s shipping industry for 2020, with a vision for 2030, aiming to ease the transportation burden on roads.

According to the plan, the majority of imports and exports are to be transported by sea, embedding Vietnam further into the global shipping network and connecting the country to distant destinations, such as Northern Europe or South America.

By 2020, the industry is expected to meet nearly all domestic shipping needs, and provide high quality services and competitive fees.

The objective is to ship 140-152 million tonnes of goods, including 40-46 million tonnes internationally, and have a shipping fleet with a total carrying capacity of 6.84-7.52 million Deadweight Tonnes (DWT).

In the meantime, the industry will run refresher courses for 27,000 officers and crew members and will train 15,000 new recruits.

The development plan will require the investment of VND20-30 trillion (US$1-1.5 billion) by 2020, with the majority of funds being mobilised by businesses themselves.

To ensure a smooth implementation process, Vietnam will streamline administrative procedures in sea ports and the registration process for new ships, apply information technology, such as e-customs in management, and encourage investments in growing the shipping fleet.

The plan also requires the restructuring of the Vietnam National Shipping Lines and the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Corporation to be sped up, and an extensive maritime service network to be established to improve the competitiveness of the country’s shipping industry.

Entrepreneurs aim for vanguard role in integration

The Vietnam Young Entrepreneurs Association (VYEA) set new tasks at their fifth national congress in Hanoi on August 30-31, striving to take the lead in international integration.

Nearly 1,000 delegates dilated on measures to help VYEA members overcome challenges and difficulties to achieve sustainable growth.

They also discussed the need to foster an entrepreneurial culture within their businesses, striving for increased competitiveness with a skill and mindset characterized by creativity, calculated risk-taking and empowering staff to thrive and be successful.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc highlighted the achievements of the association in the past tenure and affirmed the important role it plays in the country’s socio-economic development and international integration.

He asked young Vietnamese entrepreneurs to strengthen their connectivity, cooperate with foreign partners, and outline their strategic visions, apply advanced technology, renew growth models and sharpen their competitiveness.

He said they should diversify their operations and timely seize investment opportunities, to contribute as much as possible to national development.

The Deputy PM pledged to create the best possible conditions for the VYEA, which currently has 66 chapters and nearly 9,000 members nationwide, to operate efficiently.

Delegates at the two-day congress elected Bui Van Quan, CEO of Anh Quan Group, as Chairman of the VYEA for the 2014-2017 term.

Vietnam posts record trade surplus with Australia

Vietnamese exports to Australia picked up the pace for the first seven months of the year, jumping up 38.2% on-year to US$2.39 billion with aUS$1.22 billion trade surplus.

The Vietnam Trade Office in Australia reports key Vietnamese exports included crude oil, telephones and components, seafood, cashew nuts, timber, garment and textiles, footwear, machinery, and equipment.

Crude oil topped the list of export items tallying in at US$1.29 billion, representing a 73.3% year-on-year increase. It was followed by telephones and components (US$215.81 million) and aquatic products (US$123.07 million).

Notably, gross exports from iron and steel to Australia saw the highest growth rate hitting US$21.75 million over seven months, up 205.3% on-year.

Other items maintaining steady growth were electric cables, metals, confectionery, cereals, handbags, wallets, suitcases, hats, and umbrellas. Some export items such as transport vehicles and spare parts which faced an 8.9% decline in the previous year, achieved a rather high growth rate of 41% in the reviewed period.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese major imports from Australia were timber products, plastic materials, oil, steel scraps, minerals, and input materials for garment and footwear industries.

Dong Nai lures over 920 million USD in FDI

The southern province of Dong Nai has attracted over 920 million USD in foreign direct investment (FDI) so far this year.

According to the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, of the total, 391 million USD was poured into 52 new projects, while the remaining was added for 51 existing ones. Most of the projects are carried out in industrial zones.

In the reviewed period, the province revoked investment licenses of eight projects with a combined capital of over 86 million USD.

Therefore, there are now 1,117 valid projects totaling 20.8 billion USD in the locality.

In the first eight months of 2014, total revenue of FDI businesses operating in local industrial zones reached 10.37 billion USD, of which 5.6 billion USD came from exports.

They contributed more than 374 million USD to the State budget, a year-on-year rise of 8.5 percent.

Farmers brew sweet success from rare tea

Sweetness supersedes and quickly removes any bitterness from the tea, a specialty from the mountainous province of Yen Bai in northern Vietnam, that Nguyen Thanh Hai sips.

"It's completely perfect as a refreshing treat on a summer morning," the middle-aged woman said, as she fastened her eyes on little dried, curled buds coated in a thin whitish cover which seemed to sparkle under the early sun.

Hai expressed much delight over the "Thanh you" gift she has received from a friend – a crystalline glass jar containing around 100g of shantuyet tea marked ‘a Suoi Giang – Yen Bai specialty'.

Located around 1,200 to 2,200m above sea level, Suoi Giang commune in Van Chan district enjoys a cool climate all year round. The favourable geography, terrain and weather conditions have been the key to the development of tea trees which produce the well-known shantuyet variety.

The latest figures show that Suoi Giang is home to 393 hectares of land planted to tea, three-fourths of them with ancient roots.

In the 1960s, Dr M. Djemmukhatze of the Soviet Union Academy of Sciences visited Suoi Giang and concluded that its tea had the most unique flavor. At that time, the commune had nearly 40,000 ancient tea trees aged from 200 to 300 years.

"I've been to 120 countries which grow tea in the world but found no other places that have perennial plants like those in Suoi Giang. The tea here is unique. All the 18 flavours of the global tea varieties can be found in a single bowl of green tea," he wrote in a notebook kept at the local People's Committee.

According to local people, mostly from the H'Mong ethnic group, the fresh buds still retain their natural scent, plumpness, sheen and an outer layer of whitish fuzz after these are manually processed, so they are called shantuyet.

For ages, they have viewed the ancient tea as a rare, valuable, and healthy herb, with a liquid as yellow as forest honey instead of green, like other tea brands. The smooth blend of all of its elements makes the brew one of the finest natural drinks in the country.

The late poet Xuan Dieu even composed poems describing the lingering sweetness of Suoi Giang tea on the tip of one's tongue as a long-lasting love between a man and a woman.

According to Nguyen Dinh, a researcher of tea culture, Suoi Giang still holds a tea-worshipping ceremony at the outset of the first tea crop of the year.

"Only the H'Mong people in Suoi Giang possess such a unique cultural trait in Vietnam. They do make offerings to local deities to win their support for the coming bumper harvests," Dinh said.

"Local people prepare a cock, two bottles of homemade rice wine and some bamboo and paper stuff and place them on an altar set up under the foot of the oldest tea tree, aged more than 300 years," Dinh recalled. "A wizard, normally a prestigious person in the community, is placed in charge of the worshipping rituals."

"The practice serves as a perfect connection between generations of people in Suoi Giang who have lived on the tea. It is also a fine cultural beauty, likely demonstrating that reaching areas of century-old tea trees is needed to understand a whole cultural region," Dinh added.

"People drink the tea, not just because of its fine buds, as white as snow, with its yellowish brew and fragrant and sweet taste, but because of the quintessence of the northern sky and earth, as well as cultural features of the H'Mong people," said Pham Vu Khanh who has been in the business for years.

"Each kilo of shantuyet costs about 10 times more than the popular Thai Nguyen tea varieties, but the number of customers remains high," Khanh said.

"On the average, an ancient tea tree produces between seven to eight kilos of freshly-picked tea per year while a kilo of dried tea requires five kilos of freshly-picked tea. That's why shantuyet tea is a precious treasure," he added.

Nguyen Huu Phuong who has returned from a community-based tour to experience the daily tea processing work of the H'Mong people in Suoi Giang, said: "When I first heard that a kilo of the shantuyet tea cost as much as 3.5 millionVND (170 USD), I thought it was unbelievable."

"Now I think differently after witnessing and becoming directly involved in the tea-processing work. The price is nothing compared with the efforts the locals make to produce the specialty tea," the Hanoian added. "The more the cultural features in the tea are exploited, the higher is its value."

"The Chinese and Japanese drink as much tea as the Vietnamese," said Dinh. "They have developed this habit and turned it into a cultural trait, like that of the tea ceremony in Japan, to make business and diplomacy. I'm glad that this trend is taking place in Vietnam."

Figures show that Vietnam has around 7,500 hectares of ancient shantuyet tea trees, mostly in the northeastern and northwestern regions. This variety has made a name in the provinces of Yen Bai, Son La, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Dien Bien and Hoa Binh.-

SOEs maintain stable operations

For the last three years, most State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have had stable operations with acceptable profits, but capital withdrawal from their non-core businesses contiues to be sluggish.

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee reported that the city has 108 enterprises which are fully owned by the State.

During the 2011-13 period, SOEs had an annual total turnover of 121.5 trillion VND (6 billion USD) and annual profits totalled 2 trillion VND (98 million USD).

"State-owned enterprises have reformed their technologies; improved their models and quality; increased skills and capacity for human resources; and saved expenditures for meetings, working abroad, guests' welcome parties; and usage of electricity, water and telephone," Le Thi Huynh Mai, Deputy Director of the municipal Planning and Investment Department, was quoted as saying in the Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times).

State-owned enterprises were recognised as effectively using capital and assets, especially for enterprises in transport, trade, tourism, services, gold and precious stones.

In addition, these enterprises had significantly contributed to the State budget; implemented investment for important projects; served the city's long-term socio-economic strategies; and contributed to the city's shift to biotechnology, high-tech agriculture, food processing, manufacturing and engineering.

To implement the State-owned enterprise re-structuring project, with focus on State corporations and groups during the 2011-15 period, 17 corporations and groups have set up re-structuring projects and 14 of them have been approved.

Another 29 State-owned enterprises will be equitised this year and in 2015, and equitisation plans for three of them were approved.

"The slow process of equitisation was due to resolving current problems on finances, land, workshops and other assets," Mai added.

Furthermore, time for restructuring has been short, and enterprises must spend their resources for the time ahead.

At the same time, corporations and groups have listed their investments in non-core businesses and their plans to withdraw capital from those businesses.

However, progress of capital withdrawal from non-core businesses has been very slow.

During the 2011-13 period, 14 corporations and groups have withdrawn 30.2 billion VND (1.5 million USD) from non-core businesses.

In 2014, it is expected around 1.5 trillion VND (70 million USD) will be withdrawn.

The problem is the difficulty in finding buyers, especially in a time of continuing economic downturn.

"The enterprises which haven't listed on the stock exchange will face more difficulties in seeking partners to transfer their shares," Mai added.

Binh Duong earns over 1 billion USD from electronic exports

More than 154 electronic businesses in the southern province of Binh Duong exported over 1 billion USD worth of products in the first eight months of this year.

Notably, phones and spare parts fetched 700 million USD, up 40 percent against the same period last year, while the computers and other electronic products earned 400 million USD, up 4 percent.

According to the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, the province has so far licensed 154 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects operating in the electronic industry, providing jobs for nearly 50,000 people. Most of the projects are invested by Japan .

The Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks I and II are home to the largest number of 126 electronic businesses.

At present, Binh Duong is calling for investment in hi-tech areas such as electricity and electronics, food processing, pharmaceuticals, and support industry.

Cement-clinker export reaches nearly 10 million tonnes

The cement and clinker export has reached 9.68 million tonnes for the first eight months of this year, according to the Ministry of Construction (MoC).

The figure represents an increase of 9 percent compared to the same period of 2013.

Exports in August have seen a remarkable surge of 12 percent compared to July, hitting 1.1 million tonnes.

The domestic market consumed 42.5 million tonnes in the 8-month period, equivalent to 68.6 percent of the sector’s yearly target. Cement sales are expected to rise toward the end of the year, as the construction season has begun following the end of the rainy season. Positive signs on the real estate market will also help boost consumption of construction materials.

The Ministry of Construction estimates cement consumption will reach 62 - 63 million tonnes this year, a mere 1.5-3 percent increase compared to 2013. It announced an export goal of 14 million tonnes, the same export volume of last year.

Da Lat certifies flower to increase values

The Central Highlands province of Lam Dong and its Da Lat city have granted the official certificate “Hoa Da Lat” (Da Lat Flowers) to locally produced flowers.

The certification is among steps to improve the standing of the Da Lat Flower in the current competitive market and economic integration, whilst boosting the entire industry in the city in terms of market expansion and export growth.

In order to obtain the certificate, each flower variety must meet strict standards on quality, shape, size, and scent. Details on farm, origin, and time of harvest are also considered during the certification process.

Since the first flower, Cymbidium, was granted the “Da Lat Flower” certificate, a total of 11 varieties have been certified, including rose, daisy, carnation, gladiolus, and gerbera. All of which are considered Da Lat flower specialties.

At present, Lam Dong province has over 7,000 ha of flower farming land, making it the nation’s biggest flower producer. Of which, Da Lat owns over 4,400 ha.

In 2013, the province produced 2.13 billion flowers, including 1.44 billion in Da Lat.

The same year, about 190 million Da Lat flowers were shipped to foreign markets, including Japan , Australia , China , the US , Thailand , Cambodia , and some EU countries.

In the first seven months of this year, the province earned 16 million USD from exporting more than 100 million flowers, accounting for 5.9 percent of its total export revenue.