Rechtsanwalt Vietnam Oliver Massmann Investitionen Privatisierung und Handel – QUO VADIS –

Die vietnamesische Regierung hat bei der Stabilisierung der vietnamesischen Wirtschaft enorme Fortschritte gemacht. Das Wirtschaftswachstum im Jahr 2015 wird laut Welt Bank voraussichtlich 6% betragen, außerdem konnte die Import-Export Balance seit über fünf Jahre beibehalten werden. Leider sind noch Probleme vorhanden auf die im Folgenden eingegangen wird.

1. Umsetzung und Anerkennung von Schiedsgerichtsurteilen – ihr Status, die Probleme und deren Lösung

Vietnam hat in den letzten Jahren große Fortschritte dabei gemacht einen rechtlichen Rahmen für die Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit zu errichten.
Das neue Gesetz zur Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit (Nr. 54/2010/QH12) trat am 01. Januar 2011 in Kraft und hat damit die alte Verordnung zur Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit aus 2003 abgelöst. Außerdem hat die Regierung detaillierte Regelungen zur Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit implementiert (Dekret Nr. 63/2011) sowie die Resolution Nr. 01 des vietnamesischen Verfassungsgerichts welche Richtlinien enthält, wie die Implementierung der neuen Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit umzusetzen ist. Außerdem hat Vietnam das Übereinkommen über die Anerkennung und Vollstreckung ausländischer Schiedssprüche (New Yorker Übereinkommen von 1958) im September ratifiziert, sowie deren Bestimmungen in das vietnamesisches Recht übernommen.

Diese Veränderungen spielen eine große Rolle dabei, ausländische Investoren anzuziehen. Trotz all der Veränderungen und Bemühungen, zeigen Statistiken, dass 19 von 44 Urteilen, also fast die Hälfte der Urteile, welche vor das Schiedsgericht gebracht werden, nicht umgesetzt werden. Das ist eine Katastrophe, da diese Zahl weit unter den verhandelten Urteilen anderen Länder liegt, zum Beispiel Japan – 100%; China und Hong Kong – 90%.

Der Grund für diese schlechte Umsetzung ist wohl darin zu sehen, dass die meisten Richter den Sinn und Zweck von Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit nicht verstanden haben. Dieser liegt darin, dass die Parteien ihre vertraglichen Streitigkeiten vor ein Gericht bringen, welches in der Lage ist eine kompetente, schnelle einfache Lösung zu finden. Die Richter scheinen jedoch das Prozedere zu verkomplizieren und wenden sehr strengen Maßstäbe an. Es sind zwei Hauptgründe für die fehlende Umsetzung von Schiedsverfahren festzumachen. Der erste liegt darin, dass die Richter zu strenge Anforderungen stellen und sich strikt an das Zivilprozessrecht halten. Und der zweite, dass die Schiedssprüche in gewisser Weise gegen vietnamesisches Recht verstoßen.

Schiedsverfahren richten sich zu streng nach den Verfahrensgrundsätzen des Zivilprozessrechts

Zunächst ist voranzustellen, dass Parteien, die mit ihrem Antrag zu einem Schiedsgericht gehen sich bewusst für ein Schiedsverfahren entschieden haben, sie haben bereits das einfachere und extra angepasste Modell gewählt und nicht die einfache Gerichtsbarkeit. Die Partei gehen dann auch davon aus, dass die Regeln der Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit Anwendung finden. Das Prinzip, dass man sich auf ein Schiedsverfahren vertraglich einigen kann, dass daraus dann keine andauernden, kostenintensiven und vor allem nicht den strengen prozessualen Regeln der einfachen Gerichtsbarkeit zu folgen, anders als bei der einfachen Gerichtsbarkeit, ist ein weltweit anerkanntest Prinzip. Zu behaupten, dass die Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit gegen die Regelungen der Zivilprozessordnung verstößt, ist absolut sinnlos und basiert auf einem Unverständnis der Grundgedanken des Schiedsverfahrens.

Die Schiedsurteile, welche in einigen Aspekten gegen „grundlegende Prinzipen vietnamesischen Rechts“ verstoßen
„Grundlegende Prinzipien des vietnamesischen Rechts“ ist ein eher vages Konzept und wird im vietnamesischen Recht nicht näher definiert. Es ist noch anzumerken, dass auch innerhalb des vietnamesischen Rechts keine standardisierten „grundlegenden Prinzipien“ gibt, dies führt dazu, dass Richter mit einem gewissen Ermessen die Ausführung der Schiedssprüche durchführen können. Einige Richter sind der Ansicht, dass alles, was nicht mit dem zivilprozessualem Recht übereinstimmt gegen die „grundlegenden Prinzipen“ des vietnamesischen Rechts verstößt. Dadurch, dass Schiedsverfahren keine öffentlichen Verfahren sind, ist es nicht möglich eine Auslegungsmethode bezüglich „grundlegender Prinzipen“ auszuarbeiten. Die Konsequenz daraus ist, dass Gerichtsentscheidungen unberechenbar sind.
Das soeben gesagte führt dazu, dass ausländische Investoren ihre Schwierigkeiten mit dem vietnamesischen Rechtssystem haben.

Wie man die Parteien davor schützen kann, dass die Schiedsurteile aufgehoben werden
Nachdem die Resolution Nr. 01 erlassen worden ist, haben die „Council of Judges“ das Signal gegeben, dass sie sowohl die Schiedsverfahren an sich als auch die Vollstreckung von Schiedsverfahren unterstützen werden. Die Resolution Nr. 01 gibt eindeutiger vor, welche Voraussetzungen für einen Antrag auf Aufhebung eines Schiedsurteil vorliegen müssen und vor allem wie das Verfahren der Aufhebung ablaufen soll ist eindeutiger dargelegt.
Nichtsdestotrotz, es fehlt an einem Mechanismus, der die Möglichkeit zulässt gegen die Aufhebung des Schiedsurteils vorzugehen.

Um diese Möglichkeit zu schaffen, sollte die Regierung zunächst eine Kommission gründen, welche alle aufgehobenen Schiedsurteile analysiert. Um dem Transparenzprinzip Genüge zu tun, sollten sowohl der Inhalt des jeweiligen Falles als auch die Aufhebungsentscheidung öffentlich gemacht werden. Dieses Vorgehen hätte dann auch eine Überwachungsfunktion.

2. Das neue Investitionsrecht und Unternehmensrecht

Unter dem alten Investitionsrecht war es möglich mit dem „Investmentzertifikat“ auch automatisch das „Geschäftsregistrierungszertifikat“ zu erhalten.
Nun mit dem neuen Investitionsrecht, welches am 1. Juli 2015 in Kraft getreten ist, müssen sich Unternehmen für zwei verschiedene Zertifikate bewerben und zwei verschiedene Bewerbungsunterlagen einsenden. Obwohl die Abfolge und die Geschwindigkeit übersichtlicher und schneller erscheint, Investoren sind jedoch über die Gründe beunruhigt, vor allem auf dem Hintergrund, dass es von Seiten der Regierung Veränderungen im administrativen Bereich gibt.

Das neue Investitionsrecht verkürzt die Zeitspanne in der das Stammkapital einzubringen ist von drei Jahre auf 90 Tage.
In Verbindung mit den zwei verschieden Registrierungszertifikaten sind die meisten Investoren vor allem besorgt, dass es zu Verzögerungen kommt, insbesondere bei Anträgen, welche die Erhöhung des Stammkapitals betreffen. (Anmerkung: Stammkapital ist das das Kapital, welches die Investoren zur Verfügung gestellt haben als sie die juristische Person gegründet haben)

3. Circular zum Thema Import von gebrauchten Equipment – Neue Handelsbeschränkungen?

Der Entwurf des Circular Nr.20/2014/TT-BKHCN ist am 1. Juli 2015 in Kraft getreten und soll den Import von neuen Maschinen, Equipment und Produktionsstrecken, welche mit der neusten Technologien hergestellt worden sind, fördern. Der Sinn dieses Circular ist es Vietnam davor bewahren, dass es mit überalterter Technologie und Schrott aus Chinaüberrollt zu werden, da China grade erst eine Richtlinie erlassen hat, welche es verbietet gebrauchte Maschinen und Equipment zu importieren.
Trotz der guten Absichten des Circulars, werden dadurch jedoch neue strengere Anforderungen angesetzt, welche gegen die internationalen Verträge verstoßen könnten, die Vietnam unterzeichnet hat. Ganz konkret heißt das, dass gebrauchte Maschinen oder auch Equipment nur zehn Jahre genutzt werden dürfen und eine Mindestqualität von 80% bei ihrer Einfuhr haben müssen. Es ist jedoch schwer einzuschätzen wie die Qualität der Technologie und der Produktionslinien ist und es liegt immer an den verfügbaren Informationen des Produktes. Es ist auch schwer und wenig praktikabel diese Standards auf alle Technologien und Produktionslinien gleich wertig anzuwenden. Außerdem schreibt das Circular vor, welche Sicherheits-, Energie- und Umweltschutzvorschriften von jedem importierten Produkt eingehalten werden müssen. Dies kann zu weiteren Verzögerungen führen und vor allem Unternehmen benachteiligen würde.
Außerdem entspricht es nicht der WTO Vereinbarung bezüglich „Vor-Verschiffungsinspektionen“ und der WTO Vereinbarung bzgl. „technischer Barrieren des Handels“ und es entstehen Probleme in Bezug auf die erforderlichen Standards und Vorschriften.

4. Steuerverwaltung

Laut dem Welt Bank Report 2015 liegt Vietnam aktuell auf dem 78. Platz von 189, wenn es darum geht wie leicht es ist in einem Land Geschäfte zu betreiben. Diese schlechte Platzierung liegt vor allem daran, dass es erhebliche steuerrechtliche Probleme gibt, zum Bespiel müssen Importeure zweifach Mehrwertsteuer auf ein und dasselbe Produkt zahlen, es kommt häufig zu Verspätungen, usw.
Die meisten Beschwerden von Unternehmen betreffen nicht die Steuer, von 40% des Netto-Gewinns, sondern dass die Einhaltung von steuerlichen Vorschriften zu viel Zeit kostet, nicht vorhersehbar ist und es an der erforderlichen Einfachheit und Transparenz fehle.
Dies sollte die Regierung mit berücksichtigen und Eingreifen um durch eine Verbesserung der Steuerverwaltung ein Wachstum von Vietnams Wirtschaft zu unterstützen.

5. Privatisierung von staatlichen Unternehmen – nur auf dem Papier

Staatliche Unternehmen haben eine lange Tradition in Vietnam und spielen eine wichtige Rolle in Vietnams Wirtschaft. Nichtsdestotrotz, diese Unternehmen sind nicht leistungsfähig, vor allem im Vergleich mit Privatunternehmen. Viele dieser Unternehmen arbeiten mit Verlusten. Deshalb hat sich die Regierung zu einigen Reformen entschlossen. Entgegen dem sehr ambitioniertem Ziel im Jahr 2015 289 staatliche Unternehmen zu privatisieren, geht dieser Prozess sehr langsam von Statten und wenn, dann nur dem Namen nach. Nur 5-20% der Firmenanteile wurden zum Verkauf angeboten, das ist nicht ausreichend um ausländische Investoren anzuziehen. Diese werden nicht in staatliche Unternehmen investieren, solange es nicht die Möglichkeit gibt Entscheidungsgewalt zu erlangen. Die Regierung muss sich mehr bemühen und sich Willens zeigen, staatliche Unternehmen umzuwandeln und für ausländische Investoren attraktiv machen.

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Bitte zögern Sie nicht und kontaktieren Herrn Massmann unter omassmann@duanemorris.com falls Sie Fragen zu dem oben gelesenen haben sollten.
Oliver Massmann ist Generaldirektor der US Kanzlei Duane Morris LLC in Vietnam.
DANKE!

Vietnam Human Resources – Best Practice Solutions and Impact of ASEAN

The new Law on Social Insurance is coming into force at the 1 January 2016 and it will introduce some extensive changes which are considered to be good for Vietnam and align with international practice. These changes include, among others, expansion of the subjects of application of compulsory social insurance; additional provisions to improve the transparency of social insurance regime such as rights of employees to self-manage their social insurance books and obligations of employers to publicize information about the payment of social insurance premiums to employees every 6 months; steps to be taken to separate unemployment insurance from the social insurance regime; etc.
In order to ensure such changes are properly understood by employers and employees, the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs should have more consultation and communication with the business community by reviewing regulations related to such changes, directly interacting with employers and employees during the consultation and opinion collecting process and building trust for social insurance agency. This would allow employers to be better positioned while explaining issues to their employees.
With respect to foreign workers, following the adoption of the new Labour Code in 2013, the Government of Vietnam recently issued Decree No. 102/2013/ND-CP elaborating the Labour Code’s provisions on foreigners working in the country. While the Decree clarifies the issuance and reissuance of work permits and eligibility for work permit exemption, there are current issues that should be resolved:
• Procedure for re-issuance of work permit should be simplified and it should be possible to apply at least 30 days prior to its expiration so that applicants have time to get their visa/temporary cards renewed;
• Trainees, who are working in Vietnam, and freelancers, who are working for many entities, are not covered by this Decree;
• The requirement of a criminal record certificate should only be applicable for applicants who have been in Vietnam for 6 months or more;
• The period for approval of a “foreign labour demand report” should be maximum 15 days and not 6 weeks as in some provinces;
• Documents for issuance of work permit should depend on type of employment/assignment including foreigners working under labour contracts and intra-company transferees or assignees working under service contracts; foreigners working in Vietnam less than 90 days to conduct audit, training, internship, etc.;
• Procedure for work permit exemption should be simple; and
• More comprehensive guidelines for applicants and training of officers in charge of issuance of work permits should be provided.
Please kindly note that the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community will impact the hiring of regional skilled labour in certain job categories by end the of 2015. The Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs should maintain the communication channels with the business community on this to address both opportunities and challenges.

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

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM PLEASE VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Mining in Vietnam – And the Message is:Better Transparency on Fee and Tax Management by Authorities

The economy of Vietnam is heavily dependent on the mining industry. Using modern, high technology in mining was emphasized by Directive No. 2/CT-TTg of January 2012 and Decree No. 15/2015/ND-CP and during a visit by the Prime Minister to Australia. However, the legislation governing the mining sector seem unfriendly to both foreign and local investors, especially concerning the high royalty rates and other taxes and fees, particularly:

Payment for mining rights: Under Decree No. 203/2013/ND-CP, mining companies have to make a payment between 1-5% of the original value of the original ore to get mineral exploitation rights before receiving licenses. This fee is impractical and will deter foreign companies from investing in the mining industry. The reason behind is that in this period, they must spend a lot on exploitation and mining construction without any revenue. Accordingly, they will seek to reduce their investment in mining technologies to pay for such fee. Consequently, advanced and environmentally friendly technology is not used by mining companies for exploitation, resulting in economic inefficiency. In light of the above, the Government should amend the Decree to allow such fee to be paid on an annual basis after the mining companies make revenue.
Environmental protection fee: Circular No. 158/2011/TT-BTC imposes the environmental protection fee on the basis of “the quantity of crude metal mineral ores actually exploited”. The calculation of such fee is only based on the mineral output without taking into account the level of pollution caused by each mine. This regulation is not fair because mining companies using advanced technology to limit impacts on the environment and those which are using cheap technology and destroying the environment must pay the same fee. It will discourage mining companies from investing in modern machinery and technology to protect the environment. The Circular should be amended to reflect the fee calculated in proportion to the levels of pollution caused by mining exploitation.
Royalty tariff on minerals: Under Resolution No. 712/2013/UBTVQH13, the natural resources tax has considerably increased for many types of minerals such as wolfram (18%), titanium (16%), copper (13%), iron (12%), etc. Although the natural resources tax for gold, silver, alumina and bauxite, tin, lead and zinc was not increased but was subject to 10% royalty tariff. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance proposes increasing tax on exploitation of natural resources for almost minerals at 15-50% from 1 January 2016. This has increased the tax burden on the mining companies and it is likely that they will be liquidated. Therefore, the Government should support this industry by postponing the tax increase.
Corporate income tax for mining enterprises: Decree No. 122/ND-CP amending and supplementing a number of articles of the Government’s Decree No. 124/2008/ND-CP detailing and guiding the implementation of a number of articles of the Law on Enterprise Income Tax No. 14/2008/QH12 reduced Corporate Income Tax for all companies to 25% except for mining of precious and rare natural resources which are currently fixed at 50%. Under this Decree, the rate will be reduced to 40%, more than 70% of the mine areas located in difficult social-economic areas. The Decree also confirmed that mineral exploitation activities do not enjoy other incentives of the enterprise income tax.

Although the royalties, fees and taxes of the mining operations in Vietnam are high, but the ways they are collected and spent afterwards are not transparent. The business community is not informed of fee management. The environmental protection fee must be used to recover the environment at the mining areas, however, the mining companies have to pay a fee for this. The Government should publicize information on licensing and financial obligations of the applicants for mining operations and fee management.
Additionally, the Government should not raise taxes at this period because an increase in tax and mining right fee will cause a reduction in investment of the mining companies in the technology. Accordingly, they will use cheap machinery and technology for their mining exploitation activities and this goes contrary to the Prime Minister’s Directive.
In conclusion, in order to encourage more investments in mineral exploitation operations and use of advanced and environmental friendly technology for mining industry, the Government should control the tax collection instead of raising taxes and provide transparency on fee and tax management.

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

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz;

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Vietnam – Latest on Seaports and Shipping – Logistics is Everything

With the adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) and the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”) in the upcoming months, we would expect a significant increase in trade between Vietnam and countries being members of the mentioned agreements. In order to reap the huge benefits that these agreement might bring to Vietnam, it is necessary to create an efficient deep sea container terminal. Cai Mep port would be fit for such purpose, in terms of a potential domestic and international transhipment hub and creating balance for demand and supply container terminal in Southern Vietnam. An operating cooperation contract has been signed between CMIT and Saigon Newport as the first attempt to develop Cai Mep as a hub.
Still, there should be more to do from the Government’s side. A competitive environment for the operation of the container terminal must be created. To achieve this objective, we suggest the following actions:
First, reducing port dues for certain sizes of vessels. As a consequence, a greater number of vessels will no longer have to transit via existing hubs such as Hong Kong or Singapore. An estimate of USD 7 million per year in transport costs would be saved and the overall income of the country will increase.
Second, relaxing regulations on cabotage. The current local services on offer do not comply with the required standards. This should be fixed so it is not blocking the progress of creating a hub in Cai Mep.
Third, reforming customs rules. The Vietnam General Department of Customs with the advisory support of the Vietnam Trade Facilitation Alliance in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce is currently making great attempts in improving imports and exports procedures. This is also considered as a step towards a competitive environment compared with other ASEAN countries.
Finally, more interaction between the competent authorities and the transport/ logistics stakeholders. The recent Transport and Logistics Partner Quarterly Meeting held by the Ministry of Transport in conjunction with the World Bank is among the government’s efforts to help create a dialogue to exchange problems and workable solutions in the logistics industry of Vietnam.
If the above suggestions are taken seriously, Cai Mep will become a hub and Vietnam would certainly enjoy lots of benefits, include, among others:
o Less pollution for Ho Chi Minh City as a result of truck flow diversion from Ho Chi Minh City to Cai Mep;
o Less traffic and less risk of port congestion thanks to large capacity in Cai Mep region; and
o Capitalizing on the opportunities from the TPP and the EVFTA.
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Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz;

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Vietnam Latest on Customs and Tax Compliance – What Has to be Improved to Match WTO Commitments

Over the past year, we have seen significant efforts and progress made by the General Department of Customs in terms of improved regulations, more effective e-customs operations, and increased dialogue and consultation with the business community. From 01 January 2015, the new Customs Law takes effect with its implementing Decrees coming into force on 15 March. The implementing Circulars are also already in force from 01 April with the most notable one, Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC. This Circular, which replaces 13 previous customs regulations, is considered the most comprehensive among the new regulations. We are looking forward to more regulations being adopted soon following the new Customs Law, for example, regulations on advance customs rulings, post-clearance inspection which stem from the ASEAN agreements implementing the AFTA, the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, or regulations in anticipation of the upcoming Free Trade Agreements. These agreements commonly have major requirements on advance customs ruling, availability of information, separation of customs clearance from final determination of duties and taxes, international cooperation in customs, etc. The Prime Minister has adopted Resolution No. 19 for a period of three years, from 2015 to 2018, to prioritize these changes. During the implementation process, Vietnam has been receiving much technical support from foreign experts of the WTO, WCO and other organizations.
We have also seen progress in reforming Vietnam’s tax procedures over the recent years. Up to 01 January 2015, the total time for tax compliance is reduced to 370 hours per year, which is an impressive decrease compared with 872 hours annually according to the 2013 statistics. Time spent for tax declaration and payment is also reduced to 121.5 hours per year, with possibility of online tax declaration and payment. Although German enterprises highly appreciate these tax reforms, we would expect that the efforts are not only at Government or ministerial levels but also at the local levels where we have to deal with the authorities there directly.
Notwithstanding the above positive developments, Vietnam still has much to do in the upcoming time. We address below certain major issues and suggest solutions accordingly.
1. Application of blended tax
Blended tax is a combination of ad valorem tariff and specific/ fixed duty rate. Since Vietnam has made WTO commitments in reducing import duty, especially for goods of commercial value imported from WTO members, the application of blended tax could be considered as going against WTO commitments on market opening and tax reduction. We suggest that if the Draft Law on Import and Export Tariff has to include provisions on blended tax, it should specify in which cases it is applicable or else it would create confusion for local companies in Vietnam who are only familiar with either ad valorem or specific duty for each of their commercial goods.
2. Application of quota duty
Decree No. 187/2013/ND-CP and Circular No. 111/2012/TT-BTC subject salt, raw tobacco, eggs, and sugar to tariff quota regime. This means if the imported quantity of these goods exceed the quota as prescribed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade or there is no import license as required under the tariff quota regime, import of these products will be imposed an import tariff of 50%-90%. We would suggest these provisions be included in the Law on Export and Import Tariffs rather than Decree No. 197 or Circular No. 11. Moreover, the Law on Export and Import Tariffs should also address applicable import tariffs for minimum and maximum import quota for specific types of goods and the authority to issue documents governing the application of import quota from time to time. This would serve as the basis for the competent authorities to perform their rights and obligations and enterprises to clearly understand government’s import and export policies.
3. Tariff policies for goods imported for production of exports
It is recommended that goods which are imported for production of exports be not subject to tariff upon importation. This tariff exemption works more efficiently compared with tax refund upon goods exportation in terms of cash flows burden for export enterprises and will help improve the competitiveness of domestic enterprises. However, there should be a mechanism to monitor and request for tariff payment if the goods are then used for domestic consumption.
4. Goods imported for implementation of investment projects
According to the new Investment Law, projects being implemented in certain geographical areas and industries will enjoy tax incentives. The implementing Decrees of the Investment Law or the Law on Export and Import Tariffs should provide a detailed list of such areas and industries. The law should also clarify whether imported goods are still exempted from duty if the investment project is entitled with tax incentives under the initial investment license but is no longer qualified for such preferential treatment due to a change in technology.

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

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Vietnam Current Investment and Trade Issues and Solutions

The Government of Vietnam has made certain success in stabilizing the economy to reach a high growth rate projection in 2015 by World Bank (i.e., 6%) and maintain import-export balance over the five years. Nevertheless, there are a lot of outstanding issues which should be further addressed as analysed below:
1. Enforcement and recognition of arbitral awards – Status, issues and solutions
The major regulatory framework on arbitration proceedings in Vietnam includes the Law on Commercial Arbitration No. 54/2010/QH12, which took effect on 1 January 2011 (“Arbitration Law”) and replaced the Ordinance on Commercial Arbitration (“Arbitration Ordinance”) in 2003; Decree No. 63/2011/ND-CP of the Government on detailing the implementation of certain regulations in the Arbitration Law (“Decree No. 63/2011”) and Resolution No. 01/2014/NQ-HDTP by the Vietnamese Supreme Court guiding the implementation of a number of regulations in the Arbitration Law (“Resolution No. 01”).
Vietnam also ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958 in September 1995 and the provisions of the New York Convention have been incorporated into the arbitration laws in Vietnam.
The above shows that Vietnam has made great attempts in building a legal framework for arbitration which played an important role in attracting foreign investment over the recent years. However, statistics from Vietnam International Arbitration Centre show that almost 50% (19 out of 44) of its awards submitted for recognition and enforcement were set aside. This is a disaster as this number is far below the statistics in other countries (for example, Japan – 100%; China and Hong Kong – 90% of arbitral awards are recognized and enforced).
The reason behind it lies in the judges’ misunderstanding of fundamental principles of arbitration, which is based on a contractual agreement between parties to submit their disagreement to a dispute settlement forum, where they await a simplified and expedited procedure. However, the judges seem to complicate it and apply very strict standards to arbitration awards that are simply unnecessary and inappropriate. The judges even re-consider the merit of the case despite it being heard by arbitrators’ expertise in relevant fields and provide no chance of challenge. The main reasons for judges to annul arbitral awards could be summarized in two points as follows: (i) arbitration procedures failing to strictly follow procedures under the Civil Procedure Code; and (ii) the arbitral awards in certain aspects violating fundamental principles of Vietnamese law.
Arbitration procedures failing to strictly follow procedures under the Civil Procedure Code
It should be noted that when parties to the dispute agree to submit their case to arbitration by a contractual agreement, they already opt to select a much more simplified and tailor-made procedures than court litigation. They stipulate the rules of arbitration to be applied. The principle that, dispute resolution by arbitration is a contractually agreed process and does not involve timely and costly procedural rules as litigation does, is widely recognized in every arbitration organization in the world. Claiming that arbitration procedures do not follow procedures under the Vietnam’s Civil Procedure Code is a baseless, unreasonable argument and goes against the main spirit of arbitration process.
The arbitral awards in certain aspects violating fundamental principles of Vietnamese law
“Fundamental principles of Vietnamese law” is a very vague and ambiguous concept that is nowhere defined in Vietnamese law. Further, there is also no consistent standard of “fundamental principles” so the Vietnamese judges take certain discretion in assessing the compliance of arbitral awards with Vietnamese fundamental principles. They take the view that anything that is not compliant with Vietnamese administrative procedures would be considered violating “fundamental principles”. Due to the inaccessibility to the court’s decisions by the public, it is nearly impossible to establish a well-founded jurisprudence of what “fundamental principles” are. It is also create unpredictability in the court decision in recognizing and enforcing arbitral awards.
All of the above somehow discourages foreign investors from having their disputes resolved in judicial system of Vietnam. With an attempt to addressing this problems, certain measures are strongly requested to take by the Government.
How to protect the parties from the request for setting aside an arbitral award
Recently, with the issuance of Resolution No. 01, the Council of Judges gave a signal to support the enforcement of domestic arbitral awards in Vietnam as well as the development of arbitration proceedings. Resolution No. 01 provides more criteria and grounds for handling a request for annulment and especially, the cases when an arbitral award is set aside are more clearly defined. However, there should also be a special mechanism to appeal to judicial decisions that annul arbitral awards on an unreasonable and wrongful basis.
In order to do that, the Government should first task a special body to review all the cases that have been set aside. The content of the case as well as the court’s decision must be made public for transparency purposes and this could be considered as a supervising tool of the public on the court and review process.
2. New Investment Law and Enterprise Law – standing issues
Under the old Investment Law, the Investment Registration Certificate (“IRC”) concurrently serves as the Enterprise Registration Certificate (“ERC”) of a foreign-invested company. However, under the new Investment Law which takes effect from 01 July 2015, enterprises need to apply for two separate certificates with different application dossiers. Though the timeline and procedures seem to be quicker and clearer, investors are still concerned about the reason behind the separate applications, especially in the context of administrative reforms conducted by the Government.
The new Investment Law shortens the period for charter capital contribution from 03 (three) years to (90) ninety days. In connection with the existence of two separate certificates, investors are concerned about the delay it may cause when applying for an increase in the charter capital. (Note: Charter capital is an amount contributed by the investor to establish a legal entity). Such delay could result in slow disbursement of the additional capital, which in turn affect business operations of enterprises. Thus, the Government needs to take further measures to prevent such delay.
With regards to conditional sectors, the number has been reduced much compared with the old laws and from several workshops on this topic, conditional sectors will only be promulgated by the Government and the National Assembly. However, in terms of conditions applicable to doing business in conditional sectors and any inconsistency, it is unclear which law will prevail (the Investment Law itself or its implementing decrees, ordinances, etc.).
3. Draft Circular on import of used equipment – New trade restrictive measures?
Draft Circular No. 20/2014/TT-BKHCN is to take effect on July 01, 2015 to encourage imports of new machinery, equipment and production lines that are manufactured with the latest technology. This Draft Circular is aimed to prevent Vietnam from being a “dumping ground” of old technology and scrap machinery in place of China when this country adopted a regulation prohibiting imports of used machinery and equipment.
Despite the good intention of the Draft Circular, it somehow introduces new trade restrictive measures that could be considered as violation of Vietnam’s international treaties and agreements. In particular, the Draft Circular conditions the imports of used machinery and equipment on its usage period of 10 years and remaining quality of 80%. While it is hard to evaluate the quality of technology and production lines due to available information of the products, it is even harder and impractical to apply these standards across all types of technology and production lines. Furthermore, the Draft Circular also requires the imported goods be in conformity with safety, energy saving and environment protection and be inspected before being imported and customs released. This may significantly delay the customs clearance process and create more burden for enterprises, which go contrary to the objectives mentioned in Resolution No. 19 of the Prime Minister in 2015. A question of consistency with the WTO Agreement on Pre-shipment Inspection and WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade arises in relation with the required standards and pre-shipment requirement as well.
4. Tax administration
Vietnam currently ranks 78 out of 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business according to 2015 World Bank Report. This low ranking is mainly due to tax problems such as requiring importers to pay VAT twice on the same import transaction, delay in tax complaints resolution, etc.
It is notable that business complaints do not mostly relate to high total tax over net profit of 40% but the compliance cost and time, lack of predictability, simplicity and transparency in the tax system.
The Government should take immediate actions to improve the tax administration for a better growth in Vietnam’s economy.
5. Privatization of state-owned enterprises – the problem for every solution…
State-owned enterprises have long played an important role in Vietnam’s economy. These enterprises have operated in an inefficient manner compared with private companies, many enterprises operating at loss for several years. Therefore, the Government has conducted several rounds of state-owned enterprises reform. However, setting aside the ambitious target of 289 state-owned enterprises to be privatized in 2015, the privatization process has been very slow and only by name. Only 5%- 20% of the shares are offered for sale, which is too low to attract foreign investors. They will be reluctant to invest in these enterprises as long as they have no chance to gain decision-making power by purchase of shares. The Government must then show stronger effort and commitment in reforming state-owned enterprises to attract more foreign investment in the process.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM PLEASE VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Stock Market in Vietnam – Better Corporate Governance but more Flexibility – Mission Impossible for Real Privatization ?

Recently the State Securities Commission (“SSC”) has been advanced in supporting investors. Nevertheless there are still certain factors that go beyond the SSC’s control, leading to a step backwards of the stock market in Vietnam. Compared with other ASEAN countries, the stock market capitalization in Vietnam is quite small in terms of its ratio to the GDP (only 25% while in Singapore and Thailand, this number is 112% and 135% respectively).
With that current status, the stock market is almost unable to support the “privatization process” of US$25 billion worth state-owned enterprises in the next three years. If the Government only offers to sell 15% of the shares, the market will then already need US$3.75 billion. Thus, it is necessary to open up the stock market to foreign investors rather than depending only on capital locally mobilized. Certain suggestions are discussed below.
Privatization and listing of privatized state-owned enterprises (“SOEs”)
The Government is recommended to take the following actions:
• Making a list of enterprises to be privatized available to the public, including information on names of SOEs, privatization timeline and price offer to the public, etc.;
• Selling a significant number of shares to foreign investors, minimum 25-30% of the total shares but the more the better;
• Establishing rules on corporate governance and apply them to privatized SOEs; and
• Creating domestic pension funds.
More flexible rules on foreign ownership limits on public listed companies
Previously, for foreign ownership ratio in public listed companies, the same rules applied for all sectors and subsectors. Now, Decree No. 60/2014/ND-CP provides different foreign ownership ratio for each sector and subsector, in particular:
• Requirements on foreign ownership limits in international treaties to which Vietnam is a party will prevail;
• In case public listed companies do business in sectors, where foreign ownership is limited they are stipulated by the investment law and its related requirements;
• In case public listed companies do business in conditional sectors or subsectors applicable for foreign investors but there is not yet a specific requirement on foreign ownership limit, such limit would be 49%;
• In case public listed companies do business in different sectors or subsectors with different requirements on foreign ownership limits, the applicable foreign ownership limit will not exceed the lowest foreign ownership limit required for sectors or subsectors that the company does business in, except otherwise stipulated by the international treaties;
• There would be no limit on foreign ownership ratio for other public listed companies, except otherwise stipulated by the company’s charter.
Decree No. 60/2014/ND-CP is expected to have a positive impact on the development of the securities market by attracting more foreign investment in the market and expedite the current privatization process.
Creation of pension funds
The Government’s efforts to establish the pension funds by considering the approval of the Draft Decree is highly appreciated. With the pension funds establishment, less pressure will be placed on the current Social Security Fund and the funds will also provide an advanced security platform to ensure benefits for the employees. Members of the pension funds will get more benefits as there is no limitation on contribution to those funds.
Coordination between stock exchanges and the Vietnam Securities Depository to announce the first trading date for bonus shares
The investors are currently having difficulties in obtaining information on the first trading date for the bonus shares they receive. They have to rely on the translation or the information provided by custodian banks, which are not members of the stock exchanges. These custodian banks have to access the stock exchanges’ websites daily to timely unblock the new stocks of their clients, getting the investors prepared for the trading of their bonus stocks as soon as possible in the morning of the first trading date. It is then recommended that there be a coordination mechanism between the stock exchanges and the Vietnam Securities Depository to ensure that all investors have equal access to information on the payment date of the bonus shares/ stock dividend.
Rules on corporate governance
There is an increasing number of foreign investors participating in the Vietnam’s stock market. Thus, the SSC is encouraging public companies to publish their information in English on their websites. However, basic documents of the companies which investors usually use to track and supervise the activities of companies, such as the minutes of the General Meeting of Shareholder, are not required to be published in English. It is therefore recommended to apply this requirement to companies with charter capital of VND 100 billion for sound corporate governance purposes.
In addition, it is recommended that meeting materials, meeting agenda be sent to shareholders together with the meeting invitations for annual or extraordinary shareholder meetings at least 15 working days before the official meeting commencement date as required by Circular No. 52/2012/TT-BTC on information disclosure in securities market. Strict compliance with this requirement is necessary for investors, especially for foreign investors to get themselves ready for the meeting (for example, arranging translation of documents, authorization of their proxy, etc.).

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM PLEASE VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

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Vietnam – Banking – Solutions for Liquidity and Non-performing Loans

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) is in the verge of creating a better administered and transparent banking system. To become an international attractive financial market, the SBV needs to implement the planed Circulars and adopt international financial standards as described below.
Foreign exchange governance
The Foreign Exchange Ordinance is revised by Article 1.4, Ordinance No. 06/2013/PL-UBTVQH13 which specifies that enterprises with foreign direct investment and foreign investors shall set up a direct capital account in an eligible credit institution, and all transactions regarding equity financing and capital earnings shall be made through this account. The SBV implemented Circular 19 to guide the Ordinance and clarified that foreign invested companies and foreign investment projects have to comply with all relevant national regulations, i.e. Investment Law, Enterprise Law, Personal income-tax Law, Corporate income-tax Law.
It is recommended that SBV includes and provides guidance on the transfer in foreign currency since it is only allowed to take US$ 5,000 abroad and the transfer of funds in foreign currencies is restricted.
Possible additional banking products by the SBV
The draft Circular which is replacing Decision 1627 is not specific enough on debt restructure lending. Credit institutions and branches of foreign banks have adopted a various number of procedures to restructure loans without altering their nature or mask bad debts, for example, by using mid-term or long-term loans to restructure a short-term loan or lending in foreign currency to restructure a VND loan. Allowing such restructuring measures would help the borrower to stabilize their business, financially recover and be able to repay the loan.
Licensing
The Government is recommended to allow banks to carry out activities in both domestic and international markets in order to provide their clients with necessary information and service while doing business in Vietnam and overseas. This is to ensure their liquidity and more importantly, there should not be any limitation on basic foreign exchange activities.
Furthermore there is a need to update general banking licenses. All applications for re-issuance of the eligible certificate are put on hold and this could raise certain legal risks to banks.
Even if Article 89.1 of the Law on Credit Institutions requests branches of foreign banks have a written approval for the time being, the approval procedures are pending at the Licensing Department because there is no guideline on how to approve the organizational structure of branches of foreign banks.
The SBV is recommended to push the process and allow branches of foreign banks to implement their structure without its approval during the interim period.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM PLEASE VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz
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FIRST EVER Double Taxation Agreement signed between Vietnam and the United States of America

On 07th July 2015, the United States and Vietnam signed an income tax treaty with Vietnam, the first ever between the two countries. The Double Taxation Agreement applies to personal income tax and enterprise income tax in the case of Vietnam.
What is a permanent establishment?
Under the Double Taxation Agreement, a company is considered to have a permanent establishment if its business is wholly or partly carried out through a fixed place.
Permanent establishment does not include the following: (1) the use of facilities solely for the purpose of storage, display or delivery of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise; (2) the maintenance of a stock of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise solely for the purpose of storage, display or delivery; (3) the maintenance of a stock of goods or merchandise belonging to the enterprise solely for the purpose of processing by another enterprise; (4) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for the purpose of purchasing goods or merchandise, or of collecting information for the enterprise; (5) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for the purpose of carrying on, for the enterprise, any other activity of a preparatory or auxiliary character; and (6) the maintenance of a fixed place of business solely for any combination of the activities mentioned in subparagraphs (1) through (5), provided that the overall activity of the fixed place of business resulting from this combination is of a preparatory or auxiliary character.
A broker, general commission agent or any other agent of an independent status will not be considered as a permanent establishment of an enterprise of the United States or Vietnam merely because such enterprise carries on business in that other contracting country through these persons. However, where a person other than an agent of an independent status is acting in a contracting state on behalf of an enterprise of the other contracting state and habitually exercises in that contracting state an authority to conclude contracts in the name of the enterprise, that enterprise would be considered to have a permanent establishment in the first-mentioned contracting state.
The fact that a company that is a resident of a contracting state controls or is controlled by a company that is a resident of the other contracting state, or that carries on business in that other contracting state (whether through a permanent establishment or otherwise), does not of itself constitute either company a permanent establishment of the other.
Enterprise income tax
The enterprise is subject to taxation in Vietnam if it derives certain income as defined by the Double Taxation Agreement in Vietnam, however, only to the extent that such profits are attributable to the permanent establishment. Executive and general administrative expenses so incurred, whether in the contracting state in which the permanent establishment is situated or elsewhere, or other deductible expenses, are taken into the determination of the profits of a permanent establishment for tax purposes.
Personal income tax
The Agreement applies to persons who are residents of one or both of the contracting states. The applicability of the Agreement does not depend on the nationality. The term “person” means an individual or corporate body.
Article 14, paragraph 1 stipulates that “Income derived by a resident of a Contracting State in respect of professional services or other activities of an independent character shall be taxable only in that state unless he has a fixed base regularly available to him in the other Contracting State for the purpose of performing of his activities or his stay in the Contracting State is for a period or periods amounting to or exceeding in the aggregate 183 days within any twelve-month period commencing or ending in the taxable year concerned.” The income may be taxed in the other country to the extent that it is attributable to the fixed base.
Income from salaried work derived by a resident of a contracting country should be taxable in that country unless the employment is exercised in the other country (Article 15, paragraph 1). Notwithstanding of this, “remuneration derived by a resident of the Contracting State in respect of an employment exercised in the other Contracting State shall be taxable only in the first-mentioned State, if the recipient is present in the other State for a period or periods not exceeding in the aggregate 183 days in the calendar year concerned, and the remuneration is paid by, or on behalf of, an employer who is not a resident of the other State and the remuneration is not borne by a permanent establishment or a fixed base which the employer has in the other State.” (Article 15, paragraph 2).
Methods for eliminating double taxation
Where a resident of a contracting state generates profits, income, or gains which under the law of the other contracting state and in accordance with the Double Taxation Agreement, the former will allow a credit against its tax on the income, profits or gains an amount equal to the tax paid to the later. It is possible to get the credit for already paid income tax on dividends by the contracting state if a company in one contracting state owns at least ten percent of the voting stock of the company which is a resident of the other contracting state.
Special regulations apply to, among others, entertainers and sportsmen, pensions, social security, annuities, alimony and child support, students and apprentices.
Automatic protection under the Agreement?
Residents of Vietnam and the United States wishing to be protected under the Agreement need to file an application to relevant tax authority. Please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can advise you on how to apply for such protection according to Vietnam laws.
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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. 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.

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz;

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Question on doing business in Vietnam!

Interview by Vietnam Financial Times
Oliver Massmann

Question 1: What do you think about the reform in tax and customs of Vietnam so far? For the German enterprises in Vietnam, how do these policies affect them?

Over the past year, we have seen significant efforts and progress made by the General Department of Customs in terms of improved regulations, more effective e-customs operations, and increased dialogue and consultation with the business community. From 01st January 2015, the new Customs Law takes effect with its implementing Decrees coming into force later on 15 March. The implementing Circulars are also already in force from 01 April with the most notable one being Circular No. 38/2015/TT-BTC. This Circular, which replaces 13 previous customs regulations, is considered most comprehensive among the new regulations. While there are still more regulations being adopted soon following the new Customs Law, for example, regulations on advance customs rulings, post-clearance inspection, or regulations in anticipation of the upcoming Free Trade Agreements, impacts on German enterprises need to be accessed later.

We have also seen much progress in reforming Vietnam’s tax procedures over recent years. Up to 01 January 2015, the total time for tax compliance is reduced to 370 hours per year, which is an impressive decrease compared with 872 hours annually according to the 2013 statistics. Time for tax declaration and payment is also reduced to 121.5 hours per year, with possibility of online tax declaration and payment. Although German enterprises highly appreciate these tax reforms, we would expect that the efforts are not only at Government or ministerial levels but also at the local levels where we have to deal with the authorities there directly.

Question 2: How do the German enterprises in Vietnam look at the VN’s business environment? In the future, what should VN adjust to attract more German enterprises?

The Government of Vietnam has made certain success in stabilizing the economy to reach a high growth rate projection in 2015 by World Bank (i.e., 6%) and maintain import-export balance over the five years.

Vietnam is also extremely successful in international economic integration, especially by joining the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”), the European – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”), Korea – ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, Japan – ASEAN Economic Partnership Agreement, and establishment of the customs union Russia- Kazakhstan-Belarus, and notably the ASEAN Economic Community by end of this year. Vietnam is expected to be the main beneficiary of the major trade pacts, with additional growth of 13.6% (for the TPP) and 15% growth of GDP (for the EVFTA). With such deep integration into the multilateral and regional economy, Vietnam is expected to be an attractive investment environment for investors and witness a significant growth in the upcoming years.

Moreover, with the adoption of the 2014 Investment Law and Enterprise Law, the investment environment in Vietnam now even becomes more attractive to foreign investors, especially to German investors. Nevertheless, there are still certain outstanding issues that should be further addressed to attract foreign investors in general and German enterprises in particular. These problems include annulment and unenforceability of arbitral awards in Vietnam, certain trade restrictive measures in the field of import and export, burdens created for enterprise in tax administration by state authority, and especially corrosive and widespread corruption in Vietnam. These problems require Government’s stronger efforts and urgent actions to solve, in addition to several current attempts which we really appreciate.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. 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.

INTERESTED IN DOING BUSINESS IN VIETNAM? VISIT: www.vietnamlaws.xyz

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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