Tag Archives: EVFTA

Direct Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (DPPA) to be piloted in Vietnam in 2019 in Vietnam – Opportunities for producers of renewable energy and foreign firms as buyers – how best to use the CPTPP and the EUVNFTA to make it work

In recent years, Vietnam has enjoyed one of the world’s most rapid economic growth rates i.e., an average of more than 6% p.a. Such growth has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world into a middle-income country. Vietnam has long recognized the important role of renewable energy in achieving energy security, sustainable development and stable growth rate.

Vietnam has a wide range of primary energy sources such as crude oil, coal, natural gas and hydro power for economic development. However, Vietnam has experienced formidable risks for its economy to be based on fossil fuels. For example, in April 2015, thousands of residents blocked a national highway for more than 30 hours in a protest against pollution by the Vinh Tan 2 coal power plants. It seems most of the hydro resource potential for hydro power plants will be fully exploited soon. Those are just two examples of incidents that could significantly affect the national power security power of Vietnam. Accordingly, Vietnam must reduce its reliance on less “environmentally friendly” primary fossil fuel, and promoting renewable energy promptly.

The revised Power Development Plan for 2011 – 2020, vision to 2030 (revised PDP VII), adopted in 2016, is evidence of a growing appreciation of the role alternative sources of energy, targets a 7% share of electricity generated from renewable energy by 2020 and 10% plus by 2030. The revised PDP VII forecasts the electricity demand using an annual average growth rate at 10% from 2011 to 2030. The demand will increase from 86 TWh in 2010 to 265 – 278 TWh in 2020 and 572-632 TWh in 2030. The estimated installed capacity would be 60 GW in 2020 and 129.5 GW in 2030.

Since early 2017, there has been a surge of solar and wind projects approved by the Government after the promulgation of new feed-in-tariffs (“FITs”) for on-grid solar projects and other reforming policies to attract foreign and local investment on this green industry.

On 12 June 2018, at a seminar on renewable energy, the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (“ERAV”) discussed and disclosed information on regulations for implementation of a pilot for Direct Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (“DPPA”) and renewable energy sector. Generally, DPPA is an agreement made between the power generator and a corporate customer in which power output is physically delivered and sold to the corporate customer for its operation. ERAV informed that it is a time consuming process since ERAV and its consultants had to conduct research and collect massive information on fundamental issues, design, details and criteria for DPPAs, especially for similar cases such as Vietnam. It is also challenging for ERAV to cooperate and consult other departments of MOIT on the DPPA pilot.

Currently, ERAV’s consultants have submitted a first preliminary report on international experience regarding basic design, mechanism and operation of DPPA. It is known that ERAV and its consultants also sent questionnaire papers to several industry and sectors, companies and stakeholders aimed at seeking their opinion on consumer market, demand, participants, and other issues.

When such report is available, ERAV will arrange a seminar for introduction of the same and seeking opinion from all stakeholders. At this stage, there is no final decisions on capacity, licensing process, participants, location, wheeling fee, and contractual terms for the piloted DPPA. However, ERAV is considering some models as below:

• Physical DPPA: (a) onsite DPPA where the power plants to be constructed around the consumers, and / or (ii) offshore DPPA where power plants to be constructed anywhere.
• Financial DPPA: this would be formed with competitive market for selling power.

ERAV also shared that the DPPA pilot would be preferably designed for 110 KV or more system (not 220 KV or 22-25 KV) since this system is the most popular, efficient and feasible.

Market access in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and EU – Vietnam FTA (EVFTA)

Currently, there is no foreign ownership restriction in energy sector in local laws or Vietnam’s international commitments. The foreign investor may choose among permitted investment forms: 100% foreign invested company, joint venture or public private partnership in the form of BOT contract. For your information, Vietnam ties in first place with Singapore in terms of market access liberalization.

The recent conclusion of the EVFTA negotiation and legal review and the signing of the CPTPP further opens the market to foreign investors. The investors now can bring their technology and know-how, especially those from countries with high level of development in renewable sectors such as Germany, to Vietnam with less market access barriers and being more secured. In particular, the CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam’s Government for its investment related decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer 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.

EU-Vietnam FTA Finally To Come Into Force In Early 2019? Comments on Government Procurement

Image on "EU-Vietnam FTA" created by authorVietnam Investment Review reported that the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) will likely be ratified in October or November 2018 and come into effect in early 2019:

“EU firms to bid on public contracts”

Besides quotations from our Co-General Director in Vietnam, my  comments on government procurement under the FTA were featured in the above article as follows:

“The government procurement provisions in the EU-Vietnam FTA are a big step for Vietnam. Vietnamese suppliers will have access to the EU’s US$500 billion public procurement market. For Vietnam and its people, the EVFTA’s government procurement provisions should, over time, improve access to high-quality goods and services from EU suppliers.

Improvements are especially expected in the healthcare and life sciences sectors, as Vietnam’s public procurement in these sectors takes up 67% of the total market value. Vietnam has committed to give EU suppliers the right to bid for up to 50% of the pharmaceutical purchases by the Ministry of Health and many of the hospitals under its control, as well as major research facilities. Even so, this is a very gradual process over a period of 15 years after the FTA comes into effect.

The right to participate in Vietnam’s public tenders will initially be limited to relatively high-value contracts – those worth at least SDR 1.5 million (currently, $2.1 million) or SDR 3 million ($4.2 million) depending on the procurement agency. For construction work, the initial thresholds are even higher at SDR 40 million ($56 million). This is probably meant to protect Vietnamese small and medium-sized businesses.

The EVFTA also contains specific transparency and other requirements to support the procurement process itself, including an independent administrative or judicial authority where suppliers can challenge awards.”

Besides public procurement in healthcare, the EVFTA also provides access to other important government contracts. EU suppliers will be able to bid for contracts from Electricity of Vietnam, the State-run power company, and those of other major infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, and airports.

For more information, please contact Manfred Otto at MOtto@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer at Duane Morris.

The firm’s disclaimer applies to this post.

Cometh the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

The Vietnam – EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), a new-generation free trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU’s 28 member states, is a comprehensive and high-quality trade pact that is expected to bring a range of benefits to both Vietnam and the EU.

For many years the EU has been the second largest overseas market for Vietnamese products and Vietnam’s second most important two-way trading partner after China. On average, Vietnam’s exports of commodities to the EU account for around 19 percent of its exports to global markets. This figure has seen double-digit growth for the past decade, annualised at 13-15 percent, and even reaching 25 percent in certain years.

The EVFTA, which is expected to be signed this year, will have a wide-ranging impact on bilateral trade and investment thanks to tariff cuts and strong commitments from both sides. The deal has been heralded as the most ambitious of its kind between the bloc and a developing nation, and one which will put an end to 99 percent of customs duties on goods. Some predictions are that the agreement will boost the Vietnamese economy by up to 15 percent of GDP and exports to Europe by a third or more.

On top of providing more development opportunities for Vietnam’s industries it will also help to improve the country’s investment environment and raise the quality of its export products.

What can investors expect to change with the new deal?

The most prominent benefits to be expected are an increase in the trade of goods promoted by the reduction or elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, whereby key economic sectors as textiles, footwear and the high-technology industries in Vietnam would benefit most.

One sector in particular hoping for a big boost is fisheries. Under the EVFTA, aquatic products, excluding canned tuna and fish balls, will enjoy a zero tax for a maximum of seven years. Similarly, in good news for shrimp processing firms, Vietnam will enjoy a reduction in import duties on raw shrimp and export duties on processed shrimp to the EU.

The reduction of tariff lines will help Vietnamese seafood exporters reduce prices significantly, improve competitiveness and export turnover. Vietnamese aquatic firms will also have space to improve technology and product quality, join regional supply chains and diversify supply sources.

Additionally, Vietnam’s commitments to ensure an open and transparent investment and business environment will help to boost high quality investment from the EU into Vietnam.

Sink or swim

However, Vietnamese companies should also be aware of the challenges brought about by free trade agreements, and especially the EVFTA. These are related to higher requirements from the EU market in terms of transparency and competition, both for private and state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The FTA is not necessarily seeking complete privatisation, but rather the opening up of those economic sectors where SOEs are present. Vietnamese enterprises may expect to see an impact from this process, provided that the FTA promotes reforms in public procurement.

The tax cuts will put a greater burden of competitiveness on domestic producers in terms of prices, product quality and food hygiene and safety. Firms will face a choice – either adapt and move up the global supply chain, or stand by while imported goods flood the market.

The livestock industry is forecast to be at the biggest disadvantage as taxes on chicken and pork will be cleared under an 8 to 10-year roadmap, while import duties on beef, milk and dairy products will be eliminated over a shorter period of 3 years. Consequently, over the short and long term, the animal husbandry industry will be under fierce competition with products imported from the EU.

Additionally, many Vietnamese products have not yet met the necessary food hygiene and safety regulations or the technical standards of importers.

To benefit from the trade deal’s incentives will require exports to satisfy the EU rules of origin, which presents its own challenges for several Vietnamese sectors. For instance, the EU has set rather stringent rules of origin on the cashew nut sector that depends on 63 percent of imported materials. To satisfy all EU regulations, Vietnam is required to use local raw material supply.

The EVFTA also stipulates detailed regulations on procedures and legally binding conditions covering the time-limit and manner in which countries must obey certificates of origin procedures for each specific case. This is a big challenge for Vietnam as the origin traceability capacity to prove those origins remain inadequate and the necessary system for such diligence is yet to be seen.

Short term pain, long term gain?

As Vietnam’s economy grows and the country continues to integrate more deeply into the global marketplace, the kind of dilemmas thrown up by pacts like the EVFTA will become more commonplace. In the short term, domestic firms may feel the heat as increased competition takes its toll. However, greater export opportunities and requirements to reach higher standards will underpin future economic growth.

If predictions are correct and the EVFTA is signed within the next few months, Vietnam is destined to become the most promising business destination for European businesses in ASEAN.

For more information about investing in Vietnam, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com or any of the lawyers in our office listing. Giles is co-General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC and branch director of Duane Morris’ HCMC office.

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – Public Private Partnerships – Enhancing Functionality – Making use of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement for Better Functionality of the New PPP Decree

Decree No. 15/2015/ND-CP on public-private partnership (“PPP”) (“Decree 15”) when introduced in 2015 was highly praised by legal commentators to be well drafted and make the PPP Laws in Vietnam move closer towards bankable projects.

However, in implementation process, there have been conflicting legal issues that deter investors from choosing PPP as an investment method, leading to a humble number of PPP projects thus far. For example, Decree 15 made a progress in other previous PPP regulations in clearly allowing project contracts to be governed by foreign law, namely contracts involving a foreign party and government agency guarantee contracts. The issue only arises when it comes to real-estate related matters, which are not yet finally decided under the Land Law which law will be the governing law.

Moreover, as PPP laws are only at Decree level, regulatory framework for PPP projects mainly includes the Law on Enterprises, Law on Public Investment, Law on Bidding, etc. most of which regulate public investment instead of private one or investment cooperation between the Government and private investors. The investors are also concerned about the stability of PPP regulations, as they are mainly Decrees. While a PPP project could take years to complete, regulations at Decree level may change and cause investors confusion in implementation of the laws. The state agencies also face certain difficulties in managing these PPP projects. According to a real story shared by an officer at VCCI, after the Government signed a PPP contract with an investor, due to changes in policies, the Government amended its determination of the contract value. As a result, the land price increased by 14 times as much as previously agreed, leading to substantial loss for the investor.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, during 2016-2020, it is expected that there will be 598 registered PPP projects with total investment amount of VND 250,000 billion. Given the shortcomings of Decree 15, it would be hard to achieve these numbers without its replacement by another Decree. In that context, Decree No. 63/2018/ND-CP (“Decree 63”) was issued on 04 May 2018 and takes effect from 19 June 2018 to eliminate bottlenecks in PPP implementation.
Decree 63 – What is new?

Capital contribution responsibility

The investor is responsible for contributing and mobilizing capital for the project implementation, in particular, the ratio of the investor’s capital in the owner’s equity is determined as follows:
– For projects with total investment amount of up to VND1,500 billion, the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
– For projects with total investment capital of more than VND1,500 billion:
o For investment portion of up to VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
o For investment portion that exceeds VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 10% of the total investment capital.

There is no capital contribution requirement from the Government side.

Project approval authority

Decree 63 makes it clear the following authorities will approve PPP projects:
– The National Assembly decides the investment policy of important national projects;
– The Prime Minister decides the investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A using state budget from 30% or above or below 30% but more than VND300 billion of the total investment capital of the project;
o Projects Type A using BT contracts.
– Ministers of relevant ministries decide investment policy of their own projects not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister.
– Provincial People’s Councils decide investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A not falling under the approval authority of the Prime Minister;
o Projects Type B using public investment budget; and
o Projects Type B using BT contracts.
– The provincial People’s Committee decides the investment policy of projects in their provinces not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the provincial People’s Council.

Payment methods in BT projects

Practice shows that investors are very interested in well-located land when implementing BT projects. However, when such land fund gradually becomes exhausted, BT projects seem not to attract investors. Decree 63 has added another method in addition to the exchange of land for infrastructure, so that the investors will have more options in receiving payments. Specifically, the investor may also receive payment in the form of the transfer of right to conduct business, exploit works/ services, etc.

How to take advantage of the CPTPP and the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) in PPP projects to enhance the functionality of PPP projects in Vietnam

Covered government entities and agencies

According to Decree 63, tenders for the selection of PPP investors will follow the Law on Public Procurement. While the Vietnam’s Law on Public Procurement still shows some shortcomings, Vietnam will be bound by its commitments in the Government Procurement chapter in the CPTPP and the EVFTA, including the procedures to conduct a tender and in specific circumstances that the Government must conduct a public tender. The investors now have the opportunity to participate in procurement by Vietnam’s government entities and challenge the Government if it does not grant the investors the opportunity to do so in qualified circumstances.
The CPTPP and the EVFTA both make a list of government entities and agencies whose procurement of particular̉ goods and services at a particular amount must be subject to public tender. While the CPTPP only allows expansion of the list within 5 years upon the entry into force of the agreement, the EVFTA allows a longer period (i.e., 15 years).
Covered procurement

Government procurement of goods or services or any combination thereof that satisfy the following criteria falls within the scope of the EVFTA and CPTPP Government Procurement rules:

Criteria

How to appeal Government tender decision?

The CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam Government for its tender decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The violating party must take all necessary measures to promptly comply with the arbitral decision. In case of non-compliance, as in the WTO, the CPTPP and the EVFTA allow temporary remedies (compensation) at the request of the complaining party.

Enforcement of arbitral awards

The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons.

Conclusion

It is crucial that foreign investors take advantage of the requirements under the CPTPP and the EVFTA to enhance functionality of their PPP projects in Vietnam. Under these agreements, specific Vietnam Government entities and agencies when procuring goods/ services above certain thresholds must conduct public tender. In case these entities make wrongful tender decisions, foreign investors could take recourse to arbitration proceedings and have the arbitral awards fully enforced in Vietnam.

***
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 !

Lawyer in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – Public Private Partnerships – Enhancing Functionality – Making use of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement for Better Functionality of the New PPP Decree

Decree No. 15/2015/ND-CP on public-private partnership (“PPP”) (“Decree 15”) when introduced in 2015 was highly praised by legal commentators to be well drafted and make the PPP Laws in Vietnam move closer towards bankable projects.
However, in implementation process, there have been conflicting legal issues that deter investors from choosing PPP as an investment method, leading to a humble number of PPP projects thus far. For example, Decree 15 made a progress in other previous PPP regulations in clearly allowing project contracts to be governed by foreign law, namely contracts involving a foreign party and government agency guarantee contracts. The issue only arises when it comes to real-estate related matters, which are not yet finally decided under the Land Law which law will be the governing law.
Moreover, as PPP laws are only at Decree level, regulatory framework for PPP projects mainly includes the Law on Enterprises, Law on Public Investment, Law on Bidding, etc. most of which regulate public investment instead of private one or investment cooperation between the Government and private investors. The investors are also concerned about the stability of PPP regulations, as they are mainly Decrees. While a PPP project could take years to complete, regulations at Decree level may change and cause investors confusion in implementation of the laws. The state agencies also face certain difficulties in managing these PPP projects. According to a real story shared by an officer at VCCI, after the Government signed a PPP contract with an investor, due to changes in policies, the Government amended its determination of the contract value. As a result, the land price increased by 14 times as much as previously agreed, leading to substantial loss for the investor.
According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, during 2016-2020, it is expected that there will be 598 registered PPP projects with total investment amount of VND 250,000 billion. Given the shortcomings of Decree 15, it would be hard to achieve these numbers without its replacement by another Decree. In that context, Decree No. 63/2018/ND-CP (“Decree 63”) was issued on 04 May 2018 and takes effect from 19 June 2018 to eliminate bottlenecks in PPP implementation.
Decree 63 – What is new?
Capital contribution responsibility
The investor is responsible for contributing and mobilizing capital for the project implementation, in particular, the ratio of the investor’s capital in the owner’s equity is determined as follows:
– For projects with total investment amount of up to VND1,500 billion, the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
– For projects with total investment capital of more than VND1,500 billion:
o For investment portion of up to VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 20% of the total investment capital;
o For investment portion that exceeds VND1,500 billion: the equity capital that the investor must maintain must be at least 10% of the total investment capital.
There is no capital contribution requirement from the Government side.
Project approval authority
Decree 63 makes it clear the following authorities will approve PPP projects:
– The National Assembly decides the investment policy of important national projects;
– The Prime Minister decides the investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A using state budget from 30% or above or below 30% but more than VND300 billion of the total investment capital of the project;
o Projects Type A using BT contracts.
– Ministers of relevant ministries decide investment policy of their own projects not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister.
– Provincial People’s Councils decide investment policy of the following projects:
o Projects Type A not falling under the approval authority of the Prime Minister;
o Projects Type B using public investment budget; and
o Projects Type B using BT contracts.
– The provincial People’s Committee decides the investment policy of projects in their provinces not falling within the approval authority of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and the provincial People’s Council.
Payment methods in BT projects
Practice shows that investors are very interested in well-located land when implementing BT projects. However, when such land fund gradually becomes exhausted, BT projects seem not to attract investors. Decree 63 has added another method in addition to the exchange of land for infrastructure, so that the investors will have more options in receiving payments. Specifically, the investor may also receive payment in the form of the transfer of right to conduct business, exploit works/ services, etc.
How to take advantage of the CPTPP and the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) in PPP projects to enhance the functionality of PPP projects in Vietnam
Covered government entities and agencies
According to Decree 63, tenders for the selection of PPP investors will follow the Law on Public Procurement. While the Vietnam’s Law on Public Procurement still shows some shortcomings, Vietnam will be bound by its commitments in the Government Procurement chapter in the CPTPP and the EVFTA, including the procedures to conduct a tender and in specific circumstances that the Government must conduct a public tender. The investors now have the opportunity to participate in procurement by Vietnam’s government entities and challenge the Government if it does not grant the investors the opportunity to do so in qualified circumstances.
The CPTPP and the EVFTA both make a list of government entities and agencies whose procurement of particular̉ goods and services at a particular amount must be subject to public tender. While the CPTPP only allows expansion of the list within 5 years upon the entry into force of the agreement, the EVFTA allows a longer period (i.e., 15 years).
Covered procurement
Government procurement of goods or services or any combination thereof that satisfy the following criteria falls within the scope of the EVFTA and CPTPP Government Procurement rules:
Criteria EVFTA CPTPP
Monetary values that determine whether procurement by central government is covered under an agreement 130,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (US$191,000) from 15 years since the entry into force of the agreement

Initial transitional threshold: 1.5 million SDRs 130,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (US$191,000) from 25 years since the entry into force of the agreement

Initial transitional threshold: 2 million SDRs
Procurement of construction services by central government entities Initial threshold: 65.2 million SDRs

After 15 years, 8.5 million SDRs Initial threshold: 40 million SDRs

After 15 years, 5 million SDRs
Entities covered 22 central government bodies (added the Ministry of Public Security)

42 other entities: added two state-owned enterprises (Vietnam Electricity and Vietnam Railways) and two universities (Vietnam National University – Hanoi and Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City)

Sub-central government coverage: Adds 2 cities: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh – expansion of the list within 15 years since the entry into force of the agreement 21 central government bodies

38 other entities

No sub-central government coverage – expansion of the list within 5 years since the entry into force of the agreement
Exclusion of preferences for SMEs Broad exclusion applies only to procurement of goods and services whose value is estimated at 260,000 SDRs or less and may not be applied to SMEs with more than 500 permanent full-time employees.
Application of offsets Based on value of a contract Based on the total value of covered procurement
How to appeal Government tender decision?
The CPTPP and the EVFTA make it possible that foreign investors could sue Vietnam Government for its tender decisions according to the dispute settlement by arbitration rules. The violating party must take all necessary measures to promptly comply with the arbitral decision. In case of non-compliance, as in the WTO, the CPTPP and the EVFTA allow temporary remedies (compensation) at the request of the complaining party.
Enforcement of arbitral awards
The final arbitral award is binding and enforceable without any question from the local courts regarding its validity. This is an advantage for investors considering the fact that the percentage of annulled foreign arbitral awards in Vietnam remains relatively high for different reasons.
Conclusion
It is crucial that foreign investors take advantage of the requirements under the CPTPP and the EVFTA to enhance functionality of their PPP projects in Vietnam. Under these agreements, specific Vietnam Government entities and agencies when procuring goods/ services above certain thresholds must conduct public tender. In case these entities make wrongful tender decisions, foreign investors could take recourse to arbitration proceedings and have the arbitral awards fully enforced in Vietnam.
***
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 – Solar Energy – Action plan for getting deals done with the new Power Purchase Agreement

Interview with Dr. Oliver Massmann\

1. Which significant changes does the new PPA contain for the solar energy sector?

Decision 11 introduces the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) rate of UScents 9.35 per kWh. The FiT rate is only applicable for on-grid solar power project with efficiency of solar cells greater than 16% or with efficiency of the modules greater than 15%. The FiT rate depends on the currency exchange rate of the Vietnamese Dong and the US-Dollar. The rate remains the same throughout the whole year. It is adjusted by the Vietnamese State Bank on the last working day of the year for being used in the following year.

As a result, the financial planning is easier and it grants certain security for investors such as protection against currency fluctuation.

2. Which aspects in the new PPA have changed compared with the draft PPA from April 2017?

Compared with the draft PPA, the FiT rate is now indicated in the final version and there is reference to the adjustment of the FiT in case of USD/VND exchange rate fluctuation.

The MoIT made no big changes regarding the shortcomings of the draft of the PPA from April 2017.

The investor still has to bear the biggest risk.

3. Is the PPA bankable?

No, in general the PPA is not bankable in its final version.

4. Is there a way to make it bankable?

Yes, it is possible to make the PPA bankable. We have 20 years of experience making PPAs bankable for gas and coal fired power plants and wind energy plants in Vietnam. The investor should use all business channels and experienced negotiators to make the PPA bankable.

It is a matter of negotiation and experience. Decision 11 is granting investors the possibility to negotiate the conditions with EVN. The price remains fixed.

Agreements such as the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”) or the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”), which is now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP”), lay a big milestone for making the PPA bankable.

The EVFTA was signed in 2015 and is expected to be ratified by all member countries by 2018. It is probably going to take effect in 2019. It is estimated to generate an increasing GDP and to liberalize the economy of Vietnam. Another aspect is the elimination of almost all custom duties (over 99% of all tariff lines). As a result, there will be a huge impact on trade development and the interest of investors.

Another important agreement is the CPTPP. On 4th February 2016 the TPP was signed between 12 countries. The signing nations made up 28% of the global trade and 40% of the global GDP. However, at the beginning of 2017, the US President Trump decided to withdraw from the TPP. The remaining 11 member states discussed the future of the TPP in APEC event in Da Nang, Vietnam and agreed to push ahead with the TPP but now under the name of CPTPP. Furthermore, the states agreed to work out a new framework agreement, which includes changes to the previous TPP agreement. The largest amendment was made in the field of intellectual property, for example, easing the protection of copyright or the special protection of biologics and pharmaceuticals.

However, the level of market access is still the same as in the first TPP. For some countries, further negotiations have to take place and they need time to adapt their laws to the CPTPP rules. The negotiators have set the goal of signing the revised TPP by the first quarter of 2018. After 6 countries have ratified the partnership, it will come into effect.

With the CPTPP, market access to more sectors will be opened than the WTO such as telecommunication, distribution of goods, manufacturing and fabrication. However, there will remain a few restrictions in the power/energy sector as discussed below.

As a result of the EVFTA and the TPP, Vietnam will get access to a huge part of international markets. This gives Vietnam the possibility to increase the amount of imports and exports (estimated up to 37% higher until 2025) and to improve foreign investments.

Another essential instrument is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)[N1] which is going to be applied under the EVFTA and the TPP. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. In relation to the TPP, the scope of the ISDS was reduced by removing references to “investment agreements” and “investment authorization” as result of the discussion about the TPP’s future on the APEC meetings on 10th and 11th November 2017.

As a conclusion, the bankability of the PPA will get enhanced as a consequence of the EVFTA and TPP in the next few years if the legislative framework is being reformed in the right direction. The economy will become more dynamic because of access to other markets and further foreign investments. With the implementation of the ISDS in the TPP, investors will be more secured in relation to dispute resolution and protection against the risks of international trading. As a result, banks will be more willing to finance PPAs.

Our recommendations: For now, the bankability of the PPA is not as it is expected. But you should be aware of the upcoming agreements which will lead to a big impact on the economy growth and the economy itself. If everything is improving in the right direction as it is now, the PPAs will be more bankable in the future and there will be better investment opportunities.

5. How was the bankability issue handled in the past years?

The TPP and the EVFTA are not the only agreements regarding the bankability of the PPA.

Vietnam and the USA signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in 1999 which was implemented in 2001. It was a huge success and very important agreement for the economy of Vietnam. It was the first opening of the Vietnamese market and important for the creation of more business opportunities and new standards for financing projects.

Another important fact was Vietnam’s accession to the WTO in 2007. This has improved trade relations between Vietnam and other countries by removing trade barriers and the commitment to non-discrimination. It was also a political sign to show Vietnam’s will to get integrated in the international trade by accepting international trading rules.

To be able to fulfill the commitments, it is necessary to make legislative adjustments and adopt laws that ensure the viability and efficiency of the projects. In the last years, many important laws have been introduced. They have helped to enhance the bankability of the PPA, for example, the 2014 Investment Law, 2014 Enterprise Law, 2012 Labor Law, etc.

In addition, in 2011, the legal framework for wind power projects was introduced.

Our recommendation: You should use existing international agreements and local laws as the bases for negotiation. Remember to rely on existing precedents and keep in mind that there are some difficulties for project development. But with a well-structured project development, it is still possible to getting a bankable PPA done.

6. What are the main risks of the PPA for investors?

With many solar projects currently focused on a few central locations, the capacity of existing facilities to absorb power must be a cause of some concerns given the PPA’s transfer of such risk to power producers.

EVN holds a monopoly of distribution, repair, maintenance, inspection and examination of the grid.

There is a big risk because of the lack of the government’s guarantee for EVN’s payment obligation in cases energy is provided from the producer but cannot be transmitted due to interruption of EVN’s grid connection. One solution for bridging that guarantee gap can be the use of the MIGA backup from the Worldbank (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) or backup from the Asean Development Bank.

Reasons for the interruption can be, for example: force majeure or termination of contracts. EVN can refuse transmitting the energy in cases of maintenance or repairing.

Circular 16 does not contain any guarantee or compensation for investors in these cases.

Our recommendations for avoiding potential risks: Be aware of veto rights of EVN and Vietnamese authorities. You have to be patient because the decision making process in Vietnam goes through many levels and takes time.

7. There will be conflicts between the investors and EVN because of the shift of risks to the investors. Which means of conflict resolution does the PPA grant to investors?

In general, the PPA is governed by the Vietnamese law.

The PPA does not provide for international arbitration as a means of dispute resolution.

Conflicts can be submitted to the Department of Electricity and Renewable Energy. If this option fails, investors can seek help at the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (ERAV) or with application to a Vietnamese court.

The PPA implicitly allows the involvement of domestic and offshore arbitration. However, whether it can be a prior agreement with EVN in the PPA or only until there is an arising dispute simply lies in the hands of EVN.

Our recommendations for successful negotiations with EVN: You have to understand how EVN is working and what their targets are. Be aware of their monopoly position in the energy sector in Vietnam. Don’t try “to reinvent the wheel”!

Do not overexert them with too ambitious intentions related to the development proposal. They might be afraid of so many new things. Rely on workable precedent strategies and make reference to successful projects.

8. Which view does the MoIT hold regarding the shortcomings of the PPA?

The MoIT knows about the shortcomings of the PPA and is aware about the fact that the PPA will not attract investors to meet the power demand or to solve problems regarding the development of renewable energy.

The MoIT also knows that the solar energy sector in Vietnam has a lot of potentials.

Finally, the MoIT expects to attract smaller investment projects where bankability is not really an issue for the investors.

9. Is the view of the MoIT realistic?

In our opinion, the MoIT’s view is not realistic. It may lead to unfeasible projects because of the existing risks of the final version of PPA and without assurance for supportive services from a bank. Furthermore the success of projects depends on the result of the negotiation with EVN.

10. Which advice can you give to future investors regarding their project development?

Be aware! You have to take care of your project on a step-by-step-base and get well prepared for the negotiations with EVN when you decide to invest in an on-grid power project.

***

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.

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

VIETNAM – MAIN ISSUES RESTRAINING INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT AND OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION-VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

Vietnam’s ability to continue expanding its economy is linked to competitiveness. It is clear that supporting institutional regulatory reform and infrastructure development will ensure economic growth in the country. In practice, this approach is feasible by promoting public-private partnership (PPP). This goal includes a long-term investment in infrastructure that harmonizes PPP investors and Vietnamese Government’s interests.

By way of illustration, State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain dominated in Vietnam. However, due to budget pressure, the government is committed to reform SOEs. Accelerating the development of foreign investment requires new approach to create a favorable legal framework for PPP. The issuance of a long awaited Decision 58/2016/QD-TTg (Decision 58) on classification of SOEs, is expected to facilitate the process.

Another key aspect to consider is SOE equitization for revenue reasons. In 2016, the State received approximately USD800 million from equitization and allocated some of these funds to reduce budget deficit.[1] Although the equitization process started in 1992, only around 2,600 firms have been equitized in the first 13 years of that program.[2] Meanwhile, the goal during 2014-2015 was to equitize 432 SOEs.[3] According to Decision 58, it is expected to rearrange 103 SOEs and equitize 137 SOEs within 2016-2020 period.

The historic poor performance of SOEs equitization is about to change gradually. Furthermore, there are some questions to address from the investors perspective since the State plans to retain ownership from below 50% (in 106 enterprises), 50%- 65% (in 27 enterprises) and above 65% (in 4 enterprises) by 2020 across different sectors.

Despite the efforts to enhance investments in infrastructure and energy, many issues related to the implementation of current regulations that affect transparency and enterprise value remain unresolved, namely:

Share price

Currently share price as determined by the Government must be market price. There are cases when market price is determined based on the listed price or transaction price in the UpCom market. However, such market price determination is not fair and accurate when the shares are sold to strategic shareholders due to the nature of the participants in the securities markets (i.e., participants are mainly financial institutions and speculators) as well as the minority percentage of listed stock compared with the total shares of the listed companies. Indeed, share price when sold to strategic shareholders must be the lowest successful bid price in an IPO. In addition, share price of joint stock companies listed on UpCom market must not be within the price range of that securities code on the transfer date.

Public-private partnership (PPP)

Implementation of Decree 15 on PPP has shown certain limitations. Opening a new chapter of PPP requires further work in understanding strategic factors that make PPP effective and ensure that key risk minimizing solutions are undertaken properly.

Bankability is a crucial issue during the project structuring phase. The requirements for a project to be bankable differ from sector to sector or by jurisdictions. However, there are common factors that render the project bankability and raise its risk exposure such as restrictions on mortgaging land use rights to foreign lenders, complex investment approvals to investors (e.g., land acquisition process), and payment ability of an SOE off-taker. Therefore, practical preferential policies should be issued to strengthen PPP investment.

In addition, investment in the form of PPP is more complex than public investment. However, in the management of PPP projects, public investment laws and regulations have currently been applied, resulting in lengthy investment procedures. Furthermore, there is a problem regarding the limited resources allocated to authorized state agencies (ASAs). It is expected that Decision 522 on managing and using project development fund raised by Asia Development Bank and Agence française de développement (AFD) will help to support the ASAs in preparing for the project development.

With regard to infrastructure projects, the current legislation allows some flexibility regarding the use of incentives under the Investment Law. Nevertheless, the principle of the PPP framework is to develop highly-efficient projects through loans from private investors such banks or credit institutions and thus releasing the State from financial burdens. If local companies borrow from commercial state banks, this will not meet the PPP principle. In addition, the limited attractiveness of PPP framework also deter local and foreign non-State banks from offering loans.

It is worth considering a risk allocation framework that harmonizes with the general principle that risks should be allocated to parties that are in the best position to manage them or make reasonable determination of that risk.

Power project developments

One issue is project implementation timeline in Circular 43/2016/TT-BCT. Specifically, this legal instrument requires project development commitments from investors and requirements to seek the MOIT’s approval when there are delays in the project implementation. According to Circular 43, if a BOT project falls behind the agreed timeline, the adjustments will only be approved under limited exceptions such as (i) force majeure events; (ii) the misconduct of competent authorities or (iii) the misconduct of a third party. In practice, the schedule agreed between the MOIT and investors is difficult to meet as a result of complex project preparation process as well as involvement of many related parties.

Outlook on the EVFTA

The market access commitment in the EVFTA goes largely beyond both those in the WTO and other FTAs ratified by Vietnam, thereby giving EU enterprises the best possible access to the Vietnamese market. Accordingly, provisions on SOEs are considered the most ambitious disciplines that Vietnam has ever reached. Such rules will put private enterprises on an equal level with enterprises where the Government is the owner. Under the EVFTA, EU companies will be permitted to bid for contracts in infrastructure, power distribution, railway and healthcare projects the same as Vietnamese bidders.

Conclusion

Investment in infrastructure is considered as a strategic measure to reach sustainable development in Vietnam. Indeed, the government has improved the legal framework to support PPP model and privatization of energy and power sectors. However, it needs a much clearer plan in improving the quality of new regulations in order to ensure a fair and transparent process. Furthermore, the equitization progress seems to be disappointing since only 52 SOEs were equitized in 2016. In this context, to ensure the equitization efficiency, it is urgent to address the impact of these remaining issues on project’s viability and aim at the highest level of risk management. Finally, Decision 58 represents a good opportunity for EU companies to engage in large- scale PPP projects. However, investors need to carefully conduct a due diligence before any investment.

***

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.

Thank you!

 

 

VIETNAM – Energie et électricité – Perspectives de l’Accord de Libre-Echange UE-Vietnam (EVFTA)

Le Vietnam a exprimé son engagement à se tourner vers l’énergie propre et verte tout en privilégiant l’énergie domestique par rapport aux buts sociaux, économiques et de sécurité énergétique. La hausse de la demande d’énergie pousse le Vietnam à développer des ressources internes qui nécessitent d’attirer l’investissement privé.

Jusqu’à présent, le Vietnam n’était pas autonome pour fournir l’énergie correspondant à la demande intérieure. De plus, pour atteindre l’efficacité énergétique, le Vietnam doit mettre en place une double action : développer le secteur local grâce à l’investissement privé et mettre en place des outils de gestion pour réduire le gaspillage d’électricité par les usagers.

Un rapport rendu par la Commission « Made in Vietnam Energy Plan » parvient à la conclusion que le Vietnam peut continuer à user des ressources énergétiques indigènes (gaz, charbon, eau, pétrole, vent, soleil) jusqu’à ce qu’une future énergie verte soit développée. Comme le secteur du charbon est censé être relancé, le renouveau des centrales à charbon devrait ralentir la détérioration de la qualité de l’air causée par les méga-usines à charbon. D’autres mesures devraient être prises par le Gouvernement.

Encourager le gaz naturel

Le Vietnam est doté de gaz naturel dont l’usage devrait être préféré à celui du charbon. En effet, le gaz naturel est un carburant plus flexible, moins cher et plus propre que le charbon. Selon plusieurs accords internationaux encourageant le développement de l’énergie verte, le Vietnam sera plus apte à trouver un financement pour le secteur de l’énergie renouvelable que pour le secteur du charbon.

L’investissement dans l’exploitation de gaz naturel devrait être fortement encouragé puisqu’il dérive de traités internationaux et représente une opportunité économique et environnementale intéressante. Le Gouvernement devrait donc préparer un cadre politique et règlementaire pour mieux assurer l’investissement étranger et local, le partage des technologies et de l’expérience, et pour développer avec succès les marchés.

De plus le développement de transformateurs de gaz en électricité offshore apparait comme étant une autre alternative favorable et économique à l’importation de charbon. Non seulement le coût de l’exploitation de gaz naturel est moins élevé que le coût de l’importation ou de la production de charbon en tenant compte des taxes et redevances liées au prix du gaz, mais cela attirerait aussi plus d’investisseurs. De plus, cela déchargerait l’Etat de lourdes dépenses puisque l’International Monetary Fund estime que les coûts liés à la santé et à l’environnement, avec le plan actuel de développement de l’énergie reposant sur le charbon, atteindrait 15 milliards de dollars par an d’ici 2030.

Développer les contrats d’achat d’électricité (PPA)

La German Agency for International Cooperation a formulé des recommandations concernant les contrats d’achats d’énergie éolienne et solaire (PPA) pour l’énergie renouvelable. Elles comprennent une évaluation précise des coûts et tarifs des PPA pour être plus finançables. Assurer leur mise en œuvre est fortement encouragé pour favoriser un développement durable et viable.

Les sociétés qui se sont engagées publiquement à utiliser l’énergie renouvelable et tous autres grands consommateurs d’électricité devraient avoir le droit de signer des contrats directs d’achat d’électricité (DPPA) avec des fournisseurs d’électricité. La législation vietnamienne n’autorise pas les DPPA dans les cas par exemple de Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, etc. En changeant cette politique, il y aura plus d’investissement étranger dans la chaine d’approvisionnement d’énergie verte.

 Contrôler l’utilisation de l’électricité et réduire le gaspillage d’eau

Avec une utilisation plus efficace de l’électricité et une réduction du gaspillage d’eau, le Vietnam serait considéré comme une alternative compétitive et viable pour l’investissement direct étranger. Accorder des avantages fiscaux aux ménages et entreprises qui réduiraient leur consommation d’énergie et encourager l’énergie solaire ou éolienne ou toute autre énergie renouvelable, dépressuriserait le système de distribution et éduquerait les usagers.

Le développement de systèmes de transformation des déchets en énergie (waste-to-energy) dans les communautés locales permettrait un double bénéfice : améliorer la santé et l’hygiène ainsi qu’augmenter l’approvisionnement électrique et faciliter sa distribution. Les émissions de carbone seraient automatiquement réduites.

La création d’une feuille de route du prix de l’électricité en utilisant le prix fixé par le marché avec le prix variable en fonction de l’usage résidentiel, commercial ou industriel, devrait prévaloir. La conviction que le prix de l’énergie restera subventionné par le Gouvernement supplante tous les efforts de promotion de l’investissement et de l’innovation dans le domaine de l’efficacité énergétique. Ainsi, la connaissance du coût de l’énergie peut inciter les consommateurs et les investisseurs à adopter des équipements et des procédés plus efficaces.

 Recommandations pour la règlementation du Gouvernement

Pour aider le Gouvernement vietnamien à atteindre ses buts environnementaux, le rehaussement de crédit de l’entreprise publique Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) devrait être développé. Garantir que l’EVN paiera pour des approvisionnements d’énergie renouvelable en augmentant le nombre de donneurs internationaux aidera à assurer la faisabilité du projet et à encourager l’investissement.

Un plan plus viable peut être mis en œuvre s’il s’inscrit dans un cadre politique et juridique adapté. La principale recommandation pour assurer un environnement futur plus vert est de diminuer la part des centrales à charbon dans le plan de développement de l’électricité pour 2030.

Un plan flexible pourrait être élaboré pour ajuster la demande future et pour stopper le risque d’une demande plus ou moins grande que celle qui est prévue. Ce plan pourrait attirer plus de sources d’investissement étrangères ou locales et réduire la dépendance par rapport aux gouvernements étrangers. Par ailleurs, l’établissement de normes obligatoires concernant l’efficacité énergétique et la construction des logements, bureaux ou le développement commercial, éduquerait et aurait un effet positif sur le secteur de l’énergie renouvelable.

Les perspectives de l’EVFTA

L’EVFTA signé le 2 décembre 2015, devrait entrer en vigueur d’ici janvier 2018. Les relations entre le Vietnam et l’UE seront fortement intensifiées, notamment parce que le Vietnam est le 2e à signer un tel accord avec l’UE – après Singapour qui ne concourt pas dans les mêmes domaines. Beaucoup d’investisseurs européens se dirigeront vers le Vietnam et apporteront des nouvelles technologies et techniques.

Un chapitre de l’EVFTA est dédié au développement durable et on s’attend à ce que l’UE, grande défenderesse de l’énergie verte et propre, incite le Vietnam à revoir son plan de développement d’électricité dans un futur proche.

 Les problématiques majeures

– Le secteur du charbon est sur le point d’être relancé au regard du plan de développement qui ouvre au Vietnam des alternatives plus propres et plus économiques ;

– L’International Monetary Fund a estimé que 15 milliards de dollars par an seraient dédiés aux dépenses de santés et d’hygiène. La purification de l’air ou l’arrêt de la détérioration de la qualité de l’air est un problème qui doit être résolu rapidement et qui est menacé par la relance du secteur énergétique du charbon ;

– Autoriser les DPPA stimulerait l’investissement et l’innovation dans le secteur de l’énergie verte et dépressuriserait le système de distribution ;

– Eduquer les fournisseurs, les usagers et les investisseurs à travers une feuille de route du prix de l’électricité, le système de waste-to-energy et les avantages fiscaux est le moyen le plus efficace de garantir l’observation des mesures prises par le Gouvernement relatives à l’environnement.

***

Si vous avez des questions ou si vous voulez plus de détails sur cet article, n’hésitez pas à contacter Oliver Massmann à omassmann@duanemorris.com. Oliver Massmann est le Directeur Général de Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Merci beaucoup !

ALERTE : cet article est protégé par les droits d’auteur et par un logiciel permettant au titulaire des droits de le suivre. Ne distribuez pas cet article ou n’usez pas de son contenu sans le consentement écrit de l’auteur Oliver Massmann.

 

 

 

EU-VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT – MARKET ACCESS OVERVIEW

OVERVIEW

On 2nd December 2015, after nearly 3 years with 14 rounds of negotiations, President Donald Tusk, President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister of Viet Nam Nguyễn Tấn Dũng announced the conclusion of the negotiations of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). Both parties are undertaking the necessary steps to finalise the ratification process for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to enter into force in 2018.

EVFTA is considered one of the most comprehensive and ambitious trade and investment agreements that the EU has ever concluded with a developing country. It is the second agreement in the Association of South East Nations (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 500 million people and a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 15 000 billion (accounting for 22% of global GDP). The other way around, exporters and investors from the EU now have further opportunities to access one of the fastest-growing countries of more than 90 million people in the region.

The real wages of skilled laborers may increase by up to 12% while real salary of common workers may rise by 13%. The macro economy will be stable and inflation rate controlled. Vietnam’s business activities will be booming in the next few years once the EVFTA officially comes into force and Government’s policies, as well as institutional reforms, start showing their positive effects.

Moreover, Vietnam’s GDP is expected to increase by 0.5% annually and increase in exports of 4-6% per year. If this trend continues until 2020, Vietnam’s exports to the EU will increase by USD 16 billion. Until 2025, the EVFTA is estimated to generate an additional 7-8% of GDP above the trend growth rate.

MARKET ACCESS FOR GOODS

Nearly all customs duties – over 99% of the tariff lines will be eliminated. The small remaining number is partially liberalised through duty-free quotas. As Vietnam is a developing country, it will liberalise 65% of the value of EU exports to Vietnam, representing around half of the tariff lines, at entry into force and the remaining duties will be eliminated over the next ten years. For some products, Vietnamese duties will be eliminated over a sevenyear period such as motorcycles with engines larger than 1500cc, car parts and about half of EU pharmaceutical exports. The market will be opened for most of EU food products, i.e. wine, spirits and frozen pork meat after seven years. For dairy products, after a maximum of five years. This is an unprecedented far-reaching tariff elimination for a country like Vietnam, proving its targets for deeper integration and trading relations with the EU.

From the EU’s side, 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, there will be more than 99% of the tariff lines being eliminated for Vietnam. The EU will eliminate duties for some sensitive products in the textile and footwear sector over a 5-7-year period, with a double transformation rule (instead of a strict yarn-forward rule as in the TPP) and will allow Vietnam to import fabrics from South Korea as an exception to the general rule. The EU also offers access to some Vietnamese sensitive agricultural products via duty-free quotas (rice, canned tuna, surimi, sweet corn, sugar products, etc.). Vietnamese exports of textile, clothing and footwear to the EU are expected to more than double by 2020 as a result of the EVFTA.

We note that, in the region, besides Vietnam, Singapore also concluded an FTA with the EU in 2014. However, this does not affect the competitiveness of Vietnam in trading with the EU. This is due to the fact that Vietnam mainly exports textiles, footwear, agricultural products, etc. while Singapore’s main exports are machines, chemical products and transport equipment. Moreover, while the EU is accelerating procedures to negotiate FTAs with different countries in the ASEAN region, Vietnam should take advantage of this golden time before FTAs with others in the region are concluded and to become a regional hub.

MARKET ACCESS FOR EU SERVICE PROVIDERS

Although Vietnam’s World Trade Organisation(WTO) commitments are used as a basis for thes ervices commitments, Vietnam has not only opened additional (sub)sectors for EU service providers but also commits deeper than in the WTO, offering the EU the best possible access to Vietnam’s market. (Sub)sectors that are not committed under the WTO but under which Vietnam makes commitments are, for example: interdisciplinary research and development (R&D) services, nursing services, physiotherapists and para-medical personnel, packaging services, trade fairs and exhibitions services and building-cleaning services. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the EVFTA contains a MFN clause that allows one party to grant the other party the best treatment that the former is negotiating with other partners under another framework.

We set out below certain Vietnam’s commitments in key sectors with reference to its commitment to the WTO.

Distribution sector

The WTO requires an Economic Needs Test (ENT) for the establishment of outlets for retail services (beyond the first one). The EVFTA requires the same but adds cases for ENT exemption and timeline for ENT abolishment after five years.

Distribution of cigarettes and cigars, publications, precious metals and stones, pharmaceutical products and drugs, explosives, processed oil and crude oil by foreign investors are still prohibited.

wtO eVFtA
 

 

 

 

The establishment of outlets for retail services (beyond the first one) shall be allowed on the basis of an Economic Needs Test (ENT)

 

In case of establishing an outlet less than 500m2 within the area planned for trading activities and already completed construction of infrastructure, ENT is not required.

 

5 years from the date of entry into force of the Agreement, the requirement of the ENT will be abolished.

Power/ energy

wto eVFtA
 

 

 

 

 

N/A

 

Commitments are made in 3 sub-sectors: (i) Production of electricity; transmission and distribution of electricity on own account; (ii) Manufacture of gas; distribution of gaseous fuels through mains on own account; and (iii) Production of steam and hot water; distribution of steam and hot water on own account.

Maritime transport

Sub-sectors wto eVFtA
 

 

Maritime transport services

 

Mode 3 Market Access (MA): joint venture with maximum 49% foreign ownership

 

 

Mode 3 MA: joint venture with maximum 70% foreign ownership

 

internal waterways transport

Passenger transport Freight transport

 

Mode 1: No commitment Mode 3: joint venture with

maximum 49% foreign ownership

 

Mode 1: No restriction Mode 3: joint venture with

maximum 51% foreign ownership

Securities services

wto eVFtA
 

 

Commitments on 6 sub-sectors

Mode 3: foreign securities service suppliers are permitted to establish representative offices and joint ventures with maximum foreign ownership of 49%.

After 5 years from the date of accession, securities service suppliers with 100% foreign-invested capital shall be permitted.

Same commitments in 6 sub-sectors

Commitments on 2 additional services: Provision and transfer of financial data processing; and credit reference and analysis.

Mode 3: Same as the WTO

Telecommunication Services

Non facilities-based services: WTO/ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS): maximum 65% foreign ownership forever but in the EVFTA after 5 years, this could be 75%.

Other services – Virtual Private Network (VPN): maximum 70% foreign ownership forever but in the EVFTA after 5 years, this could be 75%.

CONCLUSION

 Vietnam is a country of changes and currently offers increasing opportunities for foreign businesses. The underlying strength of the economy is reflected in, among others, controlled macroeconomic indicators, strong productivity gains and extensive integration into the regional and global economy. It is now time for foreign investors to start their business plans and grasp the upcoming clear opportunities.

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!

 

 

 

 

VIETNAM – REAL ESTATE – LAND USE RIGHTS LIMITATIONS FOR FOREIGNERS – OUTLOOK ON THE EUROPEAN UNION VIETNAM FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (EVFTA)

 

The real estate market in Vietnam has constantly been growing since the Law on Real Estate Business 2014 (LREB) and the Law on Residential Housing (LRH) were adopted. Initial barriers for foreign investors were partially removed with the new legislations and Decree No. 76/2015/ND-CP guiding the LREB dated 10 September 2015 and Decree No. 99/2015/ND-CP guiding the LRH dated 20 October 2015.

Nevertheless, enterprises’ expectations concerning access to properties and business development are not entirely satisfied.

Restriction on sources of capital

For residential housing projects, only the sources of capital enumerated in Article 69 of the LRH or Article 19 of Decree 99 are considered legitimate such as loans from Social Policy Bank, credit institutions and financial institutions currently operating in Vietnam or capital contribution, cooperation in investment, business cooperation, joint-venture and affiliation of organizations. As there is no mention of overseas capital except for the capital owned by the developer, raising capital then appears to be more complicated for real estate developers. Therefore, as there is no need to limit the developers’ ability to raise capital for legitimate sources, the Government adopt restrictive measures for illegitimate sources only and control the legitimacy of sources. Opening capital to off-shore credit institutions and non-credit institutions would greatly improve access to the real estate market.

An uncertainty remains as to define foreign invested enterprises (FIEs). Indeed, neither in the LREB nor in Decree 76 do we find a provision explaining the notion of FIEs. But the Law on Land (Land Law) 2013 states that FIEs are joint venture enterprises and enterprises wholly or partly owned by a foreign company without detailing ownership percentage. Under the Law on Investment 2014, the status of economic organization with foreign capital implies a foreign ownership of 51% or more. Therefore some details must be given as whether enterprises with less than 51% of foreign ownership are regarded as local investors or not.

Considering the lack of details, we can understand that any percentage of foreign ownership prevents enterprises to be local ones. This issue is of great importance for foreign investment transactions in the real estate market and must be clarified promptly.

The difference of treatment between foreign and Vietnamese real estate developers can be found in several aspects. First of all, Article 11 of the LREB does not permit foreign developers to transfer their land use right into creating plots for sale whereas Vietnamese developers are permitted. Article 57 of the same law limits FIEs to collect a maximum of 50% of the value of sale and purchase contracts while Vietnamese companies are entitled to 70% of the value. Finally, Article 10 of the LREB prohibits foreign developers to sell, lease or offer a lease-purchase and only opens the possibility of sub-leasing. This form of business is, however, open to Vietnamese developers.

Those differences between local and foreign developers should be removed as they create unfair competition and restrain the real estate sector in Vietnam.

Restrictions on land use right of foreign organizations and individuals

The LREB authorizes organizations and individuals to lease properties for use and to purchase or lease-purchase residential houses in accordance with the LRH. Article 160 of the LRH repeats the authorization but adds a few conditions. Organizations who want to own residential houses, must establish and maintain their presence in Vietnam although foreign individuals only need to have a valid passport affixed with entry stamp. The stricter requirement for foreign organizations should be up-lifted as it is unnecessary to fix conditions to own residential houses to organizations and not to individuals.

A very concerning contradiction must be solved as it deals with notarization of sale and purchase contracts. Article 93.3(b) of the LRH allows contracts for residential housing signed with a real estate business enterprise not to be notarized. However, Article 122 of the LRH stipulates that all contracts in relation to sale and purchase of residential houses must be certified or notarized.  We could then understand that sale and purchase contracts for residential housing signed with real estate business should be notarized. However, Article 17.2 of the LREB states that real estate business contracts do not have to be notarized except contracts signed between two individuals/households.

A clearer provision should establish that notarization is not required in case a real estate business enterprise is a party to the sale and purchase contracts.

Limitation on foreigners’ purchase and ownership of real estate

Foreign individual and organizations are allowed to own a maximum of 250 individual residential houses in a ward according to Article 161.2(a) of the LRH. However, Article 76.4 of Decree 99 guiding the LRH, limits foreign individuals or organizations to possess maximum 10% of individual housing in each residential housing project. The Decree provision is then not consistent with the LRH.

In addition, pursuant to Article 159.2(b) of the LRH, foreign individuals and organizations are only prohibited from purchasing houses in national defense and security area. But pursuant to Article 75 of Decree 99, the prohibition is extended to all areas where foreigners are restricted from residing or travelling as provided under the Law on Residence and Travel. Once again, the Decree is restricting the conditions under the LRH.

In addition, Articles 77.1(b) and 77.2(b) provide additional restriction when granting the possibility of one-time expansion of residential houses owned by foreigners. Such restriction can have a serious impact on business development of developers and in the meantime on Vietnam’s competitiveness. Unlimited extensions should be granted with the exception of national defense and security areas only.

Another issue which causes many difficulties for developers concerns capital reserve. Indeed, Article 108.1(b) of the LREB requires that developers contribute 2% of apartment’s value for unsold apartments at the time of commissioning. Value is calculated based on the highest selling price of an apartment in the building regardless of the differences between the apartment of reference and the commissioned one. The requirement is not practical and should therefore be amended to refer to an apartment of the same category. Furthermore, establishing a mechanism to deal with such payments when apartments are sold at a later stage is necessary for the efficiency of the requirement.

Outlook on the EVFTA

Signed on December 2nd 2015 and expected to enter into force by 2017, the EVFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam. Not only Vietnam will foster more foreign investors but also welcome more enterprises in order to develop the European-Vietnamese Cooperation.

The Vietnamese Government has already started to amend the legislation with the Law on Enterprise 2015 and the Law on Investment 2014. Yet some further changes must still be made and we can expect the influence of the EU on opening the real estate market to facilitate enterprises’ establishment.

Most important issues

–       Requirements of sources of capital are too restricted and prevent real estate developers from easily raising capital. In addition, the definition of foreign invested enterprise is not clear enough to determine the sources and the nature of transactions in the sector.

–       Vietnamese and foreign developers are treated differently which creates unfair competition and restrains the real estate sector.

–       The contradiction that sale and purchase contracts signed with real estate business enterprise have to be authorized must be up-lifted.

–       Restrictions on foreigners’ purchase and ownership rights regarding the percentage of possession, the restricted areas and the possibility of extension are not consistent in the whole Vietnamese legislation and should be standardized.

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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!