VASEP: Viet Nam to gain growth in shrimp exports to EU


The domestic shrimp industry considers the EU-Viet Nam free trade agreement (EVFTA) a good chance to boost exports to the EU market, according to the Viet Nam Association Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

Especially, tariffs on frozen prawn exported from Viet Nam to the EU will fall from 20 per cent at present to zero as soon as the agreement comes into effect.

The tariffs for other shrimp products are reduced according to the 3-5 year roadmap, while processed shrimp products will have a seven-year tariff reduction schedule, excluding canned tuna and fish balls with a tariff quota of 11,500 tonnes each, VASEP said.

The EVFTA will contribute to helping Viet Nam's shrimp exports to the EU increase by 4-6 per cent this year, according to the association’s forecast.

Sao Ta Food Joint Stock Company’s chairman was quoted by as saying that with the preferential tariffs, the EVFTA will give Vietnamese shrimp a stronger competitive advantage than ever before in the EU market and also create a big change in the structure of Viet Nam's shrimp export markets.

Now, the EU mainly imports frozen raw shrimp and processed shrimp from Viet Nam with the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) tariffs at 4.2 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively. With those tariffs, Viet Nam has had an advantage over the two rival countries, Thailand and China, because these two countries are not entitled to the EU's GSP tariffs.

In the first five months of this year, Viet Nam’s shrimp exports to the EU reached US$243.4 million, down 26.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2018.

The EVFTA also helps Vietnamese seafood exporters have more chances to take services relating to production such as logistics, insurance and finance. Therefore, they could reduce production costs and increase competitiveness compared to competitors not having FTAs with the EU, such as India, Thailand and China.

The local exports will also have the opportunity to participate in the European region's supply chain thanks to moving investment of multinational corporations to Viet Nam.

However, there still are many challenges for Viet Nam's fisheries sector when participating in the EVFTA, such as technical barriers, quality standards and strict rules of origin.

In addition, labour rules under the agreement will be stricter, requiring local businesses to adapt to the agreement’s requirements.

Therefore, VASEP said, to take full advantages of the EVFTA, local enterprises must change production to meet the rules and standards of origin, quality, labour, environmental protection and other issues relating to sustainable development.

Foreign investors pump $1.3 billion into Binh Duong in first half of year

Foreign enterprises invested US$1.3 billion into the southern province of Binh Duong in the first half of 2019, according to the provincial People’s Committee.

The latest addition lifted foreign direct investment (FDI) in the province up to $33.6 billion in more than 3,620 projects.

The province, a magnet for foreign investment in the South, is home to 29 industrial zones with a total area of more than 12,700ha, of which 82.3 per cent has been occupied by enterprises.

It is now calling for investment in the hi-tech industry, part-supply industry, information technology, electronics, mechanical manufacturing, precision industry, trade, services, infrastructure development, training and human resource development.

Local leaders have committed to simplifying and shortening the time for enterprises to start their business, and authorities now process companies’ applications for business certificates in a maximum of two working days, and have cut time to settle an administrative procedure by half.

According to committee chairman Tran Thanh Liem, the province will further its efforts to improve the investment climate and boost administrative reform to improve its competitiveness.

In addition, dialogues with local enterprises would be organised regularly to remove problems in a timely manner, Liem said.

Enterprises need better branding to compete in int'l market

Vietnamese enterprises must develop globally competitive brands if they want to succeed internationally, speakers said at a conference on domestic trademarks held in HCM City on Saturday.

Economist Le Dang Doanh said that most Vietnamese farm produce and seafood exported through unofficial channels had no brand names and thus suffered from low export prices.

“A strong and competitive economy has many large businesses with strong international brands,” he noted, adding that brand development, however, was not the strength of Vietnamese enterprises.

Viet Nam is among the world's largest exporters of farm produce and seafood, but few foreign consumers know they're using products from Viet Nam, he said.

“These products are exported without brand names on the packaging. More than 70 per cent of Vietnamese exports are from foreign direct invested companies," he explained.

A representative of the US-based Global Home Visa LLC, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Vietnamese enterprises must have good financial and human resources to build brand names in the US market.

Vietnamese exporters must also be knowledgeable about importing countries' laws and regulations on intellectual property, safety and quality of products, he said.

“With a strict market like the US, enterprises should learn about labeling, packaging and procedures for registering trademark protection,” he added.

To enter the US market, Vietnamese brands also need to be protected from violations made by other competitors.

Bui Hoang Yen, deputy representative of the Office of Trade Promotion Department in HCM City, noted that the newly signed free trade agreements (FTAs) would offer great opportunities for Viet Nam to export products to more than 100 countries.

However, exporters will face increasing trade protectionism and non-tariff barriers as well as stricter standards, especially on food safety and environmental protection.

Vietnamese goods sometimes fail to meet export standards, especially in strict markets like the US, the EU and others.

A programme on high-quality product production should be implemented by State management agencies, she said.

FTAs have opened up trade for domestic companies, but they have also allowed more foreign brands to enter the local market, creating fierce competition, experts said.

A good product with a good trademark will live forever in the heart of consumers, they noted. To build and protect brands, enterprises must invest in standardised production processes, market development, communication and marketing.

Experts also warned that social media and wide usage of IT around the world can be beneficial for building brands, but can also carry risks if comments about products are negative.

The event was organised by the Research Centre for Developing Vietnamese Brands.

Mechanical engineering industry needs more Govt support

The mechanical engineering industry needs supportive policies from the Government to enhance its competitiveness during the fourth industrial revolution, officials and industry experts have said.

Pham Xuan Da, head of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s southern affairs, said the industry plays an important role in manufacturing, which is the backbone of the economy.

“Although the [Government’s] preferential and support policies have not met the expectations of the industry, the mechanical engineering industry has achieved remarkable results such as expanding rapidly in terms of number of enterprises from around 10,000 in 2010 to more than 21,000 enterprises in 2016, and increasing exports to over US$16 billion,” he said.

“Local enterprises can make some products that we previously had to import. Production lines in factories are synchronised, and enterprises have developed a number of technologies.”

Local firms have also successfully developed many kinds of machinery, equipment and production lines for the agricultural sector, including for animal feed production and cassava starch processing, he said.

Dao Phan Long, chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Mechanical Enterprises (VAMI), said in the past all types of steel structures and non-standard equipment used in industrial plants, oil rigs and hydropower, irrigation, cement, and chemical plants had to be imported.

But now Viet Nam can make them, he said.

Local firms can also build ships of 70,000 - 105,000 tonnes, he said.

But Da said the industry has many limitations, including low competitiveness of its products, local shortage of raw material supply and qualified human resources and lack of linkages between companies.

At a recent seminar held in HCM City experts said in the context of integration and the fourth industrial revolution, new requirements have emerged for the mechanical industry.

Do Phuoc Tong, chairman of the HCM City Association of Mechanical – Electrical Enterprises, said policies to help enterprises get bank loans for buying equipment, machinery and production facilities are necessary as are programmes to help enterprises upgrade their technologies and train human resources.

Building mechanisms to promote technical and technology transfer to Vietnamese companies by foreign enterprises is also vital, he said.

On the other hand, mechanical enterprises need to proactively restructure and embrace innovation, improve management efficiency, reduce costs, improve productivity and quality, expand markets, enhance linkages with businesses in the same industry, and actively participate in global value chains, he said.

Concurring, Nguyen Van Thu, VAMI’s former chairman, said Viet Nam’s mechanical engineering industry is a few centuries behind the world, making it necessary to create a driving force for it to develop.

Funding and quality human resources are two important factors in the development of the industry, he said.

“We are living in a flat world and need to have policies ahead of one’s time so that our mechanical engineering quality and capacity can keep up with the demand of the world market.”

Agriculture sector will boost seafood, forestry production in H2

The agricultural sector in the second half of this year will focus on the development of commodities that have potential in production and export growth such as seafood and forestry products, said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong.

Especially, fishery and forestry industries have many opportunities to support the sector in achieving its growth targets in gross domestic product (GDP) and exports for the whole year, he said. The global prices of seafood products are not high, but the fishery industry still has a chance to increase its revenue.

Therefore, the sector will focus on developing these two products in the second half of this year, Cuong said.

Nguyen Quang Hung, Deputy Head of the Directorate of Fisheries, said the fishery industry can gain strong development in shrimp and tra fish in the last six months with output growth of 7.5 per cent each in production and exploitation of aquaculture.

Particularly, the shrimp export value will contribute a large part to the agriculture sector’s total export value in the second half of the year.

Other commodities like tuna, crustaceans and molluscs also have many opportunities to develop in the second half of the year, Hung said.

The forestry industry will focus on increasing timber production by over 8 per cent, meeting the demand for processing and exporting.

Meanwhile, the effectiveness of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) between the European Union (EU) and Viet Nam from June 2019 is a great opportunity to increase Viet Nam's wood product exports to the EU.

The signing of the Viet Nam-EU Free Trade Agreement on June 30, 2019 will also create many opportunities on trading agricultural products between the two sides.

However, it is certain that there will be non-tariff barriers and the agricultural sector must overcome those. Therefore, Cuong said the sectors must reorganise production to have products with high quality, good design and more reasonable prices.

Besides that, the cultivation and livestock industry also needs to accelerate restructuring. Especially, livestock must have solutions to stop the spread of African swine fever, reducing damage and ensuring growth of the farming sector. Along with that is accelerating poultry and large livestock, but attention must be paid to sustainability factors.

The agricultural development targets of 2019 include 3 per cent in GDP growth rate; export value at $43 billion; rice output at a similar volume to 2018 and strong growth in production of vegetables, fruit and some industrial trees with high consumption.

Livestock industry will increase output of poultry products by about 13-14 per cent; eggs by about 12 per cent and beef by about 7 per cent.

At present, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is also preparing profiles to get permission on exporting some kinds of fruits to the US such as grapefruits, avocado, durian and others, and to Japan like lychees, longans, grapefruits, rambutans and star apples.

In addition, the sector also has to pay attention to the domestic market, avoiding losses in the home market.

According to the ministry, in the first six months, the export value of the whole industry is estimated at $19.77 billion, a year on year increase of 2.2 per cent while its trade surplus reached $4.2 billion, up 4.6 per cent compared to the first six months of 2018.

Nguyen Van Viet, Director of the Planning Department, said in the first half of this year, many kinds of fruits were exported to new export markets such as mango to the US, the UK and Australia, and mangosteen to China.

During the first half of the year, Viet Nam and China signed a protocol to export milk and milk products from Viet Nam to China.

Viet said the sector could not gain high growth in export value due to the strong decline in export prices of many key agricultural products compared to the same period in 2018, including pepper, rubber, coffee, rice, cashew nuts, cassava and products from cassava, shrimp and tra fish, while Viet Nam’s export value to China also decreased.

Meanwhile, many export markets of Viet Nam have had more strict technical barriers, policies on import quota, new requirements for traceability and export certificates, and quality inspections, especially China which is one of the largest export markets for Vietnamese farming products.

EVFTA to hasten movement of manufacturers to Vietnam: analysts

Vietnam’s booming economy will see another surge of new investment after signing a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) that could hasten the exodus of manufacturers from China, according to analysts.

The South China Morning Post on July 3 quoted experts as saying that Chinese firms looking to gain lower-tariff access to the EU market are likely to be incentivised to open production in Vietnam.

Adam McCarty, chief economist at Hanoi-based Mekong Economics, said the agreement will “speed up, slightly, the already fast movement of factories from China to Vietnam”.

“The trade war adds a little to what was happening anyway, and this [free trade agreement] adds a little more. It is both Chinese and foreign firms relocating to Vietnam,” he added.

“From the business strategy point of view, Vietnam is actually a good manufacturing location that people are looking at for the advantage of the network of the [free trade agreement with the EU],” said Angelia Chew, founder of the Singapore-based consultancy AC Trade Advisory.

“On top of the trade tension, we have Chinese clients that are looking for manufacturing relocation [to Vietnam] to mitigate increased duties for goods made in China to the US. It is pretty exciting for companies investing into [Vietnam now] as well as existing companies in Vietnam, they knew the [free trade agreement] was going to attract more investment.”

Dr Cassey Lee, senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, a research institution that specialises in Southeast Asian studies, said the EVFTA would “help Vietnam diversify its portfolio of inward foreign direct investment”.

The EVFTA and the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) were signed in Hanoi on June 30. The agreements will be submitted to the National Assembly of Vietnam and the European Parliament for ratification.

Contest promotes tourism startup, innovation

The Vietnam Youth Union’s Supporting Centre for Youth’s Startup in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Vietnam organised the Startup Hunt contest from July 5 to August 29 to promote startup and innovation in tourism.

At the press conference held in Hanoi on July 5, Vice President of the Vietnam Youth’s Union Nguyen Thi Thu Van said that the contest responds to the youth startup scheme during 2019-2022 to encourage initiatives for local tourism development, while luring public attraction to the youths’ innovation in the tourism sector.

Twenty best individuals or groups selected to the semi-final round will receive consultancy to complete their products in two weeks before sending to the organising board via Youtube links. After that, five most excellent initiatives will enter the finale, which will take place on August 28-29.

The champion will receive 200 million VND (8,585 USD) in cash, and have a chance to study startup models in Israel.

The organising board will present one second prize, one third prize, and two consolidation prizes, each worth 100 million VND, 50 million VND and 10 million VND, respectively.

Renowned automobile brands to join Vietnam Motor Show 2019

The Vietnam Motor Show 2019 (VMS 2019), to be held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre from October 23-27, will be a chance for local consumers to see latest models from many renowned automobile brands and breakthrough technologies in the industry.

According to Chairman of Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA) Toru Kinoshita, brands to attend the event include Audi, Ford, Jaguar, Honda, Land Rover, Lexus, Mecedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Besides, the exhibition will see the attendance of hundreds of suppliers in supporting industries, and spare parts.

Particularly, a smart mobile app will be deployed to help the visitors keep close watch of all activities during the event and choose the shows they want to attend. Besides, the app enables automobile brands to provide information for their potential customers.

The VMS, held by the VAMA in collaboration with the Vehicle Importers Vietnam Association (VIVA), is expected to attract some 200,000 visitors, and millions of live streaming video viewers

Vietjet offers big promotion to celebrate Keidanren membership, new routes to Japan

New-age carrier Vietjet Air offered 1,600,000 super-saving tickets priced only from 0 USD during three golden days of July 3, 4 and 5 to celebrate its membership of Keidanren and the airline’s new routes to Japan.

The tickets were up for grabs during the three days between golden hours 12:00 -14:00 applied to all Vietjet’s flight routes (including 600,000 domestic tickets and 1,000,000 international tickets).

The promotion is applied to flights connecting Vietnam and Japan at all time during the three golden days. Travel time is from September 4, 2019 to December 31, 2019 for domestic routes and from September 4, 2019 to June 25, 2020 for international routes and Thai Vietjet’s routes.

In addition, Vietjet continues its sweet treat to travelholics with the exclusive ticket promotion titled “Ohayo Saturday, fly to Japan from only 0 USD”. Accordingly, 30,000 air tickets priced as low as 0 USD are up for grabs every Saturday from now until March 31, 2020, applied to all of the airline’ five routes between Vietnam and Japan, including Hanoi/ Ho Chi Minh City - Osaka (Kansai)/Tokyo (Narita) and Da Nang – Tokyo (Haneda). The travel period for the promotional tickets is available after 30 days from the booking date.

On July 1, Vietjet announced its new routes connecting Ho Chi Minh City with Tokyo (Narita), and the central city of Da Nang with Tokyo (Haneda) at a ceremony in Tokyo.

The Da Nang – Tokyo (Haneda) route will operate daily return flights, starting from October 26, 2019.

In recent years, Da Nang has emerged as a phenomenon destination of Vietnamese tourism, whilst Tokyo is one of the world's most modern and bustling cities. The route connecting these two famous tourist cities is expected to meet the travel needs of people and visitors, contributing to promoting trade and integration in the region.

Also on July 1 in Tokyo, leaders of Vietjet were honoured to officially receive the membership certificate for the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren). Vietjet is the special foreign enterprise and the first low-cost carrier in the world to join the biggest comprehensive economic federation in Japan.

Vietjet is a fully-fledged member of International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate. The Vietnamese budget airline was named “Best Ultra Low-Cost Airline 2018 - 2019” and awarded the highest ranking for safety with 7 stars in 2018 and 2019 by the world’s only safety and product rating website The airline has also been listed as one of the world's 50 best airlines for healthy financing and operations by Airfinance Journal in 2018.

Currently, Vietjet operates around 400 flights daily, carrying more than 80 million passengers to date, with 119 routes covering destinations across Vietnam and international destinations such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, mainland China, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Major solar power plant becomes operational in An Giang

The first phase of a solar power plant that has the total capacity of 210 MWp was put into operation in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang on July 6.

The Sao Mai Solar PV1 plant, covering 275ha in An Hao commune of Tinh Bien district, is invested with nearly 6 trillion VND (257.5 million USD) by Sao Mai Group.

In the first phase, carried out in only four months, the factory has an area of 120ha and the capacity of 104 MWp. It will generate 250,000 MWh each year, equivalent to the electricity amount consumed by more than 50,000 households, according to the plant’s General Director Le Tuan Anh.

The second phase, which has the capacity of 106 MWp, is scheduled to be completed before December 31 this year.

[Growth demand fuels solar power boom in Vietnam]

At the inaugural ceremony, Chairman of the An Giang People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Binh said this is the biggest solar power project and also the one built in the shortest period of time in the province, less than one year in total.


He added the project will make an important contribution to local socio-economic development and the ensuring of national energy security.

As of June 30, as many as 82 solar power plants with a combined capacity of 4,460MW had been connected to the national grid, according to the Vietnam Electricity (EVN) group.

This makes solar power currently account for 8.28 percent of Vietnam’s electricity capacity.

CPI target for 2019 feasible: experts

The target of keeping the country's inflation below 4 percent is feasible, experts said at a recent seminar held in Hanoi by the Institute of Economics and Finance (IEF) under the Academy of Finance.

Some even forecast CPI growth might be below 3 percent.

Nguyen Duc Do, Deputy Director of the IEF, mentioned the three inflation scenarios outlines since early this year, which will stand at 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3.54 percent.

“After the General Statistics Office announced the average inflation rate for the first six months of this year at 2.64 percent, there is a high possibility that inflation this year follows the low scenario,” Do said.

IEF Director Nguyen Ba Minh predicted that CPI this year would climb by 3.0 to 3.5 percent.

In the second half of the year, a series of factors would be the key drivers of CPI such as rising food prices, especially pork, due to the impact of African swine fever, Minh said.

“It is likely that the State will continue to increase tuition fees and healthcare service prices along with the set roadmap. The monthly basic salary for civil servants and public employees will also be raised to 1.49 million VND. These will be the factors putting pressure on the CPI at the end of this year,” Minh said.

However, there are also some factors that will curb CPI growth such as the predicted world economic downturn, which would stop the price of raw materials recovering, as well as the Government’s drastic measures to stabilise prices and monetary policies.

Representatives from the Finance Ministry’s Price Management Department were of the view that CPI growth would be somewhere between 3.3 to 3.9 percent this year.

The ministry will continue keeping a close watch on the supply-demand situation to take suitable solutions to stabilise the market, especially in terms of essential goods like pork, construction materials and petrol.

While the fiscal policy must be governed in a strict manner, the monetary policy needed to be flexible and coordinated with other macro-economic policies to keep inflation within the ceiling limit, experts said.

Binh Thuan province sees jump in seafood catch

The south-central province of Binh Thuan has caught and bred more than 100,000 tonnes of fish and other seafood products in the first half of the year, up 2.02 percent against the same period in 2018.

Favourable weather and the appearance of a large quantity of pelagic fish in waters offshore contributed to the increase.

Fishermen in the province, one of the country's largest fishing grounds, caught 93,000 tonnes of seafood in the period, up 2 percent against the same period last year.

The catches include anchovies, herring, tunas, cuttlefish, blue-legged crabs, clams and others, according to the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The province targets catching 210,000 tonnes of fish and other seafood this year.

In the first half of the year, farmers in the province harvested nearly 6,900 tonnes of aquatic products, including shrimp and fish from 1,380ha of aquaculture farms.

The province's Agriculture and Fishery Extension Centre has developed shrimp breeding models that meet Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards and intensive shrimp farming. The latter harvests 14-15 tonnes of white-legged shrimp per hectare a crop.

However, most farmers are not earning much profit now because of a decline in prices, which is attributable to the expansion of white-legged shrimp farming in the Mekong Delta in recent years.

In the first half of the year, the province produced 13 billion shrimp fry, an increase of 5.5 percent year-on-year, according to the department. Binh Thuan is one of the country’s largest shrimp fry producers, and the quality of shrimp fry there tops the country.

Pham Kim Thanh, deputy director of the province’s Agriculture and Fishery Extension Centre, said the province’s fishery sector has focused on the quality of its shrimp fry.

The province has regularly organised training courses on techniques to produce high-quality shrimp fry and has implemented programmes to produce disease-free shrimp fry, he said.

Stakeholders urged to consult arbitrators in PPP project disputes

Arbitrators need to step in and deal with disputes in public-private-partnership (PPP) projects so economic development will not be disrupted, experts have warned.

Vietnam has encouraged PPP projects in recent years to meet the demand for energy and infrastructure development in the context of limited State budget.

According to Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hoang Quang Phong, as of January 2019, 336 PPP project agreements were signed with the total capital raised reaching 1.6 quadrillion VND (68.8 billion USD). The figure consisted of 140 build-operation-transfer (BOT) projects and 188 build-transfer (BT) projects.

Do Trong Hai, director of the law firm Bizlink, said disagreements and conflicts might arise between government agencies, investors and people when carrying out a PPP project.

“Disputes must be resolved shortly so that they don’t escalate, assuring the PPP project is carried out quickly and has no negative impact on the nation’s general business environment,” Hai told a two-day seminar that took place in both Hanoi and HCM City on July 4-5.

Stakeholders should bring the case to the arbitrator as this is an effective way to deal with conflicts, Phan Trong Dat, deputy general secretary of the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, told the conference.

“Arbitration is secure, flexible, less time-consuming and cost-saving,” Dat said, adding that experiences in developed countries have proven arbitration can lessen the tensions in PPP projects. Therefore, cases may not be brought to the court.

Professor Pham Duy Nghia at Fullbright Vietnam University said attracting private investment was good for infrastructure development.

“However, PPP projects often have long life cycles, so risks will come along,” he said, adding risks were related to legal framework, finance, tax and management.

“Risks increase spending on projects. It may not only result in losses for stakeholders but also create disputes, leading to the delay, or even worse, the cancellation of the projects.”

In order to limit the risks, there are two solutions, according to Nghia. One is to forecast potential risks when stakeholders prepare mutual contracts.

A PPP project often lasts for 20-30 years. During the period, the regulations and policies could change so there must be appropriate measures to make sure stakeholders would not suffer, Nghia said.

"The second solution is selecting arbitrators to resolve disputes," he added. “If investors are unaware of the administrative procedures, it may prolong the implementation plan and create more risks for both private investors and State agencies.”

Dong Nai records good growth in H1

The southern province of Dong Nai recorded a GDP growth of 8.02 percent in the first six months of this year, according to the provincial People’s Committee.

The committee said the local economy continues to enjoy high and stable development in line with orientations outlined by the authorities.

Industry and trade continued to be the key driver of growth. The industrial and construction sector posted a growth of 9.09 percent, with the processing and manufacturing industry recording the highest expansioin of 9.43 percent.

Local firms exported 9.42 billion USD worth of goods in the period, up 6.1 percent year on year, to which foreign-invested companies contributed 7.76 billion USD, a yearly increase of 8.94 percent. The province imported 8 billion USD worth of goods, resulting in a trade surplus of over 1.4 billion USD.

The agro-forestry-fishery sector expanded by 3.22 percent, despite the impact of the African swine fever on animal husbandry.

Besides, the province has fulfilled the yearly target in attracting foreign investment, when foreign investors poured more than 1 billion USD into Dong Nai in the first half of the year.

As a result of good economic growth, budget revenues in the period also picked up 20.8 percent from the same period last year to 26.48 trillion VND (1.14 billion USD).

Tra Vinh works to attract more investors

The Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh is revising policies and mechanisms towards removing obstacles facing businesses, thus attracting more investors.

According to Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Anh Dung, departments, sectors and localities across the province have applied measures to improve the provincial competitiveness index (PCI), while speeding up administrative reform.

At the same time, the province has asked for support from the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to analyse its weaknesses in the PCI over the years, thus making plans to improve performance in all ten components in the index.

The province ranked 46th among 63 provinces and centrally-run cities in the PCI rankings in 2018.

Meanwhile, Tra Vinh has focused on enhancing the sense of responsibility and attitude of public servants in assisting enterprises and promoting investment, he said.

Dung noted that the province has increased dialogues with investors to timely deal with their difficulties while implementing projects in Tra Vinh, thus ensuring the projects’ progress.

Recently, the provincial Department of Planning and Investment has formed a team to give free policy consultations to investors, businesses and business households, along with other measures to assist them in administrative procedures.

Since the beginning of this year, Tra Vinh has lured 40 investment projects worth over 363 million USD, creating jobs for about 5,780 local labourers. Of the projects, three were invested by investors from Thailand, China, and Taiwan (China) in areas of wind power, apparel and housing.

Vietnam Airlines seeks to attract Belgian visitors to Vietnam

Vietnam’s flag carrier Vietnam Airlines organised a workshop in Brussels on July 4 to introduce its air routes to representatives from over 30 Belgian travel agencies.

The event aims to promote information related to Vietnam Airlines, air routes and services provided by the firm, as well as incentives for travelers from Brussels to Vietnam through major European transit points like Paris, Frankfurt or London.

By using modern wide-body aircraft of Airbus 350 and Boeing 787, and advantages that Vietnam Airlines has obtained through SkyTeam aviation alliance membership, the firm assures that it offers visitors interesting experiences together world-class quality services with affordable price.

Pascal Van de Moortel, representative of Vietnam Airlines in Brussels, said the firm targets tourism agencies, and those who attended the event are tour designers for travel companies and can recommend customers most convenient airline services for their tours.

Travel agency representatives could be the most efficient promoters of Vietnam Airlines in particular and Vietnam's tourism industry in general, he said.

The representatives were very interested in information introduced at the workshop, saying that the information is very interesting and detailed and suitable for group tours.

Xenia Phicips from TUI Group said her firm has organised many tours to Vietnam, and its customers have enjoyed flight services provided by Vietnam Airlines.

More and more Belgian people are interested in traveling to Vietnam, but a lack of a direct route between the two countries make many hesitate to decide Vietnam as their holiday destination.

The seminar was part of efforts to attract affluent tourists from Belgium and other European nations to Vietnam.

In 2010, Vietnam Airlines became a member of SkyTeam – a global airline alliance whose 20 members provide access to an extensive global network of 16,609 daily flights to 1074 destinations in 177 countries. This membership reaffirmed the carrier’s position on the global aviation map.

In 2015, Vietnam Airlines became the first airline in the world to successfully operate both next-generation aircraft Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and Airbus A350-900 XWB at the same time.

The airline has spearheaded Vietnam’s aviation market – one of the fastest-growing domestic markets in the world – throughout its 20 years of development at a double-digit annual growth rate.

Moody’s affirms B2 rating for SHB

Moody’s Investors Services has recently affirmed Sai Gon-Hanoi Commercial Joint Stock Bank (SHB) B2 long-term local and foreign currency deposit ratings.

The US credit rating agency rated B3 for the bank’s baseline credit assessment (BCA) and adjusted BCA, and announced the bank’s B1/NP local and foreign currency Counterparty Risk Ratings, and B1(cr)/NP(cr) Counterparty Risk Assessment.

Moody’s said the outlook on SHB’s long-term ratings is stable.

The ratings are one-notch uplift based on Moody’s assessment of a moderate probability of support from the Vietnamese Government in times of need.

Meanwhile, SHB’s B3 BCA considers its weak asset quality, which is strained by its large stock of legacy problem assets, modest profitability as a result of high credit costs and poor capitalisation.

The bank’s credit growth higher than the system’s average during 2014-2017, coupled with large exposure to cyclical sectors like agriculture, construction and real estate posed further downside risks to its asset quality.

As of the end of 2018, SHB’s problem loan ratio was stable from a year earlier at 7.8 percent. In Vietnam, Moody's defines problem loans as loans under categories 2-5 of Vietnamese accounting standards, and gross bonds issued by the Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC).

SHB's return on tangible assets improved mildly to 0.59 percent in 2018 from 0.54 percent in 2017. Total revenue improved in line with loan growth and margin expansion, although the improvement was offset by high operating and credit costs.

Moody's expects SHB's profitability to hover at current levels as the bank continues to make provisions against its large stock of problem assets.

Lao Cai lures nearly 3 million tourists in six months

The northwestern mountainous province of Lao Cai, known for its picturesque mountains, rivers, waterfalls and rich culture of ethnic hill tribes, welcomed nearly 500,000 visitors each month in the first half of 2019.

In total, the locality attracted nearly 3 million tourists in six months, fulfilling 58.1 percent of the locality’s yearly target and representing a rise of 12.5 percent year on year.

Of the total, international visitors numbered 459,000, a rise of 15.6 percent against the same time last year.

The locality’s tourism revenue in the period reached over 11.25 trillion VND, equivalent to 58.7 percent of the yearly target and up 51.3 percent over the same period last year.

Notably, the Sa Pa national tourism area lured more than 1.6 million visitors in the first half of this year, completing 55.5 percent of the target for the whole year, accounting for 57 percent of the total number of visitors to the province.

This year, Lao Cai targets 5 million visitors.

To this end, the province has carried out policies designed to promote tourism and service sector.

Besides working to turn Sa Pa urban area and the Lao Cai city into tourism-service centre, the province is investing in developing other destinations like Bat Xat, Bac Ha, Bao Yen and Van Ban. It has also linked up with other localities in tourism development and foster cooperation within the Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong-Quang Ninh economic corridor and eight northwestern provinces’ collaboration.

Lao Cai has also set up tourism partnership with Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France.

In the rest of the year, Lao Cai will continue with tourism promotion activities such as organising international tourism events to lure more tourists, along with an investment and tourism promotion conference and the Vietnam-China trade-tourism fair.

Long An eyes new industrial park

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved in principle the development of Thu Thua Industrial Park, expected to cost nearly VND1.3 trillion (US$55.7 million), in the southern province of Long An.

The park will be built on a total area of 188ha in Thu Thua Town, online newspaper reported.

Currently, Long An is home to 90 industrial parks (IPs) and industrial clusters (ICs) which span more than 13,000ha. Of them, 38 are operational with an area of above 5,000ha while the remainder are planned to be developed in the near future.

By the end of April 2019, IPs and ICs operating in the province reported an occupancy rate of about 85 per cent, according to the provincial People’s Committee.

The committee has directed relevant sectors to continue to support infrastructure investors in many aspects, including ground clearance as well as legal procedures to complete infrastructure and attract secondary investors.

To date, the province has attracted 978 foreign-invested projects with total registered capital of nearly $6.15 billion. Over half of these projects are operational.

Sacombank speeds up Basel II roadmap with risk regulation project

Sacombank and PwC (Vietnam) Limited on July 5 signed a deal and began the "Enhancement of valuation model and development of market risk regulatory capital charged model” project.

It seeks to improve the bank’s risk management capacity while helping create a solid foundation to comply with the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) regulations and speed up the roadmap for adopting Basel II standards.

It is planned for completion in February 2020.

It will help Sacombank achieve its main objectives of upgrading models for valuation and quantifying risks in line with its current and future business portfolios; developing a methodology for market risk regulatory capital charged model following the standardised measurement method and internal model approach; developing stamina-testing methods, including principles/assumptions, tests and identification of all factors that can result in market risks to business portfolios, to come up with timely responses.

Talking about the rationale for the project, Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, director of Sacombank’s capital market and foreign exchange division and the project director, said: “As a pioneer bank, more than ever, Sacombank expects to apply the most advanced practices and standards in modernising risk management activities in the capital and foreign exchange market businesses to ensure the bank operates in a safe and sustainable manner.

Sacombank’s project is also aimed at “bringing about significant changes in quality and comprehensive reform, creating a sustainable foundation to cope with the competitive business environment.”

Grant Arthur Dennis, PwC Vietnam’s chairman, said Việt Nam's financial market has changed very quickly in recent times, requiring banks to adapt.

Therefore, this project would be a big step for Sacombank in its journey to become the leading retail bank in Viet Nam, he said, assuring that PwC would bring a team of experienced foreign and Vietnamese consultants to co-ordinate with Sacombank to complete the project.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Le Thi Hoa, an independent board member and chairwoman of the steering committee for implementing the Basel II project, said: “The completion of this project will not only meet SBV's expectations but more importantly improve Sacombank's governance and management system and help the bank’s staff access advanced knowledge the world is using.”

In 2015 Sacombank was one of 10 banks selected by the SBV to pilot risk management in line with Basel II norms.

In 2017 the bank implemented the loan origination system to help automate and professionalise credit allocation and management.

A year later it launched two risk management projects, "Perfecting the risk management database framework" and "Credit risk quantification model".

These are its two most important projects in the process of completing standardised approach and adopting the internal approach under the Basel II.

In February this year Sacombank and PwC Vietnam Consulting Co., Ltd. officially launched the "Upgrading and perfecting the asset liability management framework" project.

With such investment in key projects, Sacombank has been preparing to achieve the goal of adopting Basel II norms.

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