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Vietnam Foreign Direct Investment

By Oliver Massmann and Manfred Otto – Duane Morris Vietnam LLC

Foreign Direct Investment

A Brief Overview
Vietnam is undergoing fundamental changes to form the basis for its attractiveness and competitiveness in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the upcoming trade agreements including the EU-Vietnam FTA and the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).
Since July 2015, a number of new laws and regulations governing foreign investment, enterprises, real estate and foreign ownership limits have come into effect. For example, the new Law on Investment and the new Law on Enterprises:
(i) clarify definitions of foreign-invested enterprises;
(ii) facilitate M&A activities;
(iii) reduce the number of prohibited and conditional business sectors;
(iv) reduce statutory business licensing times;
(v) provide more flexibility with regard to corporate governance (such as multiple legal representatives and lower voting thresholds); and
(vi) create more favourable conditions for shareholder lawsuits.
In addition, new laws and regulations affecting foreign ownership of real estate have come into effect. Foreigners can now own apartments and for the first time buy houses. They are now also permitted to sublease and inherit real estate.
With the coming into effect of several international trade agreements and more particularly, the EVFTA, EuroCham members are looking forward to the positive changes that will be implemented and that will further business incentives as well as contribute to Vietnam’s growth.
Vietnam as an attractive FDI destination
In addition to the numerous legal changes, Vietnam has fundamental elements that participate to its continued growth. For instance, Vietnam is in a demographic golden age, with 25% of its 90 million people population between 10 and 24 years old. GDP per capital is increasing drastically as Vietnam has the fastest-growing middle class in South East Asia – (12.9% per annum over the period 2012-2020). Along with a high literacy rate and education levels, comparatively low wages, connectivity and central location within ASEAN, more and more foreign investors choose Vietnam as their hub to service the Mekong region and beyond.
Vietnam’s attractive profile is reflected in its generally welcoming of foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing activities. The gradual opening of most service sectors under Vietnam’s WTO commitments schedule that began in 2007 has been completed in 2015. Domestic law has expanded market access in some sectors beyond those of Vietnam’s WTO commitments. For example, foreign shareholding in public companies that was previously capped at 49% is now generally open for to up 100% foreign ownership. Vietnam also grants investment incentives including tax breaks in areas, such as high-tech, environmental technology, and agriculture, where European businesses are global leaders.
Furthermore, in 2014, Vietnam recorded $21.92 billion in FDI with a total of 1843 investment licenses for foreign invested projects with a registered capital of $16.5 billion, representing a 14% increase from the previous year. Among the foreign investors, the EU is an increasingly important source of FDI for Vietnam as ‘according to the Foreign Investment Agency of the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and investment, investors from 23 out of 28 Member States of the EU injected a total committed FDI worth US$19.1 billion into 1566 projects over the course of the past 25 years (by 15 December 2014)’. With this strong activity, in 2014, the EU positioned itself as fifth in the top FDI partners of Vietnam with a combined committed FDI of US$587.1 million.

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Source: ‘Vietnam’s logistics market: Exploring the opportunities, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC)

In addition to FDI, the EU-Vietnam’s strong trade relationship can be seen through programmes like the Multilateral Trade Assistance Project (MUTRAP) which accounts for over €35.12 billion. MUTRAP has been instrumental in supporting Vietnam’s negotiating efforts during the WTO accession process and now continues to assist Vietnam in the implementation of trade commitments. In terms of trade, both the EU and Vietnamese businesses are expected to benefit under the EVFTA. The FTA will gradually eliminate tariffs for over 99% of goods and services besides other mechanisms to support bilateral trade. On 4 August 2015, the EU and Vietnam reached an agreement in principle for the free trade deal, an agreement that will also attract further FDI into the country.
Vietnam’s top trading partners 2013
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Finally, the EU’s strong commitment to support Vietnam in its modernisation and integration in the world economy is mirrored by the aid programmes. In line with Vietnam’s 2020 socio-economic plan, the EU has increased its aid by 30 % reaching 400 million euros via its multi-annual indicative programme for the period of 2014-2020 focusing on the development of clean energy in Vietnam.

Further improvements necessary
It is clear that Vietnam’s development and its attractiveness to foreign investors are undeniable as Vietnam is constantly improving its business environment.
However, as of this writing, guiding regulations for many new laws have still not been published, and investors are experiencing delays in the processing of applications. We expect processing times to improve once the new implementing regulations come into effect and officials get accustomed to the changes.
Another issue that has been highlighted by our members is that many foreign investors still face significant challenges when dealing with Vietnam’s bureaucracy. Tax filing, customs clearance, business registration and licensing, and other administrative procedures are often delayed, outcomes can be unpredictable, and businesses find themselves spending resources on administration that they would prefer to invest in expanding their core activities.
Despite remaining hurdles, the national government of Vietnam has expressed an understanding of the issues surrounding foreign investment. Providing foreign investors increased access to its market, the stream of FDI is expected to continue. For many foreign investors the positive economic development of the country and its fundamentals substantially outweigh potential risks.
In this light, EuroCham wishes to present the key issues that our members face in their activity in Vietnam along with some key recommendations. EuroCham hopes to engage in a constructive dialogue and increasing cooperation with the relevant authorities on all the issues presented in this edition in order to improve the business environment for all enterprises in Vietnam and contribute to the country’s fast modernisation.

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1‘Vietnam; from golden age to golden oldies’, UK FOC, 07/01/15. Available at
2‘Report revises 2014 FDI figures’ Viet Nam News, 18/03/15. Available at
3‘Investment -EU-Vietnam economic and trade relations’, Delegation to the European Union to Vietnam, 2015. Available at
4‘Vietnam’s logistics market: Exploring the opportunities, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), 20/01/15. Available at
5‘Trade – EU-Vietnam economic and trade relations’, Delegation to the European Union to Vietnam, 2015. Available at
6‘European Union, Trade in goods with Vietnam’, European Commission DG Trade, 10/04/15, p.9. Available at
7‘Development Cooperation’, Delegation to the European Union to Vietnam, 2015. Available at

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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

Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement in Vietnam

Vietnam is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (EVFTA) as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the United States (TPP). In addition, the ASEAN Economic Community will be established by the end of 2015. Thus, Vietnam will soon expect a significant increase in foreign investment, most of which will depend on the effectiveness of intellectual property protection and enforcement in Vietnam. In this context, Vietnamese enforcement agencies and the courts have been actively issuing decisions with harsh sanctions on the infringers serving as good precedents and clear warnings on future violations.

Administrative relief or civil proceeding?

However, it should be noted that presently in Vietnam, rights holders mainly seek administrative relief and border control measures before competent authorities such as the Ministry of Science and Technology Inspectorate or the Vietnam Intellectual Property Research Institute rather than pursuing lawsuits before civil courts. They view that administrative route would take less time and money compared with civil actions, taking into account the unclear legal basis of IP disputes and lack of experience of judges. The non-binding opinions of these administrative agencies could then be included in the customs record, which effectively prevent the physical entry of infringing goods at the border. However, administrative decisions only result in the fine and destruction of infringing goods without compensating for the rights holders or even payment of legal fees. As such, there has been a recent increase in litigation in courts in patent area for the past few years. With the agriculture accounts for the majority of Vietnam’s economy (80%), it is not a big surprise that the first majors patent suits took place in this area. In these cases, the courts have issued decisions in favor of the foreign agroscience companies, which would set precedents for future judgments.

Preliminary injunctive relief and permanent injunction

In civil proceedings, especially in IP area, it is sometimes importance to seek for injunctive relief. Preliminary injunctive relief has its legal basis in Articles 99-126 of the 2004 Civil Procedures Code as amended in 2011 and Articles 206-210 of the IP Law promulgated in 2005. Rights holders can request a preliminary injunctive relief if they can prove either of the following: (i) there is a threat of irreparable damage; or (ii) there is a threat of dispersal or destruction of suspected infringing goods and related evidence if they are not protected in time. The aim of injunctive relief measure is the protection of the rights holders pending the final decision of the courts. Typical preliminary injunctions are goods seizure, sealing/ freezing, prohibition on status/ ownership change/ transfer, and other measures specified in the Civil Procedure Code. However, for the courts to render an injunctive relief, rights holders are requested to pay a deposit of at least VND20 million as a security. The courts then still take great caution in applying such measure and there is no clear guidance for the court to return the deposit to the rights holders when they have concluded against the infringers. Thus, there lies a risk for rights holders when asking for preliminary injunctive relief.

While the use of preliminary injunctive relief has a clear legal basis in Vietnamese law, permanent injunction is not that case. What is normally stipulated is a cessation of the infringement but not the court order to never commit the infringement again in the future. However, it seems that the Ho Chi Minh City Court for the first time in a case initiated by a European agrochemical company against a pesticide producer in Ho Chi Minh City has ordered the infringer not to infringe the patent until the expiry date of the patent in question. This is a precedent-setting decision for future courts decisions in patent area.

Recent typical IP court litigations in Vietnam:
 Dispute between a major French cement company and a defendant in Vietnam on domain name
 Dispute between US-based Videojet Technologies Inc., and Nam Trinh JSC on trademark infringement
 Dispute between a major European agrochemical company and a pesticide producer in Ho Chi Minh City on patent infringement.

Conclusion

The developments in the IP rights enforcement system shown in the choice of civil proceedings as well as the favorable binding decisions of the courts of foreign parties are good signals for better IP environment in Vietnam. Vietnam is taking steps to assure foreign investors of effective IP rights protection when doing business in Vietnam, especially when the EVFTA and the TPP are concluded by this year.

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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.

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

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!