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BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES DECEMBER 20

Forestry exports expected to beat US$11.3 billion during 2019

 

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The forestry sector has maintained a high growth rate of over 5 per cent throughout the year with export turnover being recorded at an estimated US$11.3 billion, up roughly 20 per cent on-year, according to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan.

With such a high export turnover recorded throughout the year, the forestry sector is poised to enjoy a trade surplus of approximately US$8 billion, therefore making a considerable contribution to the agricultural sector’s overall growth.

Vietnam’s forest products have been exported to over 140 countries and territories worldwide. As a result, the country's main export markets for forest products include the United States, Japan, China, the EU, and the Republic of Korea, which account for over 80 per cent of the nation’s total export value of forest products.

There are over 4,500 domestic wood processing enterprises and establishments nationwide, of which over 1,800 local firms are directly involved in export activities.

In addition to businesses in the FDI sector, the wood processing industry has developed on a large scale and currently enjoys greater use of technology, while processed products of diverse patterns and types are now up to the standard requirements of the international market.

According to Deputy Minister Tuan, these achievements can be attributed to the positive changes made in the restructuring of the sector.

$15m centre for seed and farm produce processing inaugurated

An industrial centre for seed and agricultural product processing opened its doors in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap late last week.

Financed by the Viet Nam National Seed Corporation (Vinaseed), the centre will cost nearly VND350 billion (US$15.03 million) in the first phase and will use Japanese technology.

Chairman and General Director of Vinaseed Tran Kim Lien said the centre will process 100,000 tonnes of rice and 50,000 tonnes of seeds per year.

The centre will strive to research and produce varieties of seedling for large-scale rice production in the Mekong Delta, focusing on products with good resistance to climate change and pests.

The firm hopes the centre will meet up to 75 per cent of farmers' demand for rice varieties and raise their income by 30 per cent.

In addition, the centre aims to change agricultural production management toward 4.0 technologies to reduce losses in rice production while facilitating small and medium enterprises, co-operatives and farmer households to participate in Vinaseed’s value chain to bring about stable incomes for farmers.

In his speech, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said the centre will contribute to improving the rice value chain from seed to production, harvest, processing and consumption for the Mekong Delta region, the nation's largest rice production hub.

Saigon Co.op signs deal with fintech firm to boost digitalization

The Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives (Saigon Co.op) aims to become the first local retailer to apply digital payment technology through its collaboration with e-wallet service provider MoMo.

The two sides signed a strategic cooperation agreement on bolstering digitalization at Saigon Co.op’s supermarket and store chain at a ceremony held on December 17 in HCMC, targeting trillions of dong in e-transactions.

According to Nguyen Anh Duc, a board member and vice general director at Saigon Co.op, modern payment activities will drive up the rate of cashless transactions through Saigon Co.op facilities, from below 5% to 30%, in the next five years. Aside from the MoMo e-wallet, customers can use bank cards for payments.

The country’s leading retailer and the e-wallet operator signed the deal after a successful trial of payment activities on the MoMo app at Saigon Co.op outlets starting in 2018, recording a soaring number of MoMo users this year.

Speaking to the Saigon Times, the Saigon Co.op representative stated that non-cash payments have brought two major advantages to the retail sector: Supermarket operators can save on costs related to handling cash and thousands of hours can be saved by customers who no longer have to queue thanks to faster payment methods.

Despite being listed among local retailers who have invested heavily in technology, Saigon Co.op’s technology investment is still much lower than that of foreign retailers. Accordingly, the retailer will focus more attention on technology investment, said Duc.

Addressing the signing event, Nguyen Thanh Duc, general director of MoMo, claimed that the e-wallet operator, with over 13 million users, is keen to collaborate with retailers, targeting frequent, small-scale e-transactions.

In 2020, the two sides will jointly launch many technology-based services and applications such as vouchers, prepaid cards, solutions for ecommerce booths and money transfer services.

Saigon Co.op currently operates over 800 supermarkets and shopping malls across the country, with over one million shoppers per day. Meanwhile, MoMo has a network of 13 million users and some 100,000 points of sale, in addition to roughly 12,000 service provider-partners.

US$10 billion in Vietnam-Russia trade seen unobtainable in 2020: Russian official

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Russia might not reach US$10 billion next year as expected, Russian officials said, citing a lull in trade.

Dmitry Makarov, head of the HCMC office of the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in Vietnam, released the forecast at a press briefing which the Russian Consulate General in HCMC held today, December 16, to review the development of Vietnam-Russia bilateral ties in 2019.

The Vietnam-Russia official trade figure for the whole year is not available, but data from the Russian side showed that the figure recorded in the first nine months of the year totaled around US$3.6 billion. Meanwhile, the volume of trade between the two nations reached US$6.1 billion last year, up 16.4% versus 2017.

According to the Russian representative, this year has seen a sudden fall in Russia-Vietnam trade, particularly for Russian exports to Vietnam.

In January-September, two-way trade dropped 10% against the year-ago period. Of this, Vietnam’s exports to Russia picked up 3% in the period, while Russia’s shipments to Vietnam totaled only US$828 million, which represented just 80% of the year-ago figure.

The Russian official attributed the decline in Russian exports to Vietnam to the Southeast Asian nation’s protectionist measures.

The exports of many groups of Russian products, including iron and steel, wheat and fertilizer, to Vietnam sharply plunged in the nine-month period due to the impact of trade protectionism. These are items that Vietnam imports the most, Dmitry Makarov noted.

Specifically, Russia's export of steel to Vietnam fell from US$222 million to US$66.5 million, as Vietnam has restricted imports of steel sheets, weakening the competitiveness of Russian steel on the local market.

Russian wheat suffered a similar fate. As Vietnam has restricted the import of Russian wheat contaminated with weed seeds, the export revenue of this product to Vietnam has plummeted from US$447 million to US$89 million.

Overall, export revenues from three Russian product lines---steel, wheat and fertilizer---recorded a total dip of US$540 million in the nine-month period, equivalent to 65% of Russia’s total exports to Vietnam.

With these results, he cautioned that the bilateral trade target of US$10 billion in 2020 between Vietnam and Russia would be unachievable and would take a few years to be reached.

However, the representative of the Russian Consulate General in HCMC still had high hopes for the rising volume of trade between Vietnam and Russia in the years to come, buoyed by Vietnam’s free trade agreement with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.

HCMC to hold branding seminar

Experts and business executives will discuss ways to enhance the branding of local products and enterprises based in HCMC at a seminar set for late this week.

Branding is an urgent requirement for both the municipal government and the business community, especially small and medium enterprises.

Under the theme “Developing the brands of products and enterprises in HCMC," the December 20 seminar will offer a good opportunity for experts and business leaders to look for methods to do the branding for HCMC and its businesses in regional and global markets.

At the seminar, Pham Thanh Kien, director of the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, will deliver a report on why branding is needed.

Dr. Vo Tri Thanh, director of the Institute for Brand and Competitiveness Strategy, will talk about the branding of products and enterprises in HCMC.

In addition, Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Quoc Thinh, a branding expert and chairman of the advisory board of the Institute for Brand and Competitiveness Strategy, will share international experience in how brands are developed for localities’ products.

His comments will be followed by a statement by Chairman of the Plato Brand Academy Nguyen Duc Son on the creation of Vietnamese brands in line with international standards. He will also tell practical stories.

Moreover, representatives of Nestlé Vietnam, the Saigon Union of Trading Co-operatives, Saigontourist Holding Company, Vissan JSC, Minh Phuong Lacquer Company and Thai Tuan Fashion Group Corporation will propose preferential policies so that the city can have more brands.

The seminar will be held by the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade and the Saigon Times Group, under the HCMC People’s Committee’s direction, at the Le Meridien Hotel at 3C Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1, HCMC, which begins at 8 a.m.

Enterprises interested in the seminar should register with Luong Thanh Son of the Saigon Times Group’s External Relations Department, by email at thanhson@thesaigontimes.vn or on 094 100 0050, or register here to receive invitations from the seminar organizer.

Measures adopted to ease congestion at Cat Lai Port

Saigon Newport Corporation (SNP) has adopted a number of measures to ease congestion at Cat Lai Port in HCMC’s District 2 caused by the rising number of container ships entering the port, stated Nguyen Phuong Nam, director of the SNP operating center.

Nam told the Saigon Times at the five-millionth TEU welcoming ceremony today, December 17, that SNP has encouraged firms to deliver and receive their cargo as soon as possible to reduce cargo backlogs at the busiest port in the south.

Besides this, the firm has raised storage costs, he noted, explaining that the longer the goods are stored at the port, the higher the fee will be.

Since the hike in storage costs this year, cargo storage times at the port have reduced to one day from six days. Apart from this, support services, such as stuffing and unstuffing refrigerated and dry containers, have been conducted outside the port.

In addition, since August, an automatic system for handling customs procedures and making online payments has been launched at the port, helping firms save time and money.

Traffic jams on roads leading to Cat Lai Port have been addressed since the first phase of the My Thuy Intersection project was completed and put into service, Nam stressed, adding that the second phase of the project is under construction.

“To quickly handle traffic congestion on roads leading to the port, we have also established a team tasked with addressing traffic jams,” Nam said.

Also, Saigon Newport Corporation has increased waterway transport by opening some barge terminals to reduce congestion on roads.

A representative of the HCMC Department of Transport pointed out that the municipal authorities have put into service some subprojects, such as an overpass and a tunnel at My Thuy Intersection, Ba Cua Bridge on Vo Chi Cong Street and a bridge leading to Diamond Island, resulting in the easing of traffic jams around Cat Lai Port.

The city is building new roads connecting Cat Lai Port with Vo Chi Cong Street to reduce severe traffic congestion at the port, aside from speeding up the repair and expansion work on the Do Xuan Hop, Lien Phuong and Vo Chi Cong streets and widening some sections of the Dong Van Cong and Nguyen Thi Dinh streets.

Saigon Newport Corporation on December 17 welcomed the five millionth TEU passing through Tan Cang-Cat Lai Port in 2019.

This year, the number of containers transported through ports managed by SNP in the country amounted to 8.75 million TEUs, up 15.5% against last year. The firm holds some 50% of the country’s market share and 93% of the city’s market share.

Saigon Co.op signs deal with fintech firm to boost digitalization

The Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives (Saigon Co.op) aims to become the first local retailer to apply digital payment technology through its collaboration with e-wallet service provider MoMo.

The two sides signed a strategic cooperation agreement on bolstering digitalization at Saigon Co.op’s supermarket and store chain at a ceremony held on December 17 in HCMC, targeting trillions of dong in e-transactions.

According to Nguyen Anh Duc, a board member and vice general director at Saigon Co.op, modern payment activities will drive up the rate of cashless transactions through Saigon Co.op facilities, from below 5% to 30%, in the next five years. Aside from the MoMo e-wallet, customers can use bank cards for payments.

The country’s leading retailer and the e-wallet operator signed the deal after a successful trial of payment activities on the MoMo app at Saigon Co.op outlets starting in 2018, recording a soaring number of MoMo users this year.

Speaking to the Saigon Times, the Saigon Co.op representative stated that non-cash payments have brought two major advantages to the retail sector: Supermarket operators can save on costs related to handling cash and thousands of hours can be saved by customers who no longer have to queue thanks to faster payment methods.

Despite being listed among local retailers who have invested heavily in technology, Saigon Co.op’s technology investment is still much lower than that of foreign retailers. Accordingly, the retailer will focus more attention on technology investment, said Duc.

Addressing the signing event, Nguyen Thanh Duc, general director of MoMo, claimed that the e-wallet operator, with over 13 million users, is keen to collaborate with retailers, targeting frequent, small-scale e-transactions.

In 2020, the two sides will jointly launch many technology-based services and applications such as vouchers, prepaid cards, solutions for ecommerce booths and money transfer services.

Saigon Co.op currently operates over 800 supermarkets and shopping malls across the country, with over one million shoppers per day. Meanwhile, MoMo has a network of 13 million users and some 100,000 points of sale, in addition to roughly 12,000 service provider-partners.

Auditing sector expected to further evolve in fintech space

The strong growth of many firms in the fintech space is expected to prompt the reform of accounting and auditing systems to suit the rapid changes in the fintech industry, heard attendees at a conference on accounting and auditing, held in HCMC.

Some experts participating in the conference, organized by the University of Economics in HCMC on December 14, noted that technology is significantly changing business models, affecting the current auditing methods.

These effects are positive over the long term but are expected to bring multiple challenges while adjustments are being made. The first change in the digital space may be the increase in data volume, putting pressure on auditors and making them depend greatly on technology.

“As customers have applied advanced technologies, such as blockchain, and analyze data more sophisticatedly, auditors need to study technology platforms and trends deeply and clearly to understand firms better,” said Ha Trinh, former financial director of Be Group.

Besides this, the strong movement of technology will act as a stimulus for creating proactive auditing processes.

Apart from this, firms switching to automated financial operations will have a positive effect on the auditing sector.

Tran Thi Thanh Truc, deputy general director of PwC Vietnam, said that accounting and auditing processes are moving from paper files and paperwork to electronic data. As such, if auditors fail to thoroughly understand the technology in use, they will find it hard to complete their duties.

Different types of technology have different effects on the auditing sector, with artificial intelligence and machine learning seen having a significant influence on auditing operations in the coming months. As a result, auditing firms should quickly respond to these challenges to evolve appropriately.

Firms willing to file lawsuits in case of disputes: VCCI

The number of enterprises that are willing to lodge lawsuits in case of disputes has increased since 2017, according to a report by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The report on the deployment of Resolutions 02 and 35 on business environment and business environment reform from the perspective of businesses issued today, December 17, showed that the proportion of enterprises willing to pursue lawsuits was below 50% in all localities in 2017.

Last year, 14 provinces reported a proportion of more than 50%, such as Lao Cai (60%), Tra Vinh (55%), Daklak (55%), Dong Nai (54%), Quang Tri (53%) and Son La (52%).

Meanwhile, localities whose enterprises still had low confidence in the legal and judicial system included Kon Tum (35%), HCMC (36%), Thai Binh (36%), An Giang (38%), Haiphong (38%) and Hanoi (38%).

Thus, statistics show that enterprises in HCMC and Hanoi, which have the most enterprises in the country, were less willing to file lawsuits than those in other localities.

The proportion of firms willing to file lawsuits has increased in the past two years, after having steadily fallen in the 2013-2016 period. This demonstrates the success of the competent agencies’ efforts to reform the judicial system.

Enterprises tend to enter into contracts with multiple parties, including partners, laborers and customers, and face the risk that these parties may fail to fulfill their commitments and duties, causing losses for their business.

Therefore, enterprises need the State’s support to ensure the execution of contracts. If the judicial system is transparent and effective, the business environment will grow safer.

Danang seeks further investment

Danang City is aggressively pursuing investment attraction in 2020, focusing on hi-tech, information technology and smart industrial parks.

The city intends to expedite the deployment of a master plan to develop the city by 2030, with a vision toward 2045, enhancing its focus on land auctions for projects in the health, education and service fields in the first quarter of 2020.

Chief of the Office of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment Tran Van Hoang told VietnamPlus that as of late November, the department had consulted with the municipal government on the licensing of nine projects worth over VND8.8 trillion, a slight increase over the year-ago figure.

Some newly licensed projects include the building of infrastructure for the Thuy Tu Tourism Urban Area, a low-rise office building and ecological villa park complex, Tuyen Son service and housing, Danang Silk Tower 1 and a high-end coastal tourism resort with villas.

Danang City has attracted over US$689 million in foreign investment year-to-date, with 130 newly licensed projects with total registered capital of US$438 million and 16 operational projects raising US$117 million.

The city has seen 208 foreign investors contribute capital and acquire shares with a combined value of US$133.3 million, almost quadrupling the year-ago figure.

As of November, the city was home to 812 foreign direct investment projects with total registered capital of US$3.47 billion.

In 2019, the city authorities stepped up efforts to improve the investment and business environment to create more favorable conditions for investors in the city. Also, the city’s leaders have removed obstacles hindering investors.

VND6,686 billion credit package signed for Trung Luong – My Thuan expressway

Four banks approved a loan of VND6,686 billion (US$287.55 million) to fund the ongoing Trung Luong – My Thuan expressway in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.

The banks including VietinBank, BIDV, Agribank and VPBank signed a credit agreement with Trung Luong – My Thuan BOT JSC on December 16 to lend a total of VND6,686 billion for the expressway project, a vitally important transport project in the Southwest region.

According to the deal, VietinBank pledged a loan of VND3,300 billion, BIDV pledged VND1,500 billion, Agribank pledged VND1,000 billion and VPBank pledged VND886 billion, respectively.

General Director of Trung Luong – My Thuan BOT JSC Nguyen Tan Dong said that the signing of the credit agreement is an important milestone which will help accelerate the progress of the 51km expressway to meet the expectations of 20 million people in the Mekong Delta region.

Earlier, the company also received a fund of VND1,390 billion out of VND2,186 billion from the State budget.

The 51km expressway was commenced in November 2009 but so far only 27% of the project has been completed mainly due to shortage of capital.

The expressway runs through five districts of Tien Giang province. It is a key project to ease overload for the National Highway 1A and also among arterial routes to connect the Southwest region with Ho Chi Minh City and the key Southern economic region.

The project is expected to be completed in late 2020.

Bao Loc silk exhibition scheduled for December 20-January 1

The Bao Loc silk exhibition and cultural spaces of Ma, Co Ho and Churu ethnic groups along Xuan Huong river will be launched in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong from December 20 – January 1, as part of the eighth Da Lat flower festival.

During a local press conference on December 16, the organising board said 19 domestic silk producers will join the exhibition and demonstrate how to cultivate silkworms, extract raw silk, and produce silk.

At the cultural spaces, Ma, Co Ho and Churu ethnic people will showcase labour tools and ceramic making methods.

Themed “Da Lat and Flowers”, the festival aims to honour Da Lat floriculture, promote tourism and feature 12 major activities, including an opening ceremony, a display of flowers around Xuan Huong lake, an international flower and ornamental plant fair 2019, the Week of Tea and Silk Culture of Bao Loc city, music performances at the closing ceremony, among others.

It will take place in Da Lat and Bao Loc cities, and several other localities from December 20-24.

Saigon Newport Company welcomes 5 millionth TEU

Saigon Newport Corporation (SNP) on Tuesday welcomed its 5 millionth twenty foot equivalent unit (TEU) of cargo this year via its Tan Cang-Cat Lai terminal in HCM City.

The same day, SNP announced it had fulfilled its business targets for the year 15 days in advance. Of which, its profit saw a year-on-year rise of 14 per cent to more than VND3.11 trillion (US$133.5 million) in 2019, the highest-level thus far. The company contributed to more than VND1.61 trillion to the State budget, up 56 per cent year-on-year.

From January to December, the company’s terminals handled 8.75 million of TEUs, surging 15.5 per cent from the previous year and making up nearly 50 per cent of domestic market share.

SNP general director Ngo Minh Thuan attributed the positive performance to the company’s sufficient investment in infrastructure and technical innovation.

The Tan Cang-Cat Lai terminal was the first port in Viet Nam to receive the 'Green Port' award of APEC port services network this year, continuing to be the container terminal with the highest throughput in Viet Nam, according to SNP.

Government pledges to facilitate Nike’s long-term operation in Vietnam

The Vietnamese Government is willing to create favourable conditions for Nike to operate in the long run in Vietnam, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said while receiving Nike Vice President Chris Helzer in Hanoi on December 17.

He added that the Government is intensifying administrative reform and other efforts to improve business investment environment and facilitate business development for foreign investors, especially those from the US.

The Government has submitted to the Politburo for approval a project on increasing the efficiency of foreign investment attraction, Hue said, adding that Vietnam is institutionalising this issue by amending the Law on Investment and Law on Enterprises.

The Deputy PM hoped Nike will expand the list of raw materials sourced from Vietnam, increase the local content of its products, and help Vietnamese businesses improve capacity to join the group’s supply chains.

He affirmed that Vietnam does not pursue policies on trade surplus with the US and monetary manipulation. In fact, the country is trying to buy more made-in-US products to balance bilateral trade, he said.

Hue told his guest that 2020 will be an important year, and suggested the group have initiatives to mark this year such as providing exclusive products for the SEA Games 31 to be hosted in Vietnam.

For his part, Chris Helzer said Nike’s factory in Vietnam is the largest and most important of its kind worldwide.

Besides business operation, Nike also pays attention to social activities and has coordinated with some schools in Vietnam to implement programmes developing sport and outdoor activities for Vietnamese children, he said.

Helzer made some proposals relating to cooperation with Vietnamese partners in high-tech human resources training to serve Nike’s factory in Vietnam, and favourable conditions for the group to sign contracts on the use of renewable energy in line with its policy of switching to environmentally friendly energy.

He also asked the Vietnamese National Assembly to early ratify the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

Banks rush to issue bonds ahead of capital requirement deadline

Rising medium- and long-term capital demands to meet stricter regulations on credit safety limits and capital adequacy early next year were putting pressure on commercial banks to issue bonds in the final months of the year, experts said.

The latest report from Saigon Securities Incorporation (SSI) released on December 16 showed that banks continued to issue bonds worth nearly 14.15 trillion VND (615.17 million USD) last month, bringing the total in the first eleven months of this year to 94 trillion VND.

The issuance made banks the main player in the corporate bond market in the period, accounting for 45.5 percent of the market’s total bond value.

In November, BIDV was among the largest bond issuers with 8.6 trillion VND. The bank issued bonds worth a total of nearly 12.82 trillion VND in the first eleven months with terms from six to ten years and variable rates to increase long-term capital.

MBBank also successfully issued 80 billion VND in bonds with a ten-year term last month.

Other big issuers in the month included VPBank, VIB, SHB, HDBank and SeA Bank, but with shorter terms of two to three years and fixed interest rates of 6.3-7 percent per year.

According to experts, banks have continued issuing a large amount of bonds to raise capital to meet the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV)’s strict regulations on credit safety limits and capital adequacy.

Banking expert Nguyen Tri Hieu said that banks preferred to issue bonds to raise long-term capital to satisfy the SBV’s regulations on reducing short-term funds earmarked for long-term loans from 45 percent to 40 percent.

“Besides, banks also issue bonds to meet capital adequacy ratio (CAR) requirements under the Basel II standards that the SBV wants them to comply with by January 1 next year,” Hieu added.

Especially, Hieu said, for State-owned banks like BIDV and VietinBank, increasing capital is one of their most urgent tasks at the moment, because if they cannot do so before 2020, their CAR will fall below the minimum level of 8 percent stipulated by the Basel II norms – a set of laws and regulations to enhance competition and transparency in the banking system and make banks more resistant to market changes.

"Raising capital has not been easy as the banks are struggling to find foreign investors while the National Assembly in a meeting last month decided to reject a proposal to use the State budget to raise charter capital for the banks, so they are rushing to issue bonds," he explained.

Experts also forecast that capital mobilisation via bond issuance would continue growing in popularity.

The SSI report showed besides banks, real estate firms were also big bond issuers in November with 6.95 trillion VND. Total bond issuance of those firms was valued at 71.31 trillion VND in the past eleven months, accounting for 34.5 percent of the total market.

The biggest bond issuance of real estate firms this year belonged to Tan Lien Phat Tan Cang Logistics and Real Estate Company, valued at 2.03 trillion VND with a term of one year.

According to the SSI report, the total value of the entire corporate bond market was 24.20 trillion VND in November, bringing the total bond issuance value from January-November to 237 trillion VND. The value was 5.8 percent higher than the entire 2018.

Bond terms this year averaged at 3.71 years and bonds from infrastructure developers had the longest term of 5.14 years.

The bond yield rate this year averaged 8.7 percent per year while bonds from real estate firms had the highest rate of 10.24 percent.

Foreign investors purchased some 7 percent of the total bond issued in the past eleven months, valued at nearly 14 trillion VND.

Japan opens door for Vietnamese lychee

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF) has sent a letter to the Plant Protection Department of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development saying to open door for Vietnamese “thieu” lychee.

This is the result of more than five years of negotiation efforts between the Vietnamese Plant Protection Department and the MAFF.

The letter was enclosed with regulations on imported plant quarantine for Vietnamese lychee, which took effect from December 15, 2019.

Accordingly, Vietnamese lychee exported to Japan must be grown in gardens supervised and granted area codes by the Plant Protection Department, and comply with Japan’s regulations on plant quarantine and food safety.

Exported batches must be packed and treated with Methyl Bromide at facilities recognised by the Plant Protection Department and the MAFF with the minimum dosage of 32g/m3 for two hours under the supervision of Vietnamese and Japanese plant quarantine officers.

They must be enclosed with a phytosanitary certificate issued by the Plant Protection Department.

The department said it will continue coordinating with businesses to soon complete preparatory work and seek partners to export the first batch of fresh “thieu” lychee to Japan in 2020.

Vietnam committed to opening door in service sector

Vietnam is committed to opening door for foreign investors, especially in the field of services, according to the roadmap in signed bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements.

Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue made the statement while receiving President of the Warburg Pincus Timothy Geithner in Hanoi on December 17.

In the banking sector, the Vietnamese Government will consider reducing the State’s holding in joint stock commercial banks to create more opportunities for other investors, he said.

The Deputy PM elaborated that the State’s holding in the four major banks – BIDV, Vietinbank, Vietcombank and Agribank, which account for more than 50 percent of the total credit supply of the banking sector – will be reduced to 65 percent by 2025.

The Government has included in the draft revised Law on Investment and Law on Enterprises stipulations about non-voting shares to enable foreign investors to increase their ownership while ensuring the control of risks, he added.

The two bills will be discussed and adopted at the ninth session of the 14th National Assembly in May 2020, according to Hue.

He added that the Government is also studying the issuance of regulations on golden shares to increase the involvement of private investors in developing the credit and payment system in Vietnam.

Hue hoped the US fund will continue expanding its investment in the fields encouraged by the Vietnamese Government such as infrastructure, high technology, new materials, renewable energy, supporting industry, and information technology.

Geithner, who is former US Treasury Secretary, highly appreciated Vietnam’s efforts in improving business and investment environment, and attention to developing financial services, including new areas such as digital banking and online payment.

He suggested the Vietnamese Government allow higher foreign ownership in commercial banks in order to attract more foreign investment and facilitate non-cash payment in the country.

Spring Air mattress products to be manufactured in Vietnam

Mattress manufacturer Spring Air International on December 17 announced that it has signed a licensing agreement with Vietnam-based World Luxury Mattress Gallery (LMG), a business unit of AmericanStar Group, one of the largest branded original equipment manufacturers of mattresses in Southeast Asia.

Under the terms of the agreement, LMG will produce and distribute all Spring Air brands, including its signature Back Supporter line and high-end Chattam & Wells line, throughout Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
LMG will produce the goods at AmericanStar Group’s 1.2 million-square-foot complex in the southern province of Dong Nai, a manufacturing site that includes foam-pouring and spring-making facilities.

Spring Air products will also be sold at the company’s high-end retail store, located in Sala City, a relatively new upscale retail and residential hub in HCMC.

“U.S. bedding brands carry a lot of clout with consumers throughout Southeast Asia, and Spring Air is an important addition to our portfolio,” Lee Hinshaw, AmericanStar Group’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “The history of the Spring Air company and the unique features and benefits of the Spring Air brands will resonate well with consumers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.”

The agreement marks the first time Spring Air has held a license in these three countries and makes the Spring Air brand available in more than 40 countries around the globe.

“This agreement helps us expand our international footprint in a key region that has become an important mattress manufacturing hub in recent years,” Nick Bates, president of Spring Air International, noted in the statment.

“AmericanStar operates one of the largest mattress factories in the world and has been aggressively expanding in its home region and internationally. Their deep knowledge of the Southeast Asian market will be a tremendous asset to the Spring Air family,” Bates added.

Spring Air is a leading international brand, ranking among the top 10 manufacturers of bedding products in the world.

The AmericanStar Group has deep insights on the U.S. mattress market through its relationships with a number of U.S. bedding producers, including Therapedic (as Therapedic’s licensee for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand), Kluft, Aireloom and Brentwood Home. The company has also partnered with Latexco, which has facilities in the United States.

AmericanStar also has a made-in-the-United States line, which it sells in the U.S. market and also ships to Vietnam, where it is carried in the LMG store.

Deputy PM calls for more investment from Japan’s Tochigi prefecture

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh received the Governor of Tochigi prefecture of Japan in Hanoi on December 17, during which Binh asked the Japanese locality to encourage its businesses to invest in Vietnam.

Taking note of positive progress in the cooperation between Vietnam and Tochigi prefecture in recent years, Deputy PM Binh welcomed Governor Fukuda Tomikazu’s work in promoting ties with Vietnam in labour and human resources training.

A workshop on ways to expanding labour cooperation between Vietnam and Japan will be held during the Governor’s current visit to Vietnam.

The Deputy PM highlighted the robust development of the strategic partnership between the two countries, adding that Vietnam attaches importance to collaboration at the local level.

He informed the guest that Secretary- General of the Liberal Democratic Party and Chairman of the Japan-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Alliance Nikai Toshihiro will lead a 1,000-strong delegation to Vietnam in January 2020. Vietnam plans to organize a conference of Vietnamese, Japanese local leaders on this occasion, Binh said.

Governor Fukuda said he admired the rapid development of Vietnam in the past time, noting that 22 firms of his prefecture are investing in Vietnam, while there are around 6,000 Vietnamese living, studying and working in the prefecture.

According to the governor, most Vietnamese workers in the prefecture are employed in caring for the elderly, food processing and agriculture. The prefecture is working to create the best possible conditions for Vietnamese workers, he said.

He expressed the wish that his visit would contribute to economic and tourism ties between Vietnam and Japan.

Two supporting industrial clusters to be set up in Bac Ninh province

The People’s Committee of the northern province of Bac Ninh has given green light to the establishment of Tan Chi 2 and Cach Bi supporting industrial clusters with more than 1.6 trillion VND (68.75 million USD) in total investment.

Under the local authority’s decision, the Cach Bi supporting industrial cluster will cover an area of 72 hectares in Cach Bi commune, Que Vo district.

Meanwhile, the Tan Chi 2 cluster will cover 50 hectares, and have total investment of 665 billion USD.

The technical infrastructure development work at the industrial clusters will be carried out by the CD Group Vietnam Joint Stock Company during 2019-2022.

Bac Ninh has set a target of building 24 modern industrial clusters (ICs) by 2020.

According to the planning to 2020 with a vision to 2030 approved by the provincial People’s Committee, Bac Ninh will restructure 13 industrial clusters, keep 22 others unchanged and establish two new ones.

In the 2020-2030 period, the province will build five more industrial clusters and shift six others into urban and service areas.

In order to realise the goals, Bac Ninh will gradually stop granting new investment licences to projects that cause environmental pollution.

It will give priority to businesses that manufacture end products for consumption, while calling on enterprises in the locality to invest in developing industrial cluster infrastructure in neighbouring provinces to serve the projects.

Vinh Phuc achieves all 13 socio-economic growth targets for 2019: Vice-standing chairman

Vinh Phuc Province has overachieved results in all 13 targets set for 2019, vice-standing chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Le Duy Thanh said during the 14th provincial People’s Council Meeting.

Thanh said the provincial economy continued growing in all fields thanks to flexible management, initiatives to deal with difficulties and challenges, assistance provided for businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as opening up sources for growth.

The economic growth rate reached 8.05 per cent in 2019 and, of which, industry and construction had the highest growth rate of 13.11 per cent and the sector was the key to the province’s overall growth, according to the vice standing chairman.

In particular, industrial production was up 13.4 per cent on-year to VND244.8 trillion (US$10.5 billion). Processing and manufacturing industries recorded a growth rate of 40.6 per cent.

In October, Vinh Phuc completed its State budget collection. Total budget collection this year was estimated at VND32.45 trillion, up 16.8 per cent year on year.

Of the figure, domestic collection was estimated at VND28.5 trillion, beating the full-year target by 17.6 per cent. Income from foreign direct investment (FDI) projects was expected at VND21.5 trillion, up 8 per cent over the year’s plan.

Vice standing chairman Thanh said that the province organised three trips to visit potential markets that could provide high quality capital and technology. During the year, local authorities received 82 foreign businesses, investors and consultants, and 191 domestic organisations, individuals and companies that wanted to explore opportunities in the province.

Luring investors helped raise the province’s foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic direct investment (DDI) to beat the full-year targets, Thanh said.

The provincial authorities licensed 65 new projects and approved capital hikes for 50 FDI projects. Total registered FDI capital was $670 million in 2019, up 34 per cent from the plan and 27.2 per cent on-year.

Meanwhile, the province also granted new licences and increased capital for 48 domestic direct investment (DDI) projects, raising their total capital to VND13.55 trillion – up 54 per cent year on year.

Improvements were also seen in exports and tourism. Total retail sales were estimated at VND51 trillion, up 10.4 per cent and total trade turnover was expected to grow 14 per cent on-year to $2.56 billion. Key local exports included motors, autos and spare-parts, tea, electronics, textile and garment, and footwear.

By tightening the rules, Vinh Phuc, with popular sites like Tam Dao and Flamingo Dai Lai, remained the favourite destination for visitors. In 2019, the province expected the total number of tourists to increase by 17 per cent year on year to 1.6 million, bringing VND1.91 trillion to the province’s income.

In addition, after 10 years of implementing the new rural development plan, all 112 communes in the province accomplished the plan and four out of nine districts were recognised for meeting the new rural locality standards.

In 2019, the province also created jobs for nearly 24,500 people, including 2,000 people sent abroad. The total figure was up 6.2 per cent on-year.

However, there were negative developments with the agriculture sector, which was heavily affected by diseases. The outbreak of the African swine fever was the major cause, meaning the province had to kill nearly 109,000 pigs.

Meanwhile, the instability of selling prices for cattle products and the decline of plantation areas lowered the growth of the agriculture sector to 2.77 per cent.

In 2020, Vinh Phuc would continue using all resources efficiently and encourage more investors to come, thus improving both the provincial economy and society, Thanh said.

The province expected to record an 8-8.5 per cent growth rate in its gross regional domestic product (GRDP), Thanh highlighted. “Total State budget income is projected at VND33.5 trillion – of which domestic income reaches VND29.35 trillion, total FDI capital is expected to reach $550 million and total DDI capital will touch VND5.5 trillion.”

To achieve the goals, Thanh said Vinh Phuc would continue implementing the policies of the Party, the State and the Government on tightening budget use, improving the business environment – especially for small- and medium-sized companies, and the provincial competitiveness.

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