All posts by Oliver Massmann

ベトナムの世界銀行がドウェイン・モリス法律事務所に対し、ベンチマーキング・インフラ民間連携(PPP)について、知っておくべき以下の疑問を問う

ケーススタディの仮定
· プライベートパートナー(プロジェクト会社)は、ベトナムで運営されている民間企業のコンソーシアムによって設立された特別目的会社(SPV)です。
· 調達機関は、ベトナムの国家/連邦機関であり、輸送部門(国道)の国家/連邦インフラ・プロジェクトの設計、建設、資金調達(完全または部分的)、運用、および保守を計画しています。 1億5,000万米ドル(または現地通貨での相当額)の投資額は、可用性の支払いまたは使用料で賄われています。
· このため、調達機関は、競争力のあるPPP調達手順に従って、入札の公募/入札の招待/提案の要求/資格の要求を開始します。
定義
· 「民間連携(PPP)」とは、公的資産またはサービスを提供するための公的機関または当局と民間企業との間の契約上の取り決めを指します。この調査の目的のために、この定義は特定の国または管轄で使用される用語に関係なく適用され、政府支払いまたはユーザー支払いPPPの両方に適用されます。
· 「規制の枠組み」には、すべての法律、規制、ポリシー、拘束力のあるガイドラインまたは指示、標準的なPPP契約、一般的な適用に関する他の法的文書、司法上の決定、およびPPPに関連する先例を管理または設定する行政裁定が含まれます。これに関連して、「ポリシー」という用語は、すべての利害関係者を拘束し、法律および規制と同様の方法で施行され、PPPの実装に関する詳細な指示を提供する他の政府発行の文書を指します。公共サービスを提供するための行動方針としてPPPを使用するという政府の意図の意味において、ポリシーと混同しないでください。「規制の枠組み」には、PPPを扱う法律、規制、政策などが含まれますが、これらに限定されません(PPPの調達は一般調達枠組みによって管理される場合があります。関連する法律および規制)。
· 「調達機関」とは、調達/入札プロセスが正常に完了した後、関連する資産および/またはサービスが民間パートナーによって提供されることを保証する責任を負う省、部門、または機関です。これは、PPPを担当する機関(すなわちPPP契約の特定、準備、調達、授与、管理)です。
· 調達用語:調達関連の用語は、調達手順の種類とプロセスの段階に応じて、管轄区域によって異なることを考慮して、調査で使用される用語は、現地の命名規則に最も適合するように寄稿者によって解釈される必要があります。特に、次の非網羅的な用語リストは、調査の文脈において互換性があると広く理解できます。
記事全文及び質問内容等に関しご質問等がございましたら、
お気軽にオリバー・マスマン(OMassmann@duanemorris.com)までご連絡くださいませ。

VIETNAM – SOLAR POWER FEED IN TARIFFS BREAKING NEWS – FINAL DRAFT DECISION ON SOLAR POWER FEED-IN-TARIFFS FOR THE PERIOD FROM 1 JULY 2019 TO 31 DECEMBER 2021

On 19 September 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam (“MOIT”) submitted to the Government the final draft decision of the Prime Minister on the mechanism for encouraging the development of solar power projects in Vietnam from 1 July 2019 to 31 December 2021 (“FIT2”). It is expected that the new solar FiT2 decision will be issued soon this month.

Notably, the final FiT2 draft aims mostly at encouraging solar power project development in southern area as the MOIT estimated an addition capacity of approx. 6-8 GW need to be realized to satisfy major power demand of this area up to 2021.

New FITs for Solar Power Projects – from 1 July 2019 to 31 December 2021

Compared to the previous drafts, the final FIT2 draft does not determine FiT prices based on regions but only on technology types. The final FIT2 draft classified solar power projects into three groups as follows:

• Ground-mounted solar energy project: VND 1,620/kWh (USD 7.09 cent/kWh);
• Floating solar energy project: VND 1,758/kWh (USD 7.69 cent/kWh)
• Rooftop solar energy project: VND 2,156/kWh (USD 9.35 cent/kWh)

The above FIT2 price shall be applied for solar power projects reaching COD within the period from 1 July 2019 to 31 December 2021 and applied for 20 years from the COD date.
For Ninh Thuan province, solar power projects that reach COD before 1 January 2021 (within the capacity of 2,000 MW as already approved by the Government) still enjoy the FIT price of 9.35 cent/kWh.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

VIETNAM – THE WORLD BANK IS ASKING DUANE MORRIS ABOUT BENCHMARKING INFRASTRUCTURE PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS – WHAT YOU MUST KNOW:

CASE STUDY ASSUMPTIONS

· The Private Partner (the Project Company) is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) established by a consortium of privately owned firms, which operate in Vietnam.
· The procuring authority is a national/federal authority in Vietnam that is planning to procure the design, build, finance (full or partial), operation and maintenance of a national/federal infrastructure project in the transportation sector (i.e. national highway) with an estimated investment value of USD 150 million (or the equivalent in your local currency) funded with availability payments and/or user fees.
· To this end, the procuring authority initiates a public call for tenders/ invitation for bids/ request for proposal/ request for qualification, following a competitive PPP procurement procedure.

DEFINITIONS

· “Public-Private Partnership (PPP)” refers to any contractual arrangement between a public entity or authority and a private entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility. For the purpose of this survey, this definition applies irrespective of the terminology used in the particular country or jurisdiction and applies both to government-pays or user-pays PPP.
· The “regulatory framework” encompasses all laws, regulations, policies, binding guidelines or instructions, standard PPP contracts, other legal texts of general application, judicial decisions and administrative rulings governing or setting precedent in connection with PPPs. In this context, the term “policies” refers to other government-issued documents that are binding to all stakeholders, enforced in similar ways to laws and regulations, and provide detailed instructions for the implementation of PPPs. It should not be confused with Policy in the sense of a government’s statement of intent to use PPPs as a course of action to deliver public services. The “regulatory framework” includes but is not limited to those laws, regulations, policies, etc. dealing with PPPs (i.e. procurement of PPPs may be governed by the general procurement framework; planning and budgeting issues may be regulated instead by broader public finance related laws and regulations).
· The “Procuring Authority” is the Ministry, Department or Agency responsible for ensuring that the relevant assets and/or services are provided by the private partner after successful completion of procurement/ bidding process. It is the authority in charge of the PPP (i.e. identifying, preparing, procuring, awarding and managing the PPP contract).
· Procurement terminology: Considering that procurement-related terminology varies across jurisdictions, depending on the type of procurement procedure and the stage of the process, the terms used in the survey should be interpreted by contributors to best fit the local naming conventions. In particular, the following non-exhaustive list of terms can be broadly understood as interchangeable in the context of the survey:
o Bidding/tendering process/selection process/procurement
o Bid/tender/proposal
o Call for tenders/tender notice/invitation for bids/request for qualifications (RFQ)/request for proposals (RFP) – in cases when there is not an RFQ.
o Tender documents/bidding documents/specifications/request for proposals (RFP)

A. REGULATORY AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR PPPs
Q1 : Does the regulatory framework in your country allow procuring PPPs?
A1 : Yes. The basic principles and general regulations on PPPs are set out under Decree 63/2018/ND-CP of the Government dated May 4 2018 on investment in the PPP form (the “Decree 63”).
Following the Decree 63, the Ministries formulated and issued the following guidelines:
(i) Circular No. 19/2019/TT-BGTVT dated May 23 2019 on detailed guidance on investment fields and contents of feasibility study reports of investment projects in public-private partnership form in transport sector (“Circular 19”)
(ii) Circular No. 09/2018/TT-BKHĐT dated December 28 2018 providing guidance on the implementation of a number of articles of government’s Decree No. 63/2018/ND-CP dated May 4, 2018 on investment in a public-private partnership form. (“Circular 09”)
(iii) Circular No. 88/2018/TT-BTC dated September 28 2018 regulating financial management and expenses of investor’s selection of investment projects in PPP form (“Circular 88”)
(iv) Circular No. 21/2016/TT-BTTTT dated September 30 2016 on guidelines for PPP investment model under management of the Ministry of Information and Communications (“Circular 21”)
(v) Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHDT dated 16 December 2016 on guidelines for pre-qualification documents, bidding documents for selection of investors carrying out projects using land (“Circular 16”)
(vi) Circular No. 15/2016/TT-BKHĐT dated September 29 2016 on guidelines for pre-qualification document, bidding documents on selection of investors carrying PPP projects (“Circular 15”)
(vii) Circular No. 19/2015/TT-BKHDT dated 27 November 2015 on detailing the establishment of evaluation report in the bidder selection process.
Q2 : Are you aware of any reforms (in the regulatory framework – laws, regulations, policies, etc. or in generally followed practices) related to PPPs that took place in or after June 2017 and before June 1 2019 and that are ongoing and/or planned to be adopted after June 1 2019?
A1 : Yes. There are two reforms relating to PPPs took place between June 2017 and June 1 2019. Decree 63/2018/ND-CP on investment in the form of public-private partnership was issued on May 4 2018, in replacement of Decree 15/2015/ND-CP dated February 14 2015. Also, the Law on PPP has been in the drafting process since December 2018.
On June 19 2018, Decree 63/2018/ND-CP came into force. The Law on PPP is now being drafted and will be adopted in near future (possibly in 2020) to replace all current PPP-related documents.
Q3: For which of the following sectors is the above-mentioned regulatory framework applicable?
A3: The regulatory mentioned above applies to:
– Transportation (Article 4.1(a) of the Decree 63/2018/ND-CP; Article 5(1)(a) of the draft PPP Law released on 20 May 2019 (“Draft PPP Law”) )
– Water Supply, Sewerage, Solid Waste Management and irrigation (Article 4.1(c) of the Decree 63/2018/ND-CP; Article 5(1)(c) of the Draft PPP Law)
– Energy generation/transmission and distribution (Article 4.1(b) of the Decree 63/2018/ND-CP; Article 5(1)(b) of the Draft PPP Law)
– ICT (Article 5(1)(g) of the Draft PPP Law)
– Social infrastructure, including hospitals, education, prisons, housing, etc. (Article 4.1(d),(d) of the Decree 63/2018/ND- CP; Article 5(1)(d),(e) of the Draft PPP Law)
– Other ( Article 4.1(g) of Decree 63/2018/ND-C; Article 5(1)(g) of the Draft PPP Law; infrastructure facilities serving the development of science and technology; commercial infrastructure; infrastructure of economic zones and industrial zones (Article 5.1(h)-(i) of the Draft PPP Law).
Q4: Besides national defense and other matters of national security, does the regulatory framework explicitly prohibits or restricts PPPs in any of the following sectors?
A4: No. The regulatory framework does not explicitly prohibit or restrict PPPs in any sectors.
Q5: Please identify the PPP procuring authorities in Vietnam and provide their website(s) (if available)
A5: The procuring entities are ministries, ministry-level agencies and provincial people’s committees.
List of websites of ministries: http://chinhphu.vn/portal/page/portal/chinhphu/bonganh –
List of websites of provinces: http://chinhphu.vn/portal/page/portal/chinhphu/cactinhvathanhpho
Q6: Is there a specialized government entity(ies) that facilitates the PPP program (PPP Unit)?
A6: Yes. The PPP Steering Committee is the PPP Unit. In addition, each ministry/ministry level agency/provincial people’s committee may establish a PPP coordinating unit, responsible for management.
Website: http://ppp.mpi.gov.vn/en/Pages/default.aspx
The year of establishment: 2012
The relevant legal/regulatory basis: Decision No. 2048/QD-TTg dated October 27 2016 on consolidation of PPP steering committee (“Decision 2048”); Decision No. 369/QD-BCDPPP promulgating the regulation on activities of the public – private partnership steering committee, which replaces Decision No. 161/QD- BCDPPP dated December 11, 2012 on promulgating the regulation of the Public – Private Partnership Steering Committee.
Its main responsibilities: (Article 2 of Decision No. 369/QD-BCDPPP dated November 23, 2016 on promulgating the regulation of the Public – Private Partnership Steering Committee)
– PPP regulation and policy guidance.
– PPP capacity building for other public authorities.
– PPP promotion among the public and/or private sectors in national and international forums
– Identification and selection of PPP projects from the pipeline.
– Oversight of PPP implementation.
Q7: Additionally, is there a central project development fund (support mechanism) for project preparation?
A7: Yes. The Project Preparation Technical Assistance fund (PPTAF)
Website: http://pptaf.mpi.gov.vn/pptaf.aspx,
The year of establishment: 2010
The relevant legal/regulatory basis: Decision No. 1968/QD-BKH dated 12 November 2010 (as amended by Decision No. 56/QD-BKHDT dated 19 January 2015).

B. PREPARATION OF PPPs
Q8: Does the Ministry of Finance or Central Budgetary Authority approve the PPP project before launching the procurement process?
A8: No
Q9: Does the Ministry of Finance or Central Budgetary Authority approve the PPP project before signing the PPP contract?
A9: Yes (stipulated in Article 19.5, Decree 63/2018/ND-CP)
Q10: Does the Ministry of Finance (or government more broadly) have a specific system of : Budgeting for PPP projects, Reporting Liabilities or Accounting Liabilities?
A10: Yes. Pursuant to Article 69 (1) of Decree 63, Responsibilities of the Ministry of Finance includes:
– Budgeting for PPP projects (e.g., including the estimated total cost of the PPP project over the life of the project in the budget cycle)
– Accounting liabilities (explicit and implicit, direct and contingent) arising from PPPs (e.g., the public sector commitments to the PPP project are recorded in the national accounts)
Q11: Which alternative best describes the regulation is?
A11: International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Clause (II)(2)(a) of the Action Plan of Decision No. 3036/QD-BTC dated November 27, 2014 provides: Solutions for professional competence in statistics…. Study and deploy method of government finance statistics, associate government finance statistics with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
Q12: Does the Ministry of Finance (or government more broadly) disclose PPP liabilities (explicit and implicit, direct and contingent) on an online platform/database?
A12: No.
Q13: Besides the procuring authority and the Ministry of Finance or Central Budgetary Authority, do(es) any other authority(s) approve the PPP project before launching the procurement process (e.g. Cabinet, Cabinet Committee, Parliament, Supreme Audit Office, etc.)?
A13: Yes. They are Prime Minister, Ministries, ministry-level agencies and provincial People’s Committees (Article 176 of Decree 63 on the power to approve project investment proposal; Article 24(2) of Decree 63)
Q14: Besides the procuring authority and the Ministry of Finance or Central Budgetary Authority, does any other authority(s) approve the PPP project before signing the PPP contract?
A14: No.
Q15: Please select the option that best describes the way your government ensures that PPP projects are consistent with other government public priorities (e.g., in the context of a national public investment system, multi-year perspective plans, medium-term budgetary framework)
A15: The regulatory framework provides for the inclusion of PPPs in the national public investment system/medium-term budgetary framework and details a specific procedure to ensure the consistency of PPPs with other public investment priorities (Articles 4(2) and 20(1) of Decree 63; Article 3(4) of Circular no. 21/2016/TT-BTTTT; Article 8 of Circular No. 19/2019/TT-BGTVT)
Q16: Which of the following assessments are conducted when identifying and preparing a PPP in order to inform the decision to proceed with it?
A16: The assessments conducted are:
– Socioeconomic analysis (cost-benefit analysis of the socioeconomic impact of the PPP project) is regulated in Articles 20(1)(a), 24(2)(a) and 29(1)(dd) of Decree 63.
There is a specific methodology for it.
Article 20(1)(a) of Decree 63 provides that conditions for approving a project proposal includes: In conformity with the planning for the development of sectors, regions; and the plan for the local socio-economic development that are approved by competent authorities;
In article 24(2)(a), it is regulated that If at least 2 investors submit two project proposals for the same project (made in accordance with Article 23 hereof): The ministry or provincial People’s Committee shall consider choosing a project proposal which is the most feasible and effective proposal based on factors related to the need for investment; technical-based and financial-based feasibility; socio-economic effectiveness; investor’s qualifications and other factors;
Similarly in article 29(1)(dd), contents of feasibility study report includes the socio-economic effect and the impacts of the project on environment, society and national defense and security.
– Fiscal Affordability assessment (including the identification of the required long-term public commitments (explicit and implicit, direct and contingent liabilities) (Articles 18(3)(g) and 29(1)(g) of Decree 63, Article 14(4)(g) of Decree 19).
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to Articles 18(3)(g) and 29(1)(g) of Decree 63, the feasibility study report of the project shall include the project financial plan (including the contents prescribed in Point g Clause 3 Article 18 of this Decree).
Article 14(4) of Decree 19 provides As for projects that need the State capital contribution to ensure their financial feasibility, describing information concerning the State capital contribution specified in Clause 1 Section IX Appendix III enclosed with the Circular No. 09/2018/TT-BKHDT dated December 28, 2018 based on the project’s financial model and analytical data of the selected project contract.
– Risk identification, allocation and assessment (risk matrix) (Article 29(1)(l) of Decree 63; Article 3(8) of Decree 21)
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to article 29(1)(l) of Decree 63, a feasibility study report of the project shall include an analysis of risk, responsibilities of the parties for the risk management during the execution of the project;
Decree 21 in its Article 3(8) on Risk analysis and proposed incentives and guarantees regulates that According to specific conditions in terms of technical, economic and financial aspects of the project; financial analysis results to evaluate impact of risks on the project as well as costs and benefits of solutions for risk reduction shall be specified. The feasibility study report shall specify the proposed distribution of risks and responsibility between relevant parties in risk management during the project execution; proposed specific grants given by competent authorities, and risk-sharing mechanism between competent authorities and investors.
– Comparative assessment to evaluate whether a PPP is the best option when compared to other procurement alternatives (i.e., value for money analysis, public sector comparator) (Article 29(1)(a) of Decree 63; Article 3(3)(c) of Decree 21)
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to Article 29 (1)(a) of Decree 63 the feasibility study report of the project shall include: A detailed analysis of the need for the investment and the advantages of the project in comparison with other forms of investment; consultation on impact of the project with one of the following: People’s Council, People’s Committee, National Assembly delegation of province or city where the project is undertaken; professional association in conjunction with to the investment sector
According to article 3(3)(c) of Decree 21, analysis of advantages of PPP investment model must be included in the feasibility study report.
– Financial viability or bankability assessment (Article 29(1)(g) of Decree 63)
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to Article 29(1)(g) of Decree 63,the feasibility study report of the project shall include the project financial plan (including the contents prescribed in Point g Clause 3 Article 18 of this Decree)
– Procurement Strategy (i.e., quick assessment to plan and better strategize the tendering process in advance so it is fit for purpose) (Article 8(3), 9(2), 19(2) of Decree 63).
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to Article 8(3) of Decree 63, the ministry shall assign an affiliate, People’s Committee of province shall assign a specialized agency or affiliate or the People’s Committee of district level to prepare for the PPP project, including making of pre-feasibility study report, feasibility study report, and selection of preferred bidder in accordance with this Decree and law on bidding
However, regulation in Article 9(2) of Decree 63 further specifies that with regard to Group C projects, pre-feasibility study report and approval for project investment proposal are not required to be made or appraised as prescribed Point a Clause 1 hereof, but the project must be announced once the feasibility study report is approved.
In addition, Article 19(2) of Decree 63 provides that documents required to apply for approving project proposal include the pre-feasibility study report.
– Market sounding/assessment including the potential interest from contractors and capacity in the market for the contract (Article 29(1)(h) of Decree 63)
There is a specific methodology for it.
Pursuant to article 29(1(h) of Decree 63, A feasibility study report shall contain h) The capital mobilization for the project; evaluation of the need and the liquidity ratio of the market; the survey on the interest of the investors and the lenders in the project.
– Environmental impact assessment (Articles 18(3)(dd), 20(1)(e) and 29(1)(dd) of Decree 63, Section C Appendix I of Circular 09)
There is a specific methodology for it.
It is regulated in Article 20(1)(e) that the availability of environmental assessment report is a requirement for the approval of the project.
Pursuant to Article 18(3)(dd), bases for making of feasibility study report includes expected socio-economic effectiveness of project; environmental impact assessment report in accordance with law on environmental protection.
Similarly, provided in Article 29(1)(d), the feasibility study report of the project shall include the socio-economic effect and the impacts of the project on environment, society and national defense and security.
Pursuant to Section C Appendix I of Circular 09 on documentation included in the application package for evaluation of PSR, it shall include Full texts of the environmental impact assessment report prepared in accordance with law on environmental protection
– Social impact assessment (Article 29(1)(dd) of Decree 63; Section III(2) Appendix III of Circular 09)
There is a specific methodology for it.
Provided in article 29(1)(dd) of Decree 63, The feasibility study report of the project shall include (dd) the impacts of the project on environment, society and national defense and security.
Pursuant to Section III(2) Appendix III circular 09, Technical Interpretation of a project of feasibility study report shall include Making the interpretation of elements affecting society during the project implementation period, such as resettlement support, gender equality, labor or job creation, etc., and measures to minimize negative impacts
Q17: Does the procuring authority include the assessments in the request for proposals and/or tender documents?
A17: No.
Q18: Are tender/bidding documents made available online?
A18: No.
Q19: Do the tender documents include a draft PPP contract?
A19: Yes. According to general guidelines for content of project contracts in accordance with law on PPP investment, and nature, scope, and field of each specific project, the Competent Person, the Procuring Entity shall make a Draft Contract attached to the Bidding Documents. The Draft Contract specifies terms and conditions of the contract serving as bases for preliminary negotiation, negotiation, finalization, and signing of investment agreement, signing and execution of contract in conjunction with clear division of responsibilities, risks, rights and legal interests of contracting parties in accordance with applicable law (Circular No. 15/2016/TT-BKHDT on guidelines for pre-qualification document, bidding documents on selection of investors carrying public-private partnership projects).
Q20: Have standardized PPP model contracts and/or transaction documents been developed?
A20: Yes. Provided in Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHDT (Form 11), Circular 09/2018/TT-BKHDT (Annexes V.A and V.B)
Q21: Does the procuring authority/responsible government entity have a role in either providing or facilitating any of the following requirements: obtaining the required environmental permits, obtaining the possession of required land, obtaining the required right of way?
Q21: The responsible government entity have a role in obtaining the possession of required land. Pursuant to Article 49 (1) of the Decree 63, the provincial people’s committee is responsible for site clearance and for completing procedures for allocation or lease of land to implement the project in accordance with the law on land, the project contract and related contracts. However, the provincial people’s committee is not necessarily the procuring entity.

C. PROCUREMENT/TENDERING OF PPPS
Q22: Which best describes the required qualifications of the bid evaluation committee members?
A22: The membership of the bid evaluation committee is specified and its members are required to meet detailed qualifications as follows:
a) Have certificates of training in bidding, bidding practice certificate as prescribed;
b) Have professional competence in bidding;
c) Have at least three years of experience in the areas assigned; for bid packages to be implemented in remote areas or severely disadvantaged areas, only one year of experience is required;
d) Have adequate English level for international bid packages;
e) Have a written commitment in the Appendix enclosed herewith;
f) Persons who are mothers, fathers, mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, children, adopted children, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, brothers and sisters of the individuals involved in the establishment of EOI requests, prequalification document, invitation for bid, and request for proposals shall not be allowed to be involved in the assessment of such documents.
g) Persons who are mothers, fathers, mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, children, adopted children, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, brothers and sisters of the individuals involved in the assessment of EOI response, technical proposals, result of selection of contractors shall not be allowed to be involved in the assessment of such documents.
Q23: Does the procuring authority issue an invitation for bids/ tender notice for the PPP project?
A23: Yes. The invitation for bids/ tender notice must be published on the national bidding system (www.muasamcong.mpi.gov.vn) and Bidding Newspaper (Article 8.1, Bidding Law)
Q24: Is the public procurement notice published online?
A24: Yes. On website http://muasamcong.mpi.gov.vn/
Q25:Are foreign companies subject to any of the following restrictions when participating in the bidding process?
A25: They are subject to a requirement to form a joint venture with domestic firm(s) to be allowed to bid in the public tender. (Article 5(1)(h) of the Bidding Law)
Q26: Does the procuring authority grant the potential bidders a minimum period of time to submit their bids?
A26: Yes. Pursuant to Articles 6 (5) and (6) of Decree 30/2015/ND-CP, the time-limit for formulation of a set of proposals is within a minimum thirty (30) days from the first date of issuing the set of requirements before bid closing time. Investors must lodge their sets of proposals before bid closing time. The time-limit for formulation of bids is within a minimum sixty (60) days for domestic bids and ninety (90) days for international bids as from the first date of issuing the bid invitation documents before bid closing time. Investors must lodge their bids before bid closing time. The time calendar day: 60-90 days.
Q27: What are the procurement procedures available and/or set as default for PPP contracts?
A27: The default procurement procedures for PPP contracts are:
– Open competitive tendering/bidding (Article 37 of Decree 63; Article 9 of Decree 30)
– Competitive tendering/bidding with prequalification stage (Restricted tendering) (Article 16.1 of Decree 30)
– Multi-stage tendering/bidding (with shortlisting of final candidate(s)) (Articles 30-31 of the Bidding Law)
– Competitive dialogue (Article 38.3 of the Bidding Law, Articles 58-59 of Decree 63)
– Direct negotiation (Article 22 of the Bidding Law)
– Others (Articles 24-25 of the Bidding Law)
Q28: If direct negotiation is either an available or default option, does the regulatory framework restrict this procedure to certain exceptional conditions and circumstances (including cases of single source providers or applicable to a certain threshold)?
A28: Yes according to Article 9(3) of Decree 30
Q29: Do the tender documents detail the procedure of the procurement process, providing the same information to all the bidders?
A29: Yes pursuant to Article 26.2 of Decree 30.
Q30: Do the tender documents unambiguously specify the qualification requirements (or the prequalification requirements when applicable) making them available to all potential bidders as part of the tender notice/ invitation for bids?
A30: Yes. According to Article 26.2 of Decree 30.
Q31: Are there any parameters/limits to the qualification requirements to ensure that they do not unduly restrict competition of qualified bidders?
A31: No.
Q32: Can potential bidders/tenderers submit questions to clarify the public procurement notice and/or the bidding/tender documents?
A32: Yes pursuant to Article 30.3 of Decree 30.
Q33: If yes, can the bidders also suggest innovations to improve the tender documents or procurement approach, including for example the provision of value engineering and/or technologically neutral options?
A33: No.
Q34: If yes, is there a timeframe for the procuring authority to address questions and clarifications by bidders?
A34: No.
Q35: If yes, notwithstanding confidential information pertaining to the bidders, does the procuring authority disclose those questions and clarifications to all potential bidders?
A35: Yes according to Article 30(3) of Decree 30.
Q36: If yes, does the procuring authority extend the proposal submission deadline due to the modifications introduced in the bidding/tender documents?
A36: No.
Q37: Besides questions and clarifications, can the procuring authority conduct a pre-bid conference?
A37: Yes according to Article 16 of Decree 30.
Q38: If yes, notwithstanding confidential information pertaining to the bidders, does the procuring authority disclose the response to the queries raised by the bidders in the pre-bid conference to all bidders?
A38: Yes according to Article 18.2(c) of Decree 30.
Q39: Does the procuring authority require the bidders to prepare and submit a financial model with their proposals / bids?
A39: Yes pursuant to Articles 25.4, 45.4, 56.4 and 70.1(b) of Decree 30.
Q40: Does the procuring authority evaluate the bids/tenders strictly and solely in accordance with the evaluation criteria stated in the bidding/tender documents?
A40: Yes pursuant to Articles 33(1), 47, 58, 72 and78 of Decree 30.
Q41: Can criteria other than price (non-price attributes) be used when evaluating the tenders/bids of a PPP contract?
A41: Yes in consistent with Articles 41, 53, 67, 73 and 79 of Decree 30.
Q42: If criteria other than price are used, does it have to be justified, objective and quantifiable?
A42: Yes, according to Articles 27, 36, 39, 58.2, and 58.3 of Decree 30.
Q43: When price is used as one of the evaluation criteria, does the procuring authority provide a cost estimate?
A43: Yes pursuant to Article s 41.4, 53.4, 67.4, 73.4 and 79.4
Q44: In the case where only one proposal is submitted, which best describes the way the procuring authority deals with them?
A44: The procuring authority follows a specific procedure before awarding a PPP contract where only one proposal is submitted. Direct appointment applies (Articles 22.4 of the Bidding Law, Article 9.3 of Decree 30)
Q45: Does the procuring authority publish the contract award notice?
A45: Yes. It is not clear but it seems that the notice would be published online at muasamcong.mpi.gov.vn (Article 42 (6) of Decree 30.)
Q46: If yes, is the contract award notice published online?
A46: Yes, on website: www.muasamcong.mpi.gov.vn
Q47: Does the procuring authority notify all the bidders individually about the result of the PPP tendering/bidding process?
A47: Yes, pursuant to Article 42 (6) of Decree 30
Q48: Does the notification of the result of the PPP procurement process include the grounds for the selection of the winning bid/tender?
A48: Yes, according to Article 42 (6) (b) of Decree 30.
Q49: Does the procuring authority provide bidders/tenderers with the option of holding a debriefing meeting to discuss why their bid/tender was not selected?
A49: No.
Q50: Is there a standstill (or pause) period after the contract award and before the signing of the contract in order to allow aggrieved unsuccessful bidders to challenge the award decision?
A50: Yes, in consistent to Article 92.2 of the Bidding Law and the time in calendar days: 10 days.
Q51: Is the standstill period set out in the notice of intention to award?
A51: No.
Q52: Does the regulatory framework restrict material negotiations (for example price or scope) with the winning bidder between the award and the signature of the PPP contract?
A52: Yes, according to Article 43.2 of Decree 30.
Q53: Does the regulatory framework allow for complaint review mechanisms pertaining to the PPP bidding/tendering process?
A53: Yes, pursuant to Article 92.1 of the Bidding Law.
Q54: Is there a timeframe in which decisions on complaints are issued?
A54: Yes. The timeframe is 7 days according to Article 92.1(b) of the Bidding Law
Q55: Are decisions subject to appeal?
A55: Yes, according to Article 92.1(c) of the Bidding Law.
Q56: Is the original complaint and/or the appeal reviewed resolved by an independent administrative authority (other than the procuring authority or the courts)?
A56: Yes. Pursuant to Article s 82.2(c), 84.3 and 92.1(c)-(d) of the Bidding Law. The approving authority includes the Government, the Prime Minister, Ministries, ministerial agencies and People’s Committee of all levels.
Q57: Does the procuring authority publish the PPP contract? (notwithstanding the protection of commercially sensitive information)?
A57: No.

D. CONTRACT MANAGEMENT
Q58: Does the procuring authority or contract management authority establish a system to manage the PPP contract (i.e., attributing responsibilities or establishing specific management tools)?
A58: Yes, pursuant to Article 51 of Decree 63
Q59: If yes, which of the following tools does it include?
A59: The applicable tools are:
– Establishment of a PPP contract management team (Articles 8(6)-(7) of Decree 63)
– Participation of the members of the PPP contract management team in the PPP procurement process and/or vice versa (Article 8(7) of Decree 63)
Q60: Which best describes the required qualifications of the PPP contract management team members?
A60: The PPP contract management team members are required to meet sufficient qualification without specific details, provided in Article 8.6 of Decree 63.
Q61: Does the procuring or contract management authority establish a monitoring and evaluation system of the construction of the PPP project (i.e., system for tracking progress of construction, monitoring and evaluation of performance, etc.)?
A61: Yes, provided in Article 52 of Decree 63
Q62: Is the PPP contract construction performance information made available to the public (e.g. by request or published in the official gazette/bulletin board)?
A62: No.
Q63: Is the PPP contract construction performance information made publicly available online?
A63: No.
Q64: Does the procuring or contract management authority establish a monitoring and evaluation system of the PPP contract implementation after construction?
A64: Yes stipulated in Articles 53-55 of Decree 63.
Q65: If yes, which of the following tools does it include?
A65: The included tools are:
– Payments are linked to performance (Articles 16.3, 18.1 and 21.1 of Circular 88/2018/TT-BTC)
– Performance is assessed against output/ Key performance indicators (KPI) set in the tender documents and the PPP contract (Articles 16.3, 18.1 and 21.1 of Circular 88/2018/TT-BTC)
– The private partner must provide the procuring or contract management authority with periodic operational and financial data (Article 56.2 of Decree 63.)
– The procuring or contract management authority must periodically gather information on the performance of the PPP contract (Articles 52.1, 52.2, 73 and 74 of Decree 63)
Q66: Is there an economic/technical regulator to oversee the implementation of PPP contracts?
A66: Yes. They are Ministry of Finance (www.mof.gov.vn), Ministry of Construction (www.moc.gov.vn) and Provincial People’s Committee pursuant to Article s 69, 72 and 74 of Decree 63.
Q67: If yes, does the economic regulator have?
A67: Though each Ministry has its own establishment decision, the economic regulator has:
– Political autonomy (for example, through independence of its Directors’ appointments of the Line Ministry or other similar mechanisms).
– Managerial autonomy (freedom to determine the use of its budget and organization of resources)
– Tariff setting authority.
– Dispute resolution authority.
Q68: Are foreign companies restricted from repatriating the income resulting from the operation of a PPP project?
A68: No.
Q69: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) expressly regulate changes in the ownership structure (i.e. stakeholder composition) of the private partner and/or assignment of the PPP contract?
A69: Yes, pursuant to Article 43(1) of Decree 63
Q70: If yes, which of the following circumstances are specifically regulated?
A70: It regulates the changes of ownership/contract assignment, at any time during the contract, must preserve the same technical qualifications as the original operator, provided in Article 43(2) of Decree 63, but only allowed upon completion of the works (if the project has construction phase) or upon operation stage (if the project has not construction phase)
Q71: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) expressly regulate the modification or renegotiation of the PPP contract (once the contract is signed)?
A71: Yes, provided in Article 67 of the Bidding Law, Article 44 of Decree 63
Q72: If yes, is an approval from a government authority, other than the procuring authority, required?
A72: Yes, pursuant to Articles 30, 31, 32 and 44 of Decree 63.
Q73: If yes, which of the following circumstances are specifically regulated?
A73: The circumstances specified in law include:
– A change in the scope and/or object of the contract (Article 44 of Decree 63)
– A change in the financial and/or economic balance of the contract (Article 67.6 of the Bidding Law, Article 32.1(b) of Decree 63.)
– A change in the duration of the contract (Article 67.6 of the Bidding Law)
– A change in the agreed price or tariff or annuity payments (Articles 67.3-5 of the Bidding Law)
Q74: Is there a threshold for which a new tendering process is required?
A74: Yes. Article 32 of Decree 63 provides that A project shall be adjusted in the following cases:
a) The project is affected by natural disasters or other force-majeure events;
b) There are elements that may make the project more effective in terms of finance and socio-economic aspects;
c) There is any change in the planning that directly entails changes to the objectives, location and scope of the project;
d) The project fails to attract the investor after the survey, initial selection or bidding;
e) Other cases according to special law or the regulations stipulated by the Prime Minister.
Q75: Can the procuring/contract management authority modify a PPP contract unilaterally?
A75: No.
Q76: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) expressly address the following circumstances that may occur during the life of the PPP contract?
A76: The law addresses circumstances on:
– Force Majeure. (Article 67.6 of the Bidding Law)
– Subcontracting and replacement of the subcontractors. (Article 43 of Decree 63 on transfer of rights and obligations under the project contract)
Q77: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) allow for alternative dispute?
A77: Yes pursuant to Article 67 of Decree 63; Point 23, Section 3, Form 11 of Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHDT
Q78: Is arbitration available as an option?
A78: Yes. Domestic arbitration and international arbitration (Article 67 of Decree 63; Point 23, Section 3, Form 11 of Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHDT)
Q79: If applicable, are arbitration awards enforceable by local courts?
A79: Yes, according to Article 427 of the 2015 Civil Procedures Code.
Q80: Are other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options available (including mediation or dispute resolution boards)?
A80: Yes pursuant to Article s 67(1) and (2) of Decree 63.
Q81: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) allow for the lenders to take control of the PPP project (lender step-in rights) if either the private partner defaults or if the PPP contract is under threat of termination for failure to meet service obligations?
A81: Yes, pursuant to Article 42 of Decree 63.
Q82: If yes, which best describes the lender step-in right?
A82: The regulatory framework expressly regulates the lender step-in rights. Article 42 of Decree 63 on Lenders’ right to take over the project provides:
1. Lenders are entitled to take over or appoint a competent organization to take over a part or all of the rights and obligations of investors, special purpose entities (hereinafter referred to as the take-over right) in case the investor or special purpose entity fails to fulfill the obligations specified in the project contract or loan agreement.
2. A written agreement on the project must be made between the lenders and regulatory agencies or the contracting parties.
3. After taking over the project, the lender or his/her authorized organization shall assume all of the obligations as an investor, project business as prescribed in the project contract and agreement on the project take-over right.
Q83: Does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) expressly address the grounds for termination of a PPP contract?
A83: Yes. Project contract may be terminated if the agreed contract term expires, or else the project contract may be terminated prior to the maturity date due to the violation of one of the parties without that defaulting party’s effective remedies, due to force majeure events or other cases specified in the project contract. (Article s 45(2) and (3) of Decree 63).
Q84: If yes, does the regulatory framework (including standard contractual clauses) also addresses the consequences for the termination of the PPP contract?
A83: Yes, pursuant to Point 22, Section 3, Form 11 of Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHDT.

E. UNSOLICITED PROPOSALS
Q85: Are unsolicited proposals in Vietnam?
A85: It is explicitly allowed by the legal framework (Article 22(1) of Decree 63, Investors may propose the projects other than the ones approved by ministries, regulatory bodies and People’s Committees of provinces)
Q86: Does the procuring authority conduct an assessment to evaluate unsolicited proposals?
A86: Yes, pursuant to Articles 20.1, 22.2 and 23 of Decree 63.
Q87: If yes, is there any vetting procedure and/or pre-feasibility analysis before fully assessing the unsolicited proposal?
A87: Yes, provided in Article 23(2) of Decree 63.
Q88: Which best describes how the procuring authority ensures that unsolicited proposals are consistent with existing government priorities?
A88: The procuring authority follows a specific procedure to ensure the consistency of PPPs with other government investment priorities. Article 24(1) of Decree 63 and Article 15(1) of Decree 15 (A project must satisfy all the following conditions to be eligible for selection for development in the PPP investment form: (a) Conformity with the developmental master plan and developmental plans of the branch and region and with the local socio-economic developmental plan)
Q89: Does the procuring authority initiate a competitive PPP procurement procedure when proceeding with the unsolicited proposal?
A89: Yes pursuant to Article 24.2 of Decree 63, Article 4 of Circular No. 09/2018/TT-BKHDT.
Q90: Does the procuring authority grant a minimum period of time to additional prospective bidders (besides the proponent) to prepare their proposals?
A90: No.
Q91: Does the procuring authority use any of the following incentive mechanisms (Access to the best and final offer (BAFO) process and/or automatic shortlisting, Developer’s fee, Bid Bonus, Swiss challenge or other) to reward/compensate the submission of unsolicited proposals?
A91: No.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyers in our office listing if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

VIETNAM – INFRASTRUCTURE CRITERIA FOR SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND RAPID GROWTH – HOW THE CPTPP AND THE EUVN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT AND INVESTMENT PROTECTION AGREEMENT CAN CONTRIBUTE

According to the World Bank, Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world—7.1% GDP growth in 2018, and 6.7% at the mid-point of 2019.[1] To put that in perspective, Vietnam’s GDP is growing at almost twice the rate of the USA. As a developing market, that growth cannot be maintained without sustainable infrastructure. To meet that demand, Vietnam needs to increase its energy capacity alone by 6,000-7,000 MW annually and spend close to US $148 billion on it by 2030.[2] Overall, it is projected that Vietnam will require US $605 billion in infrastructure spending by 2040.[3] The Vietnamese government has expressed that foreign-direct investment (FDI) is the key to meeting this demand as it lacks the fiscal capacity to meet financing requirements for large infrastructure projects on its own. Demand for transportation assets will be high due to a rapidly growing middle class, increasing urbanization, and increased international trade. Rail, road, and seaports will be critical to that sustainment. The recent trade agreements of CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership) and EVFTA/IPA (European-Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement / Investment Protection Agreement) are two new vehicles that will help Vietnam achieve a sustainable infrastructure.

CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA Direct, and Indirect, Effects on Infrastructure

CPTPP officially came into force on 30 December 2018 between Vietnam (January 2019) and Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and New Zealand when those seven countries ratified the agreement. The most significant impact CPTPP (and EVFTA) has on Vietnam is the elimination of most tariffs on goods, national treatment of goods and services, and relaxed requirements of cross-border trade of services.[4] Before CPTPP came into force, Japan entered into a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) agreement with Vietnam to help build a light-rail and subway system in Ho Chi Minh City at an estimated US $740 million in 2007 dollars.[5] That project has had its fiscal problems since beginning in 2012; most notably the delay from opening in 2017 to now possibly 2020 (still not determined).[6] The regulatory environment when originally entered into was not the most efficient as the legal system mired-down the contractor in procedural issues and payments to them fell dramatically behind. If that PPP agreement had been negotiated under the CPTPP, costs would have been significantly less as tariffs on materials would have been eliminated or reduced, cross-border engineering services would have national treatment, and the [PPP] and investment protection chapters[7] would have streamlined the project to make it more fiscally manageable. It is likely Ho Chi Minh City would have its first light-rail commuter line operational today if that project had been governed under CPTPP.

Indirectly, Vietnam’s seaport infrastructure is benefitting from both CPTPP and the recently in-force EVFTA/IPA. While not a party to either of those agreements, South Korea [Korea] does have its own free trade agreement with Vietnam. Knowing that the enormous markets of both Oceania (not including USA) and Europe are now—in essence—dramatically opened for Vietnam, Korea is looking to invest heavily into the port system of Haiphong—Lach Huyen in northern Vietnam.[8] By having Lach Huyen as a deep sea port, it will enable direct exports from northern Vietnam to [Canada] and European markets without transit through ports in Singapore and Hong Kong[9]–significantly reducing costs associated with that. Japan initially entered into a PPP with Vietnam for the port in 2013, but since CPTPP coming into force, the project is receiving significant investment from other countries, with Korea eyeing-it extensively to support their economic triangle of Hanoi – Haiphong – Quang Ninh.[10]

How, Specifically, CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA Can Enable Further Infrastructure Development

Since Vietnam’s entry into the WTO in 2007, they have been struggling with practically adapting to the regulatory compliance issues that entailed. More and more, however, Vietnam has been operating in that new global paradigm and they are reaping the benefits. With their emergence as one of the most dominating economic forces in ASEAN comes critical infrastructure needs to support it. The one condition that must be met is the life-cycle sustainability of the project. That includes from the negotiation through development and operation until replacement. Major projects of this nature take time, skill, and experience; however, the regulatory environment supports and underpins the entire system. We have touched on how the recent agreements have had a broad effect (or could have had an effect) on foreign-direct investment into infrastructure, but how can specific provisions of the agreements immediately help attract FDI?

1. Investment Protection

The biggest hindrance to FDI in the past has been the level of investment protection and risk allocation. According to the CPTPP, investments are not only the traditional financial ones, but also an enterprise, intellectual property rights, and licences, authorisations, and permits, as well as other tangible or intangible, movable or immovable property, and related property rights, such as leases, mortgages, liens and pledges.[11] This is a remarkable concession by Vietnam considering their land-use laws relating to real property. Under Article 9.4, foreign-investors are now treated on the same footing as domestic investors. In addition, CPTPP calls for application of international law standards which can provide a hesitant investor a degree of certainty that their investment is protected.

The EVFTA/IPA is very similar in construction to the CPTPP. Both sides have pledged national treatment and most favoured nation treatment to investors of the other side, as well as fair and satisfactory treatment, safe and full protection. Both sides will allow the free movement of capital and profit abroad, pledging not to expropriate or nationalize investors’ assets without appropriate compensation.[12] Furthermore, they pledge to compensate the losses of the other side’s investors in the same way as domestic investors.

This is a dramatic shift for Vietnam and practical implementation of the recent agreements will take time and a learning-curve. However, once this major hurdle has been overcome and CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA become the new-norm, investors will be significantly more apt to engage in large, long term projects in Vietnam.

2. Tariff Elimination and Cross-Border Trade of Services

Right behind investment protection as a major incentive for investors is the dramatic elimination of tariffs and lessened restrictions on cross-border trade of services by and for Vietnam. The CPTPP’s broad tariff cuts on roughly 90% of items upon entry into force, and nearly all others within 10 years, will have an immediate impact on the relative competition. US exporters will now be disadvantaged in Vietnam to competitors in Canada, Japan, Australia, and other CPTPP member countries. The lessening of restrictions for cross-border services also has an immediate impact with regards to infrastructure as now engineering and construction services no longer have to have to comply with the formerly cumbersome registration process[13], they can freely open branch offices, and they can enter into joint ventures with domestic entities (subject to certain ownership limits in specified industries).[14]

The EVFTA/IPA mirrors the CPTPP in most respects, but now the entire economic engine of the EU has very limited barriers to entry into Vietnam. At entry into force, Vietnam commits to removing 48.5% of import tariffs on goods from the EU[15], or 64.5% of the EU’s export turnover, and that figure will be increased to 91.8% seven years later.[16] Outside of the tariff reductions and general lessening of restrictions on cross-border trade of services, probably one of the more significant aspects of EVFTA is the almost complete elimination of “local content” requirements for services.[17] For EU member countries, now they no longer will have to show that a certain percentage of their business is owned, operated by, or utilizes Vietnamese nationals. This may appear a cursory issue, but it is one that has traditionally been an administrative roadblock to many EU investors in the past.

The EVFTA goes one-step further than CPTPP with regards to infrastructure in that it has specific chapters that address both “trade and sustainable development” and “…investment in renewable energy generation”.[18] In those chapters, the parties “affirm their commitment to pursue sustainable development, which consists of economic development, social development and environmental protection”,[19] as well as to promote, develop and increase the generation of energy from renewable and sustainable sources, particularly through facilitating trade and investment.[20] This is a landmark agreement for Vietnam in that it is the first time they have—from an infrastructure perspective—committed to doing everything possible to eliminate barriers, both technical and non-technical, for sustainable development. Another hurdle has been overcome to attracting the EU’s expertise and hardware in roads, rail, and renewable energy.

All of this provides a regulatory landscape for infrastructure investment to flourish at a greatly reduced cost and administrative burden to both the investor, and to Vietnam. The framework is in place, now Vietnam needs to tailor their laws and regulations to match and support both the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA.

3. Dispute Resolution, PPP

An often overlooked but critical aspect from the investor’s perspective has been the dispute resolution process before these trade agreements were in-force. Generally speaking, before CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA, most foreign investors only had the Vietnamese courts to address any dispute. This was a detriment to FDI as well as a significant additional expense.

Under the CPTPP, dispute settlement calls for both parties to resolve the matter between themselves first. If that fails, then the parties can choose alternative dispute resolution processes that are at a neutral venue with an impartial third panellist as chair[21]; however, if the parties cannot decide on a neutral forum, the complaining Party may select the forum.[22] Chapter 15 of the EVFTA provides the structure for dispute settlement and also calls for the parties to mutually reconcile before seeking any alternative dispute resolution mechanism. The procedures for an arbitration panel are essentially the same as the CPTPP except that under EVFTA, “If the Parties do not agree on the venue of the hearing, it shall be held in Brussels if the complaining Party is Viet Nam and in Ha Noi if the complaining Party is the Union”.[23] Chapter 3 of the EVIPA (dispute settlement) is a mirror of the EVFTA.
Why is this worth mentioning as one of the keys to successful infrastructure development? Most infrastructure projects are large-scale, cost-intensive, and long-term. Large, developed economies from the CPTPP and EU member nations have significant resources and experience that can benefit Vietnam in that respect; however, they want to protect their investment. The dispute settlement provisions of these new trade agreements are the vehicle that foreign investors have been waiting for—that added guarantee of prudent safety and protection for their millions upon millions of USD investment.

Most infrastructure investment has been through PPP agreements. PPP is the cornerstone for infrastructure development and has been utilized in the past in Vietnam with varying degrees of success. Those agreements were often legally cumbersome and were put together largely on faith that both the government and investor would live up to their end of the agreement. Unless otherwise specified in the contract (and sometimes even if it was) if a dispute arose the investor would have no recourse other than the Vietnamese courts. With the advent of CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA, now the regulatory environment has shifted towards favorable conditions for PPP to become a bedrock of Vietnam’s development if they incorporate those dispute settlement provisions into their PPP laws. Vietnam has recently put forth a new draft law on PPP with input from the private sector, and it is on the legislative docket for 2020. We will have to wait and see what the final product becomes, but with international arbitration now the standard, investors are more likely to consider long-term projects.

Summary

Vietnam is on the cusp of something very special, on the verge of becoming a solidly middle-class nation and regional economic powerhouse for the next generation. They will need quality infrastructure to support that—in the neighborhood of US $605 billion by 2040. Vietnam has set itself up for success, broadly, by entering into two of the most aggressive trade agreements in recent times, the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA. Many former hiccups to robust infrastructure development have been removed or addressed by those agreements, and Vietnam now needs to capitalize on that by tailoring their current regulations and laws to match. Regardless of the type of infrastructure (road, rail, seaport, energy, etc.), the criteria for investment remain the same—investment protection, risk allocation, elimination of technical and non-technical barriers to trade/investment, and a neutral dispute resolution process. The CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA address all those criteria, now Vietnam needs to embrace and internalize those agreements systemically to solidify the foundation propelling their explosive growth.

***
Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
Thank you!
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[1] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG?locations=VN
[2] https://www.vietnam-briefing.com/news/vietnams-push-for-renewable-energy.html/
[3] https://outlook.gihub.org/countries/Vietnam
[4] CPTPP Chapters 2, 10; Annexes I, II. EVFTA Chapters 2, 8.
[5] Japan is a member country of CPTPP. CPTPP is not retro-active to 2012.
[6] https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/japanese-contractor-may-stop-work-on-saigon-metro-line-3843148.html
[7] CPTPP Chapter 9 (investment); Chapters 21 and 23 (capacity building and development)
[8] http://www.hanoitimes.vn/investment/2019/03/81e0d434/south-korea-eyes-deep-sea-port-project-in-haiphong/
[9] Id. Footnote 8
[10] Id.
[11] CPTPP Chapter 9, Article 9.1
[12] EVIPA Chapter 1, Article 1.2; Chapter 2
[13] CPTPP Chapter 10; allows for recognition of professional certifications from any qualified body to administer such certifications. No longer will engineers, for example, be required to be certified by a Vietnamese body
[14] CPTPP Annex I; specified industries of national significance (which includes most infrastructure-related businesses) are restricted to between 49-51 percent foreign ownership
[15] EVFTA Annex 2, Appendix 2-A-2
[16] http://vietnamlawmagazine.vn/vietnam-eu-sign-free-trade-investment-protection-agreements-16756.html
[17] EVFTA Chapter 7; calls for the limitation of any local-content requirements, with exceptions for certain areas of national security or significance
[18] EVFTA Chapters 13 and 7
[19] EVFTA Chapter 13, Article 13.3.1
[20] EVFTA Chapter 7, Article 7.1
[21] CPTPP Chapter 28
[22] CPTPP Chapter 28, Article 28.4
[23] EVFTA Chapter 15, Article 15.3.8

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VIETNAM – CUSTOMS REFORM AND WTO TRADE FACILITATION AGREEMENT (“TFA”) – HOW CPTPP AND EVFTA CAN EFFECT CHANGE

Every day I ride a boat along the Saigon River between Districts 1 and 2 when I am in Ho Chi Minh City. Monday through Friday, it is full of container barges moving containers to and from major distribution points. Saturdays and Sundays, however, are basically void of such traffic. I wondered to myself “why?” With the amount of import/export volume funneling through this major artery to trade, how could the weekends shut-down the volume of traffic this much? After reading the law on customs and the various other regulations and laws concerning Vietnamese customs and procedures, it became clear that a substantial portion of customs clearing and private transportation services did not operate on weekends; and if they did, it was sporadic. It would seem logical to assume that since worldwide shipping did not stop transport vessels in the middle of the sea because it was the weekend that major backlogs would occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, hindering efficient clearance of goods. Mondays would be very intensive days for customs services and transportation.

The infrastructure for Vietnamese ports is growing and several large projects are already underway to accommodate the increased volume of shipping that is occurring.[1] Ports in Ho Chi Minh City are the main gateway for the region, accounting for 67 percent of the total throughput of all Vietnamese ports.[2] The enhanced infrastructure to absorb extensive increases to shipping volume is necessary and critical for Vietnam’s economic growth sustainability; however, it is the responsibility of customs to expeditiously accept and clear those goods for shipment to their destinations within Vietnam. Many developing (and, by the way, some developed) nations and economies have struggled with customs efficiencies for this new operational environment, and Vietnam is no different. The WTO TFA (Trade Facilitation Agreement; hereafter referred to as “TFA”) which entered into force 22 February 2017 was partly enabled to assist developing nations in streamlining their customs functions to facilitate a smoother, easier, trade process through a provision of assistance and support for capacity building for implementation of Section I [of the TFA].[3] Section I of the TFA includes Article 7 (Release and Clearance of Goods) and Article 9 (Movement of Goods Intended for Import Under Customs Control). How has Vietnam been addressing the concerns raised by these articles of the TFA and how do the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership; 2018) and EVFTA (European Union—Vietnam Free Trade; 2019) agreements add-to, or reduce, these concerns?

Article 7 of TFA

This Article provides standards for different factors that affect the release and clearance of goods such as expedited shipments, perishable goods, electronic payments, and pre-arrival processing. Article 7.3 calls for a separation of release of the imported goods from final determination of customs duties, taxes, fees, and charges. The article states that members shall allow importers to obtain release of their goods, under a guarantee, if required, prior to the final determination and payment of customs duties, taxes, fees and charges where the final determination is not done prior to, upon arrival or as rapidly as possible after arrival.[4] This is a wonderful measure for importers (to have their goods released with a very limited delay) and also for customs-efficiency as customs can receive legal guarantees of importers paying the final determination of any incurred fees at a later date. This can have the effect of rapidly clearing goods from customs intake/staging locations to create inventory space for more goods. Any reduction in delay of release of goods is a good thing, and according to a global trade report, full TFA delivery will help…”save 1.5 days of customs clearance for imported goods, down 47% from the present average and nearly 2 days of customs clearance for exported ones, down 91%.”[5] Vietnam’s logistics’ costs account for 16% to 17% currently [2018] of GDP, with 30-40 percent of that cost associated with custom’s clearances.[6]
In response to this concern—and under Article 7.3 of the TFA—Vietnam turned to CPTPP to address it. Under recently published Decree No. 57/2019/ND-CP (26 June 2019) governing Export/Import preferential tariffs under CPTPP, “…Within 1 year from the date of…export declarations, the customs declarant shall submit all documents proving that the goods satisfy the regulations specified…”[7] This mirrors the intent of TFA Article 7.3 and directly compliments it. Now, member states of CPTPP have increased flexibility in submitting any further documentation requested of Vietnam Customs instead of having those goods held and delayed for clearance until they were obtained. This is a great example of Vietnam aggressively pushing their regulatory changes forward to comply with TFA and CPTPP.

Article 9 of TFA

This article attempts to prevent bottleneck issues from occurring (mainly in developing or under-developed countries) at a customs port of entry by requiring member states to allow a customs-declarant to move goods from a customs port of entry to another customs office within the same customs territory (under customs control), and permit that declarant to clear them at the destination rather than at the port of entry. It is a straight-forward and fairly simple sounding statement; however, in practice, it is riddled with complexities.
Vietnam’s law on customs[8] delineates authority for customs responsibilities between 1) General Department of Customs; 2) Customs Departments of Provinces; and 3) Sub-department of Customs Sub-Departments, Customs control teams and equivalent units. Additionally, under Article 16 (5) of same, “The arrangement of manpower and working time must meet the requirements of import, export, exit, entry and transit activities.” Furthermore, Article 23 (4) requires, “Customs authorities…to carry out formalities for goods on public holidays and weekends and overtime hours in order to ensure timely loading and unloading of imported and exported goods…in conformity with practical conditions of customs operating locations [emphasis added]”. On paper, this would indicate a fully-developed system for expediting customs clearances and/or processes for clearing goods through a port of entry to another custom’s operations area for clearance seven days a week (and the customs law does further state that unless a shipment requires a physical inspection for certain agricultural or health reasons, it should be expedited to a different clearance location).

In application, it can vary greatly by whoever is the customs authority in charge of the inspection location. Decree 08/2015/ND-CP (Ministry of Finance) Article 29 (2) states, “Head of the Customs Authority who is in charge of…inspection [places] shall make a decision on any change to the level or form of physical verification and bear responsibility for their decision.” This gives the customs director of a facility broad authority, but thanks to the last clause of the sentence, “…bear responsibility for their decision”, many customs officials will be hesitant to use that discretion in fear of making a “wrong” decision; therefore, they most likely will physically hold and inspect every shipment coming into their zone of control. One facility operating in that fashion can bottleneck an entire section of the country. Additionally, the provincial customs authority or facility director has broad discretion in determining the “practical conditions” to conform to. In Vietnam, it is doubtful a customs facility director will require personnel to facilitate customs procedures during “Tet” (Vietnamese New Year); therefore, for one week little customs activity occurs at that location.

Indeed, many issues that are problematic to the law on customs were supposedly being addressed by Circulars 38 and 39 (issued in 2018). In fact, on 10 July 2019 a $21.7 million USAID Trade Facilitation Program was granted to support the Government of Vietnam to adopt and implement a risk management approach to customs and specialized inspection agencies, which will strengthen the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement [TFA].[9] The General Department of Vietnam Customs (GDVC) organized six consultative workshops to gather feedback and recommendations on amending Circular 38 and Circular 39 – regulation guidance on Vietnam’s Customs Law. The workshops would help identify the challenges and practical compliance-burdens faced by import-export businesses in relation to implementation of the circulars.[10] It is evident that between the many iterations of decrees, circulars, directives, and laws regarding customs and procedures, every agency and business involved in the process is confused.

Decision 15 (12 May 2017) provides a clear example of the confusion customs officials and businesses encountered[11]; chiefly, that it did not specify what is considered the “entry gate” for carrying out customs procedures? Was it the place that goods were imported to, or the port listed on the bill of lading? Businesses (and officials) were receiving conflicting information and backlogs inevitably ensued.[12] Decision 23, recently issued 27 June 2019, addressed this issue and specifically identifies the proper port of entry for each type of transport.[13] CPTPP and EVFTA also affected Decision 23 in that it amended the type of goods requiring specific inspection procedures to comply with CPTPPs input-materials-for-production provision, and also EVFTAs (and CPTPPs) stricter requirements regarding potentially environmentally-hazardous materials.[14]

With the myriad regulations affecting customs, how can either the CPTPP or EVFTA assist Vietnam in resolving the predicament? Statutorily, the EVFTA already has. It mirrors portions of the TFA (such as creating trade facilitation committees), but also goes one step further in requiring Vietnam to comply with Article 2.12, in which Vietnam “…shall administer in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner all its laws, regulations, judicial decisions and administrative rulings pertaining to…issues affecting…distribution, transportation…warehousing inspection…or other use of goods for customs purposes.” This section of the EVFTA is forcing Vietnam to take a hard look at their current system, and streamline and consolidate all their varying regulations concerning customs administration for efficiency. A quick solution Vietnam can implement now to help alleviate physical storage problems is EVFTA Article 2.15 which allows foreign pharmaceutical companies to establish their own warehouses inside Vietnam.[15] If Vietnam declares those warehouses as “customs operational locations”, that would free-up other customs warehousing space for other inventory.

Private Sector Must Be Engaged

Outside of the regulatory environment, private businesses have a crucial role in relieving bottlenecks. Even if everything flows smoothly and correctly through the government customs process and goods are cleared, it takes private businesses to physically move those goods out to make room for others. If the trucking company hired to move containers does not “work” on weekends, is short-staffed, can’t find anyone to work, drivers call out sick, etc., those containers do not move—they sit there. Many of the transport barges moving along the Saigon River are private contractors. You can see their entire family lives and works on that barge. If that barge does not want to work that day, it is not going to work. While most of the port terminal operations are conducted by State-owned enterprises (SOEs), they still struggle with general employment issues that affect port operations and add to the bottleneck issue as well.

Government can provide a statutory environment for success, but without private enterprise completing the circle, nothing will be resolved. Perhaps an incentive system for non-traditional work days for private contractors can help the situation; better screening of potential employees; requirements specifically spelled-out; any and all solutions need to be examined. The bottom-line is while regulatory efficiency is needed to allow for the legal and operational environment to flow seamlessly, the private sector must close the loop.

Summary

There is a regulatory quagmire surrounding Vietnam’s customs arena. The TFA is intended to assist developing and under-developed nations (primarily) with their trade processes to better facilitate trade on a global level so that all parties benefit. Vietnam’s growing economy and role as a Southeast-Asian trade hub are requiring substantial changes to current regulations and processes. Only a few examples of the many that could be given show that while Vietnam is making strides with reform, they need to accelerate that change. It cannot be haphazardly done, though. It must be structured, reasonable, and determined with both governmental and private sector collaboration. Vietnam followed that exact process for obtaining CPTPP and EVFTA. Those agreements should be the primary guiding documents for Vietnam to reform their customs legislation to, as they will affect Vietnam’s economic growth exponentially. They can provide the framework for statutory solutions to many of the customs issues Vietnam faces; however, without private-sector buy in, those statutory solutions cannot be efficiently implemented. The entire customs-cycle must be embedded into the mindset and carried out at the individual level for there to be a truly systemic change.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyers in our office listing if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU !

VIETNAM – PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PARTNERSHIPS (PPP) AND CPTPP AND EVFTA/IPA DISPUTE SETTLEMENT PROVISIONS AND THE DRAFT PPP LAW

Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) have long been used as a vehicle for both emerging and developed markets to further enhance their public infrastructure to support growing socio-economic needs. Vietnam, however, has experienced an explosive economic growth over the past decade and is poised for even further expansion with their acceding to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and European Union—Vietnam Free Trade (EVFTA) agreements. With these two new growth mechanisms in-force, Vietnam’s infrastructure is struggling to accommodate that growth. The statutory cap on public funds utilization of 65 percent is rapidly approaching and the most viable investment form left for Vietnam is a functional PPP program.

Both CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA (Investment Protection Agreement) lay out very broad frameworks for supporting infrastructure development such as preferring renewable energy over environmentally-damaging alternatives and establishing development committees to determine how best to support that effort.[1] With the core of those agreements addressing elimination of almost all duties and tariffs on goods and services between the parties (over time), it makes the cost of acquiring hardware for energy infrastructure less. Additionally, the restrictions on cross-border trade in services required to construct and maintain technologically advanced platforms are lessened; further reducing the cost of an infrastructure project. Vu Tien Loc (president of Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry) speaking at an event “EVFTA and EVIPA: Opportunities for Business” held on July 1 by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, stated that EVFTA is the best FTA Vietnam has ever signed.[2] Vietnam is heading towards a foreign direct investment (FDI) generation, with higher quality, more advanced technologies, higher added value and a more eco-friendly environment, so the EVFTA will open the door for EU companies to complete these targets, Loc said.[3]

With these opportunities presented for Vietnam’s economic future, a draft law on PPP was drawn to address some of the concerns foreign investors have had regarding the regulatory environment for PPP in Vietnam. Mainly that there is not an appropriate level of risk allocation (too much on the investor), and there is not enough regulatory stability to support a long-term PPP project (generally 25-30 years). Many of the primary concerns have been discussed in other various articles; however, CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA have two restrictions reserved by Vietnam that can hinder the potential for expansive FDI in energy infrastructure (specifically power distribution)—CPTPP Annex IV and EVIPA Annex 2.1. Conversely, they also include dispute settlement provisions between member countries that can attract PPP investment if incorporated into the draft PPP law.

CPTPP Annex IV and EVIPA Annex 2.1

CPTPP Annex IV states, “[Regarding] all state-owned enterprises[4]…Viet Nam may require or direct the Entity [CPTPP member] to: (b) accord preferential treatment to…enterprises that are investments of Vietnamese investors in the territory of Viet Nam…pursuant to a government measure.” EVIPA Annex 2.1 states, “Viet Nam may adopt or maintain any measure with respect to the operation of a covered investment that is not in conformity with Article 2.3 (National Treatment); (h) …power transmission and/or distribution.” Both annexes allow Vietnam to require a potential member-country investor to use only Vietnamese domestic enterprises (majority-owned by Vietnamese nationals) in accomplishing the PPP project, if Vietnam so chooses. The EVIPA Annex is even broader than CPTPP by allowing “any measure” (regarding power transmission/distribution). It is also interesting to note that in EVFTA Appendix 8-B-1[5] (Specific commitments by Vietnam) Vietnam has agreed to virtually no restrictions on any construction companies or engineering services, including having a 100% member-country-owned commercial presence in Vietnam’s territory. In essence, CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA allow freer, fairer access to goods/services and investments; however, Vietnam can require any investor to utilize strictly Vietnamese resources regarding power or energy production and distribution. Most nations want to maintain national sovereignty and control of specific industries and resources they consider critical in supporting that sovereignty—that is not the issue here. This issue raised is one of regulatory uncertainties for investors.

These competing sections can cause consternation for a potential PPP investor. They may be able to complete the project for far less costs using their own member-country resources, but arbitrarily required at some point to utilize Vietnamese-owned companies that perhaps charge far more for the same good or service. The current draft PPP law is silent on this issue. PPP investors could be reassured, through contractual stability, of the guaranteed resources and services to be provided (and by whom) from the outset of the project. At a minimum, the draft PPP law should include a method for an investor to challenge a regulatory ruling or decision through an impartial, third party. While this issue might not derail a project, it could cause a qualified, reliable investor not to even want to bid a project; therefore, possibly driving the cost up or having a lower quality platform that will cost more in repair and maintenance in the long term. What the draft PPP law needs is to adopt the dispute settlement and resolution provisions of the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA. In its current form, it does not mirror them.

Dispute Resolution Provision

Under Article 112 of the draft PPP law (dispute resolution) parties must use negotiation and conciliation first. This is the same as both CPTPP Chapter 28 and EVFTA Chapter 15/IPA Chapter 3. Continuing, a dispute involving a foreign investor (and between a State Agency) will be resolved through a Vietnamese arbitration organization or court, “unless otherwise agreed in the contract or unless otherwise stipulated in an international treaty of which Vietnam is a member.” If not stipulated in the contract, this means that if the foreign entity is a CPTPP or EUFTA/IPA member country, those agreements’ dispute chapters apply—maybe. Both agreements state that dispute resolution will be accomplished via mediation and arbitration for disputes generated under those agreements. There is no specific PPP language in the agreements; therefore, it will have to be proven that either of the agreements govern the project. This will add time and costs to the project, the government, the investor, and ultimately, the public.

Many PPP projects do not involve one, single foreign investor. There could be any number of various investor combinations to complete a specific project. A purely domestic, Vietnamese, single investor will be required to use Vietnamese arbitration or courts under Article 112—understandable. Any dispute between investors (state agency not involved) in which there is at least one (1) foreign investor will be resolved: “First, in Vietnamese court(s); then second, Vietnamese arbitrator(s); lastly, Foreign arbitrator(s).” Unless the foreign-investor here is a CPTPP/EVFTA member, or they have an international arbitration clause in their contract, there is no real option for the investor except for Vietnamese arbitration/courts.

The current draft PPP law’s Article 112 is more in line with general business transactions and not the magnitude of most PPP investments. They generally include multiple entities and financial vehicles/lenders, both foreign and domestic, ranging in the hundreds of millions to billions of USD. With the level of involvement regarding PPP projects, the draft PPP law should just state plainly that any dispute shall be resolved through international mediation and/or arbitration (unless stipulated otherwise in the contract). In effect, mirror the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA Dispute Settlement Chapters. This will provide potential investors with the regulatory certainty they have been looking for. It will also alleviate any concerns around objectivity and neutrality for all parties. UNCITRAL stated in their UN guidelines for PPP in 2000, “…procedures should be established for handling disputes… (This is where arbitration should be a risk concession by the government…allowing international standards of the infrastructure sector to have an equal voice) [Emphasis added].”[6] Changing dispute resolution in the draft law to mirror the current trade agreements and UNCITRAL will help attract FDI for PPP infrastructure projects.

Summary

Vietnam needs to rely on the private sector to take their socio-economic growth to the next level. Government cannot satisfy the country’s requirements without it. Regulatory reform has been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in satisfying the private sector’s concerns. From a statutory perspective, the CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA are able vehicles that give a wide berth for PPP projects to flourish. Within those landmark agreements, some conflicting areas do remain that can cause investor concern. From an operational perspective, government agencies need to streamline their processes to deliver services effectively under the laws and regulations (another major concern of investors). Eric Sidgwick, ADB country director for Vietnam, stated that Vietnam’s average disbursement rate is much lower than that of other recipients of the Asian Development Bank’s official development assistance (ODA) loans, largely due to cumbersome and time-consuming procedures.[7] While there is never a perfect solution for all parties, compromise is usually the most effective way to ensure buy-in from all involved. A way of alleviating investor’s concern over ambiguous and regulatory stability is to change the dispute resolution Article of the draft PPP law to mirror the already successful agreements of CPTPP and EVFTA/IPA.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU!

VIETNAM – CAPITAL MARKETS – HOW THE CPTPP, EVFTA/IPA CAN EFFECT MORGAN STANLEY’s 2020 RATING

One of the significant events Vietnam was hoping to occur this June unfortunately did not transpire—being on the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) watch list for emerging markets. Instead, Vietnam was not upgraded and remained on the frontier-market listing. It is estimated Vietnam could receive up to US $10 billion worth of foreign capital in frontier market-focused funds, but could receive much more from emerging market-focused funds.[1] The Vietnamese Government considers MSCI’s watch list as a top-priority target as it could lure a huge amount of foreign capital to the Vietnamese economy.[2] According to Nguyễn Thị Bích Nga, deputy director of the State Securities Commission’s International Co-operation Department, [Vietnam] has been making the best efforts to improve the legal framework, introduce new securities products and make the market more professional.[3]

One of those “best efforts” is the amendment of the securities law that would make the market fairer between domestic and foreign investors (draft law to amend law on securities; last revised by Decree 60/2015/ND-CP). That 2015 revision eased restrictions on Foreign Ownership Limits (FOL); however, MSCI wants to see even further progress on relaxing those restrictions. According to the draft version (as a general rule), foreign investors are allowed to own 100 per cent of the shares of a Vietnamese company that operates in a non-critical business sector. This applies to listed firms, equitized state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and private non-listed businesses. Shareholders of each company will decide for themselves the amount of foreign-owned shares eligible.[4] This is different from the current Securities Law, which automatically sets the FOL at listed companies in Vietnam at 49 percent. Some sectors, such as banking or aviation, have a stricter limit at only 30 percent.

Experts believe that with the relaxed rules, Vietnam would be likely to attract at least US $5 billion of new capital from abroad and receive the upgrade that it has been waiting for.[5] With fewer restrictions on foreign ownership, Vietnamese firms would become more attractive to major investment funds who are willing to pour millions of USD into Vietnamese businesses. With more foreign-ownership, companies will have a broader, global, perspective and a level of accountability to help drive transparency and change. Mai Le, analyst at PYN Asia Research, noted that out of all the changes in the Securities Law, the [capital] market is most anxiously waiting the FOL rule to take effect.[6]

MSCI Decision and Criteria

Kuwait was upgraded to the MSCI emerging market watch list (and not Vietnam) specifically because of, “…enhancements [that] removed foreign ownership restrictions on listed banks and simplification of requirements for investor registration.”[7] Not coincidentally, those are the areas that Vietnam has not satisfied under MSCIs criteria.[8] Under MSCIs criteria of “Openness to Foreign Ownership”, Vietnam ranks as improvement needed in FOL level, foreign room level, and equal rights to foreign investors. Many experts felt that Vietnam has met more standards of an emerging market than similar markets such as Pakistan and the Philippines (or Kuwait), but also had the best qualitative indicators among frontier markets.[9] While that may be true, it is apparent that MSCI is more concerned with long-term sustainability, which is why “openness to foreign ownership” is MSCIs top criteria for assessing upgrades.

CPTPP, EVFTA, EVIPA and Their Potential Effects on MSCI 2020

If Vietnam rectifies the discrepancies in their laws regarding investments and securities with the trade agreements of CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership), EVFTA (European Union—Vietnam Free Trade Agreement), and EVIPA (European Union—Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement), they will have a greater chance at making the MSCI watch list upgrade for 2020. Vietnam will most likely not make the list if they continue to table or endlessly debate these critical, progressive revisions. Streamlining the draft laws on investment and securities with CPTPP, EVFTA, and EVIPA, and implementing them expeditiously will give MSCI hard-data to use in their June 2020 evaluation instead of mere speculation.
Moving in that direction, one of the most significant changes in the draft law on securities is the expansion of the foreign holding cap in public companies. Accordingly, public companies would be subject to no restrictions on foreign holdings, unless otherwise prescribed by “treaties to which Vietnam has acceded or a specialized law.”[10] There is a minor legal distinction between “treaties” and “agreements”; however, in the spirt of the law and especially for cementing these new trading relationships, Vietnam should draw no distinction and apply them as such. Under the CPTPP and EVFTA/EVIPA, Vietnam has expressly restricted FOL in specific, listed industries that are of national significance or security[11]; therefore, the government should aggressively restructure their current drafts to mirror that CPTPP, EVFTA, and EVIPA specific language. The CPTPP does have FOL set to what the current Vietnamese law is (currently 30 percent); however, it only states that it is relative to whatever the “current” law is—so, change the law.

This would mean removing the 30 percent FOL cap in the banking industry that is currently in place (even in the draft law to revise the law on securities).[12] According to Long Ngo, associate director at the Research Department at Viet Capital Securities, investment trends in the banking industry will depend on when the government lifts the FOL.[13] As long as the government keeps FOL at the 30 percent level, Vietnam’s capital markets will not expand and MSCI will not consider Vietnam for the watch list upgrade.[14] By maintaining their current operational paradigm, Vietnam is only hampering its own development and future.

If Vietnam would internalize operating from a global perspective, there should be no distinctions between a foreign investor and a domestic one (other than protected industries of national security). CPTPP, EVFTA, and EVIFA create “National Treatment” of any foreign-investor, which grants (in effect) domestic status.[15] Article 9.1 of CPTPP stipulates all “covered” investments (EVIPA is essentially the same list), including: (a) an enterprise; (b) shares, stock and other forms of equity participation in an enterprise; (c) bonds, debentures, other debt instruments and loans;…(f) intellectual property rights; (g) licences, authorisations, permits and similar rights conferred.[16] If Vietnam would stipulate in their draft laws this position already agreed to in CPTPP, EVFTA and EVIPA, it would virtually eliminate all three of MSCIs concerns that it has with Vietnam currently.

With the guarantee of no distinction between a foreign-investor and a domestic one, entities that have been reluctant to invest millions of USD in Vietnamese businesses will now feel much more comfortable about the investment environment; thus creating a large influx into Vietnamese capital markets. MSCI will notice these changes and most likely add Vietnam to 2020s watch list for emerging markets, creating another large inlay to Vietnam’s markets. If the government would match their investment and securities laws with the current trade agreements of CPTPP, EVFTA, and EVIPA, they would realize their self-stated goal of achieving MSCI watch list for emerging-market status.

Summary

A major goal of Vietnam’s government was not realized in July. Despite strong economic activity and other positive indicators, MSCI did not place them on the highly anticipated watch list for emerging markets. If Vietnam takes a hard look at the criteria that kept them from the upgrade, it is apparent that the solution for most of the roadblocks cited have already been addressed in the CPTPP, EVFTA, and EVIPA. The government merely needs to incorporate the trade agreement language into their existing laws. The tabling until May 2020 of the passage of the draft law to amend the law on investments through Resolution 8 (July 2019) was not a strategically beneficial move for Vietnam in order to make the 2020 MSCI watch list. Several key provisions in that draft (if in-place and operational) would give MSCI concrete data to observe (rather than speculative) and improve Vietnam’s chances of an upgrade. Additionally, changes to the draft law on the law on securities to be in line with the provisions of CPTPP and EVIPA would also be in Vietnam’s favor. Investor’s (and MSCI) minds would be eased if Vietnam will aggressively pursue regulatory reform and potentially add another US $15 billion to their capital markets.

The best indicator that reform is required to the current draft laws on amending the law on securities and investments came from the government itself. “Some items are unclear while others are unreasonable and no longer fit the Vietnamese market’s conditions,” the Government said in a report submitted to the National Assembly’s Economic Committee.[17] Those issues may “befuddle investors, market members and regulators,” adding that “policymakers must adjust the law [emphasis added] so it matches international standards and agreements to which Vietnam is committed.”[18]

If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Thank you very much!
________________________________________
[1] https://vietnamnews.vn/economy/520886/vn-hopes-to-enter-msci-watchlist-this-year-but-experts-are-uncertain.html#3jsO5FxXs7UjKbiz.97
[2] Id. Footnote 1.
[3] Id. Footnote 1.
[4] https://www.vir.com.vn/fol-ambiguities-in-new-securities-law-64118.html
[5] Id. Footnote 4.
[6] Id. Footnote 4.
[7]https://www.msci.com/documents/10199/238444/RESULTS_OF_MSCI_2019_ANNUAL_MARKET_CLASSIFICATION_REVIEW.pdf/f134c97c-73da-71c7-4b3c-d1f637c3eaee
[8]https://www.msci.com/documents/1296102/1330218/MSCI_Market_Accessibility_Review_Country_Comparison_2019.pdf/142b5a29-e385-2922-4f79-8d6f4a04a467
[9] Id. Footnote 4.
[10] http://vietnamlawmagazine.vn/draft-securities-law-proposes-expanding-foreign-holding-cap-6517.html
[11] EVIPA, Chapter 2, Article 2.1.2 ; Annex 2

VIETNAM—FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT AND UNINTENDED EFFECTS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF CPTPP/EVFTA

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), in the first 5 months of 2019, foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were US $7.3 billion, up 7.8% as compared to the same period in 2018. In addition, FDI contribution to the state budget rose from US $1.8 billion during 1994-2000 to US $14.2 billion during 2001-10, and to US $23.7 billion during 2011-15. In 2017 alone, FDI contributed US $8 billion to the state budget, accounting for 17% of the total state budget.[1] Phan Huu Thang, Vice Chairman of Vietnam’s Association of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, told Vietnam Investment Review that hi-tech processing and manufacturing, smart agriculture, healthcare, education and training, and renewable energy will be the hottest sectors for FDI in the coming months and years.[2] All these numbers and projections sound fantastic, but there are always impediments to a flourishing FDI program, as well as untapped (or under-utilized) opportunities. More importantly, how can the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and European Union—Vietnam Free Trade (EVFTA) agreements foster and support FDI?

Two important draft laws affecting FDI originally slated for passage in July 2019 have, unfortunately, been postponed for passage until May 2020 per Resolution 78 (78/2019/QH14) in the Vietnam National Assembly: the Law on Investment in the Public Private Partnership Form [Law on PPP] and the Law Amending the Law on Investment and the Law on Enterprises.[3] There will be more to come on the effect of those laws after passage.

Unintended Effects of CPTPP and EVFTA on FDI

In the first five months of 2019, Vietnam’s FDI attraction reached a total value of US $16.7 billion, up 69 percent over the same period last year.[4] Currently, there are 131 countries and territories with valid investment projects in Vietnam, of which the Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan and Singapore claim the top three places (Japan and Singapore are CPTPP countries).[5] Since the beginning of 2019, however, a new top contender is emerging—China. In the past, China has been the seventh largest investor in Vietnam (with US $15 billion total); however, in the first half of 2019, their FDI alone was US $2 billion.[6] This is not a great surprise as the US—China “trade war” continues, but it does highlight that China is intending to exploit Vietnam’s entrance into the CPTPP and EVFTA (Agreements that China does not currently benefit from). This year, the Vietnamese government licensed the US $280 million ACTR tire-manufacturing project in the southern province of Tay Ninh, and a US $214.4 million project by the Advance Vietnam Tire Co., Ltd in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.

ACTR manufactures steel-radial tires for trucks and busses, and is a joint venture between China’s Sailun Vietnam Co., Ltd, (with 65% equity) and the US’s Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. (35% equity). Because of the more stringent Certificate of Origin (COO) requirements under the CPTPP, China could no longer import tire components from CPTPP countries and process them domestically to obtain CPTPP member-country benefits (or vice versa—export components for assembly). They would need to have a physical processing plant located in Vietnam to claim “Made in Vietnam” COO. With that member-country COO, China now enjoys zero-tariffs on those products exported to member nations. That is a significant counter to the US—China trade tariffs, and a direct result of CPTPP. Advance Vietnam Tire Co. (owned by Guizhou Advance Type Investment co., Ltd, of China) is an almost identical example to ACTR; other than Advance is not a joint venture. China could have invested in other CPTPP countries, but Vietnam is the most attractive and cost-effective venue for FDI compared to others.

The EVFTA contains similar provisions as the CPTPP regarding tariffs and duties. With the EVFTA now in force, China has poised itself to take advantage of this new regulatory environment for the European markets. Using the examples from above, China will now be able to compete (in effect with domestic-preference) directly with Europe’s largest physically domestic producer of tires, Michelin.

Before CPTPP, EVFTA, and the US—China trade tensions, Chinese investors were mainly small businesses with out-dated technology, but now many large corporations are funding large-scale projects. Five of the seven biggest foreign-invested projects in the last five months came from Chinese backers, including not only the ones already discussed, but also a US $260 million electronic equipment and multimedia audio products manufacturing project invested by Hong Kong-based Goertek Co., Ltd.[7] Chinese investors are also increasing merger and acquisition (M&A) activities. Hong Kong topped foreign investors in Vietnam with the US $3.8 billion purchase of Vietnam Beverage Co. Ltd, in Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp (SABECO).

It appears clear from the investment activity in Vietnam since the onset of CPTPP that it has had a substantial positive impact on FDI. With the advent of EVFTA coming in force (and providing similar—if not more—beneficial trade platforms), Vietnam will have a multitude of investors rushing to reap the benefits of those trade agreements. For Vietnam be able to absorb this inevitable expansion of its FDI landscape the government needs to adapt holistically (and quickly) to the new global trade environment they have embarked on to realize its full potential.

EVFTA and CPTPP Vocational Training Market Opportunity

As Phan Huu Thang mentioned, education and training and renewable energy will be some of the hottest sectors in the coming months and years for FDI. An often-overlooked aspect of FDI is Vocational Training Schools. Vocational training will be critical to the long-term success of Vietnam’s infrastructure platforms, especially when operating and maintaining an enhanced energy and power sector. With highly advanced and technologically complex energy platforms (especially renewables) comes a requirement for competently trained personnel to sustain them. Vietnam has a large workforce pool; however, technical training for these opportunities is currently limited.

The EVFTA and CPTPP both have provisions easing the access of engineering and technology support to assist in achieving the required knowledge and training skillsets.[8] Vietnam recognized this also and updated their regulatory requirements regarding vocational schools through Decree 15 (15/2019/ND-CP), which specifies the order and procedures for opening foreign-invested vocational training schools.[9] The FDI project would need to be in line with the national planning of vocational training in Vietnam, but the threshold capital requirements have been lowered to VND 5 billion (US $216,000) to open a vocational training centre, VND 50 billion (US $2.2 million) for a vocational secondary school, and VND 100 billion (US $4.4 million) for a vocational college.[10] In addition, if a project is aligned with an industry of national priority or significance (enter renewable-energy), the Ministry of Labour will be the sole authority on issuing licenses[11]—a departure from the traditional methodology in an effort to streamline the process. This is good news for many renewable energy projects. Not only will a foreign business have more opportunities for development under CPTPP and EVFTA, but they can also add a minimal supplement to that investment and create the necessary workforce to support it.

An example from USA clearly demonstrates the opportunity in vocational training schools. In 2011, Boeing, Inc. opened a final assembly facility for the 787 Dreamliner in Charleston, South Carolina. Along with that came a demand for technically trained personnel to operate the complex facility and to have personnel trained in the intricate technology involved in assembling the aircrafts. Boeing invested US $80 million to have an aeronautical vocational training facility built near Boeing’s assembly plant (completed June 2019).[12] This is a win-win for Boeing. They provided the initial funding to build the vocational facility; in return, they have professionally trained personnel, and the government takes over costs of maintaining the training facility. Boeing also gets guarantees from the government to repay Boeing’s initial investment through tax incentives and bond issuance. This is a textbook case of vocational FDI supplementing an already significant investment.

As many foreign investors establish their presence even more in Vietnam’s infrastructure landscape, this is another opportunity for FDI to affect Vietnam’s (and the investor’s) bottom-line. The EVFTA and CPTPP are enablers as they both allow services to flow less restrictively between the parties. Phan Huu Thang noted that for Vietnam to realize its fourth-industrial-revolution plan (4IR), local enterprises [must] be encouraged to cooperate with foreign-invested enterprises to learn experience, transfer technology, and receive support in training.[13] Vocational training centers will help fill that need.

Summary

Vietnam’s FDI has been steadily increasing for decades. FDI has helped transform Vietnam from a poor nation to the verge of a massive middle-class population. CPTPP and EVFTA are two vehicles that will propel Vietnam across that line and perhaps even further. The tangible benefits of CPTPP are already proving themselves as evidenced by the hard-data collected. The unintended effects on FDI from non-member countries, however, have a distinct possibility of compounding those benefits exponentially as others see the potential of CPTPP and EVFTA. Traditionally under-utilized sectors for FDI in education and training are also poised to take advantage of these trade agreements. While not the most high profile, E&T are necessary support vehicles to sustain the larger sectors. Vietnam has been slow, thus far, in aggressively changing their regulatory environment to adapt; however, they need to act expeditiously to fully reform their regulatory environment in order to meet this inevitable influx of FDI.

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If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyers in our office listing. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
Thank you very much!

VIETNAM—POWER, ENERGY, AND THE AFFECT OF RECENT TRADE AGREEMENTS EU VIETNAM FREE TRADE AND INVESTMENT PROTECTION AGREEMENT AND THE COMPREHENSIVE AND PROGRESSIVE TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

Vietnam has had major stressors placed upon its power and energy grid for years, and it is only accelerating. At a recent April, 2019 conference on renewable energy in Ho Chi Minh City, experts noted that annual energy consumption in [Vietnam] had risen by 10 per cent in recent years, and the country was at risk of facing power shortages in the 2020s. Several factors have had an impact on this event a 2018 Harvard University study dubbed, “a crisis of success”. The major contributing factor was inefficiencies in the utilization of energy resources and infrastructure. Over time, these inefficiencies have compounded the problem Vietnam faces now with their entry into the European Union—Vietnam Free Trade (EVFTA) and Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreements. Luckily, those challenges may be alleviated if Vietnam changes their regulatory environment and embraces a new operating paradigm based on a global trade perspective. The transition may at times be turbulent, but necessary for Vietnam to achieve robust, sustainable development to meet their future needs.

Renewable Energy under EVFTA and CPTPP

Both the CPTPP (Chapter 20) and EVFTA (Chapter 13) require the parties to mitigate any damaging effects to the environment by trade practices and to incorporate any other treaties the parties are signatories of into the agreements. As Vietnam and the other parties of both the EVFTA and CPTPP are signatories to the United Nations Paris Agreement of 2015, this means Vietnam is required to reduce its traditional coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner or renewable energy sources. The EVFTA and CPTPP specifically mention renewable energy as the preferred alternative, and the parties all agree to promote trade to that end.

Vietnam has been making strides to address their energy utilization situation such as the Power Development Master Plan for the 2011-2020 Period with the Vision to 2030 (revised PDMP VII). PDMP VII, for example, sets out to increase energy supply from solar power from the current negligible rate to 0.5% by 2020 and 3.3% by 2030, or, 850MW solar capacity by 2020, increasing to 12GW by 2030. PDMP VII is coal-centric, which is counter to what both the EVFTA and CPTPP call for. One reason for the coal-centric approach is that it is established, known, and cheaper—it is the path of least resistance—which is one reason why Vietnam does not place tariffs on imported coal from the US, but it does place a 20 per cent tax on its own domestic offshore natural gas (which is by-far a cleaner alternative). PDMP VII also sets forth the goal of universal connectivity to the national power grid for all of Vietnam by 2030. It is a lofty goal, but it is achievable. The best chance of success for the 2030 goal is to restructure the regulatory environment to favor and exploit renewable energy sources. PDMP VIII is the next evolution for Vietnam’s energy strategy (slated for year-end 2019) and—keeping with the global investment mind-set—Vietnam should have a blend of private and public sector representation on that advisory board to ensure CPTPP and EVFTA renewable requirements and opportunities are fully integrated.

Against this backdrop, how can the EVFTA and CPTPP help Vietnam achieve sustainable energy development? Concerns from the private sector have always plagued Vietnam’s regulatory framework. Permitting, risk-allocation, land use impediments, financing, and investment protection have been major causes for project derailment in the past. The regulatory environment has been the biggest hindrance to successful exploitation and integration of renewable energy. However, Solar Power holds particular promise.

Solar Renewable Power

Solar power (according to PDMP VII) is to provide the second-largest amount of renewable energy in Vietnam by 2030—at 3.3 per cent. That figure should be adjusted higher with the incorporation of a more aggressive renewable plan in PDMP VIII. On a macro-level, solar farms are becoming more and more prevalent in Vietnam’s southern regions with most of them being developed by foreign investment. Major investors in Vietnam in the approval, construction, or completion stage include
German ASEAN Power, B.Grimm Power Public Co Ltd, Trina Solar, Schletter Group, and JA Solar, to name a few. Twenty-five solar farms have signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with EVN, not to mention another 221 projects are awaiting approval, with a combined 13,000MW of potential output. Reuters, Inc. suggests that Vietnam’s electricity sector will be bigger than Britain’s by mid-2020s.

EVFTA and CPTPP Impacts on Solar Sector

The driving force behind this level of investment so far has been the CPTPP (notably Japan and Korea); however, with the recent enactment of the EVFTA, further investment and expansion is a realistic expectation as there are no foreign-ownership restrictions placed on investors in those agreements. Furthermore, the European Union—Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) grants specific safeguards for investors regarding the free transfer of capital based on foreign exchange convertibility as well as dispute resolution governed by international arbitration rules. These have been points of contention in the past for EU investors. On a broader scale, Vietnam, the EU, and the CPTPP signatories will all benefit as reduced tariffs and duties on the machinery and hardware to produce solar facilities will make it more cost-effective to develop that sector. Large-scale investment should be noticeable in the immediate future, and should be the definitive driver after five years when Vietnam removes restrictions on local-content and domestic partnering requirements in the EVFTA. Engineering services from the EU to support renewable infrastructure will also thrive as restrictions on that service in Vietnam are relaxed, promoting technical expertise and experience exchange and cooperation. These services will be especially crucial in upgrading and enhancing Vietnam’s grid capacity to maximize renewable energy integration into it.

Vietnam is making progress on changing their regulatory framework for renewable energy utilizing input from the private sector. An example is the latest change to the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) regulations for connectivity to EVN national grid. Up until 30 June 2019, there was a flat FIT of US $0.0935/kWh regardless of size or scope of project. The low FIT coupled with high investment costs in newer technologies has always been a point of contention for private developers. As of 01 July 2019, the FIT system was revamped and broken-down by type of solar project and zones of irradiance.

The regional scheme is determined by annual levels of irradiance and is broken-down into four regions. Regions with higher irradiance are imposed a lower FIT while remote regions with lower irradiance are imposed a higher FIT. This is a direct result of government responding to private investors’ concerns.

Rooftop Solar PV (less than 1 MWp)

The FIT schedule also applies to smaller-scale solar rooftop development. According to Vietnam Electricity (EVN), 1,800 customers, including offices, businesses and households, are installing rooftop solar systems with a total capacity of 30.12 MWp. In Ho Chi Minh City, EVN has installed rooftop solar systems with a total capacity of nearly 1,130 kWp and is continuing to deploy other systems. EVN general director indicated this amount was far below the potential of Vietnam, and directly attributed the reason to a lack of specific regulations about electricity purchases when households connect their solar power systems to the national grid. The previous flat FIT applied to rooftop solar generating less than 1 MWp as well, but was a convoluted regulatory situation on how-and-who-gets-paid-when. Now, new rooftop solar constructed or installed on or after 01 July 2019 that generates less than 1 MWp has the option of: 1) negotiating their own price between buyer and seller (as long as the project is not connected to EVN national grid) or 2) accepting the FIT schedule for the region it is located in and connecting to the EVN grid.

This is a major change and development for the solar market. The Direct Power Purchase Agreement (DPPA / PPA) allows for individuals or organizations to install rooftop solar projects and sign their own buy/sell contracts among other individuals or organizations without connecting to the EVN national grid. Any excess power generated may be sold to EVN at the established FIT for the region. This can have an enormous impact on the load capacity of the current EVN grid by reducing demand on it.

The rooftop solar sector will be a key part of the puzzle in rectifying Vietnam’s energy inefficiencies. With EVFTA and CPTPP countries enjoying reduced or no tariffs on hardware and other products to support the rooftop solar sector, coupled with the regulatory reforms, it should only be a matter of time before there is a PV panel on every residential and commercial rooftop in Vietnam.

Summary

Vietnam has been struggling with efficiently growing and sustaining its energy and power infrastructure. The regulatory environment has traditionally been one of the major hindrances to private investors in infrastructure development. Although there is always a certain amount of uncertainty in any project of this nature, both the public and private sectors would serve their communities greatly by coming to a reasoned solution that suits both. There has been notable progress by Vietnam on this regulatory-front, such as PMDP VIII and the revised FIT and DPPA. Hopefully there will be much more to come in the latter-half of 2019 and into 2020. The CPTPP and EVFTA agreements have been (and will be) a major factor in Vietnam’s infrastructure development goals. Utilizing those agreements and advice and input from the private sector, Vietnam’s power and energy situation will be poised to efficiently and effectively capitalize on its enormous potential—especially with renewables.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer listed in our office list if you have any questions on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Breaking news: The EU – Vietnam FTA to be signed next Sunday (30th June)

In a notice made by the EU Council on 25 June, EU Commissioner for Trade Mrs. Cecilia Malmstrom, together with Romanian Minister in charge of business, commerce and business Mr. Stefan-Radu Oprea will represent the EU to sign the EU – Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) in Hanoi on 30th June.

On 26 June 2018, the EVFTA was split into two separate agreement, one on trade and one on investment. In August 2018, EU and Vietnam completed the legal review of the EVFTA and the EU – Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA). The EVFTA needs to be ratified by the European Commission and European Parliament while the EVIPA must be additionally ratified by the Parliament of each EU member countries.

The EVFTA and the EVIPA are said to bring the best advantages and benefits ever for enterprises, employees and consumers in both EU and Vietnam. Vietnam’s GDP is expected to increase by 10-15% and exports are predicted to rise by 30-40% in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the real wages of skilled labourers could rise up to 12%, while the real salaries of common workers could increase 13%.

The EVFTA is the first comprehensive and ambitious trade and investment agreements that the EU has ever concluded with a developing country in Asia. It is the second agreement in the ASEAN region after Singapore and it will intensify the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the EU. Vietnam will have access to a potential market of more than 500 million people and a total GDP of USD15,000 billion (accounting for 22% of global GDP).

Market access for goods

The EU agreed to eliminate duties for 84% of the tariff lines for goods imported from Vietnam immediately at the entry into force of the FTA. Within 7 years from the effective date of the FTA, more than 99% of the tariff lines will have been eliminated for Vietnam.

Vietnam will benefit more from the EVFTA compared with other FTAs since Vietnam and the EU are considered to be two supporting and complementary markets: Vietnam exports goods that the EU cannot or does not produce itself (i.e., fishery products, tropical fruits, etc.) while the products imported from the EU are also those Vietnam cannot produce domestically.

Government procurement

Vietnam has one of the highest ratios of public investment-to-GDP in the world (39% annually from 1995). However, until now, Vietnam has not agreed to its government procurement being covered by the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) of the WTO. Now, for the first time, Vietnam has undertaken to do so in the EVFTA.
The FTA commitments on Government Procurement mainly deal with the requirement to treat EU bidders, or domestic bidders with EU investment capital, equally with Vietnamese bidders when a Government purchases goods or requests a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to publish information on tender in a timely manner, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids and maintain the confidentiality of tenders. The FTA also requires its Parties to assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation and create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, and so on. These rules require Parties to ensure that their bidding procedures match the commitments and protect their own interests, thus helping Vietnam to solve its problem of bids being won by cheap but low-quality service providers.

Enforcement of ISDS

This is now covered in the EVIPA. In disputes regarding investment (for example, expropriation without compensation or discrimination of investment), an investor is allowed to bring the dispute to the Investment Tribunal for settlement (Investor-to-State dispute settlement mechanism – ISDS). This means the investors do not need to lobby its Government to file the case on their behalf. To ensure fairness and independence of the arbitration court, a permanent international investment tribunal with 9 members, 3 nationals appointed from each of the EU and Vietnam together with 3 nationals appointed from third countries. Cases will be heard by a 3-member Tribunal selected by the Chairman of the Tribunal in a random and unpredictable way. This is also to ensure consistent rulings in similar cases, thus making the dispute settlement more predictable. The EVIPA also allows a sole Tribunal member where the claimant is a small or medium-sized enterprise or the compensation of damaged claims is relatively low. This is a flexible approach considering that Vietnam is still a developing country.

In case either disputing parties disagree with the decision of the Tribunal, it has another chance to appeal it to the Appeal Tribunal. While this is different from the common arbitration proceeding, it is quite similar to the 2-level dispute settlement mechanism in the WTO (Panel and Appellate Body). We believe that this mechanism could save time and cost for the whole proceedings.

The final settlement is binding and enforceable without question from the local courts regarding its validity, except for a five-year period following the entry into force of the FTA for Vietnam.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer listed in our office list if you have any questions on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!