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Outcomes of APEC – the TPP is dead, long live the CPTPP

As the dust settles and Vietnam returns to some semblance of normality following this year’s APEC summit, regional business leaders and investors are left to consider the consequences of the forum.


This year marks the second time that Vietnam has hosted the APEC summit, and the event was largely considered a success for the country. Vietnam was placed in a difficult position, between the competing interests of the United States and China, requiring a deftness in diplomacy.


Most media outlets were more concerned with President Trump and what would be his first appearance at a multilateral forum in the Asia-Pacific region. Widely-expected faux pas did not materialise, but neither did much news on the US’ position towards the region. Trump’s keynote speech was short on surprises, following familiar themes of protectionism, isolationism and criticism of predatory economic policies. Essentially, the speech underlined what we already know – that under the Trump administration the US would be taking a step back from the Asia-Pacific region and trade will need to be conducted on a bilateral basis.


In a marked contrast to the American tirade, China’s President Xi Jinping presented himself as a champion of economic openness and globalisation. Xi espoused a vision in support of a multilateral trade regime, and received hearty applause in return from the amassed delegates.


Putting his words into practice, Trump’s subsequent stop in Hanoi saw the signing of US$12 billion in commercial deals, including in the natural gas, transport and aviation sectors. In particular, national carrier Vietnam Airlines signed a deal worth US$1.5 billion for engines and support services from US firm Pratt & Whitney.


Despite the very different stalls set up by the attendant superpowers, Vietnam managed to balance itself somewhere in between. In a joint statement, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and Trump reaffirmed the importance of the countries’ Comprehensive Partnership, and agreed to promote bilateral trade and investment.


Vietnam also stood in support of Xi’s signature policy, the Belt and Road Initiative. Specifically, both sides agreed to enhance economic and trade cooperation, with a particular focus on infrastructure.


Regional and international media praised Vietnam’s hosting of the summit and the final Economic Leaders’ Week, highlighting the country’s commitment to economic integration, sustainable growth and support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In the eyes of many, Vietnam has cemented its position at the centre of APEC’s economic structure. The country took advantage of the opportunity to enhance its prestige in the international arena and show others the strides it has made in development since it last hosted APEC.


Resurrecting the TPP


Trump’s election last year seemed to herald the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), at least in its current form. Without US support, the trade agreement was surely destined to be forgotten or watered down to the point where it becomes worthless.


The US withdrawal failed to dampen enthusiasm for the trade pact, however, with Japan and Australia strongly advocating the continuation of talks, and protecting the gains made in the original TPP negotiations.


Following discussions in Danang, the 11 countries still backing the TPP agreed to its resurrection, and renaming, as the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for the TPP (CPTPP). The move represents a clear rebuke to Trump’s ‘America First’ focus on bilateral deal-making. Despite a last-minute wobble from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the members agreed on keeping core elements of the original deal that would advance open markets, combat protectionism, and strengthen regional economic integration.


Vietnamese leaders were certainly sorry to see the US turn its back on the TPP; knowing that access to American markets would have brought significant economic benefits. Although a deal is better than no deal, the CPTPP is expected to have a more modest impact on the nation’s economic future.


The National Center for Information and Forecasting predicts that under the CPTPP, Vietnam’s GDP could increase by 1.32 percent, compared to a potential 6.7 percent with the TPP. Similarly, the export growth rate is estimated at 4 percent, instead of the 15 percent previously. If the CPTPP is ratified, Vietnam would also be able to expand its export markets, with opportunities to reach Canada, Mexico and Peru.


Nevertheless, there is still room for the CPTPP to be derailed – the pact requires domestic ratification by each member economy. While Japan has already done so, other members, particularly Canada, could require longer to officially validate the pact.


There are, however, reasons to be optimistic. Many were certain the US withdrawal would be the death knell for trade pacts like the TPP, only to see America’s Asia-Pacific allies regroup and move forward on their own. There is clear commitment to regional economic integration, with or without America’s blessing.


A multilateral trade deal would provide much-needed clarity for businesses, especially smaller ones, in entering new markets. Universal standards would make life a lot easier for the region’s many MSMEs looking to expand their operations across borders. Those working in the digital sector would benefit from a framework on data security, privacy, intellectual property and e-commerce.


Even after Trump withdrew the US from the TPP, the original template survived almost wholly intact. The bar remains high, and the remaining members now have the opportunity to hash out a progressive framework for continued economic growth.


Although Donald Trump received the most attention in Danang, the main achievement of APEC may be the reanimation of a deal he sought to kill. This time the harsh rhetoric may have had an unintended consequence – pushing the region even further towards economic integration and free trade.


For more information about doing business 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.

VIETNAM – BOOM TIME – The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement now becomes the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership – What is next?


Overview on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

The TPP was originally known as the Trans- Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership concluded in 2006 among Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei (P-4 agreement) as a means to promote trade liberalization in the Asia- Pacific Region. As its name indicates, the original purpose of the agreement was only to address economic issues. As the number of participating countries in the P-4 agreement increased, starting with the United States in September 2008 and other countries to follow being Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Japan until July 2013, the agreement is agreed to be “a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges” by TPP Trade ministers. In June 2015, the United States approved the trade promotion authority for President Obama. The Agreement finally becomes as it is today through tough negotiation rounds, while the last round in Atlanta in September 2015 was considered the most intensive one. The TPP was already concluded on 06 October 2015. However, in January 2017, right after President Trump took his office, the United States formally expressed its withdrawal from the agreement, leaving other 11 parties with the decision to continue the agreement without the United States or not. In November 2017, during APEC meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, ministers from 11 countries decided to push ahead with the TPP with its new name – CPTPP with only 20 items suspended out of an around 5000-page document, mainly in the Intellectual Property chapter.

CPTTP will help Vietnam make good use of international cooperation opportunities, balance relationships with key markets, approach larger markets including Japan and Canada, boost import-export, reduce import deficit, and attract foreign investment. In addition, CPTTP will also help Vietnam’s economy allocate its resources more effectively, enabling active supports to the processes of restructuring, innovation and improving regulations, and improve administrative reforms.

What makes CPTPP the template for next-generations trade agreements – What are beyond the WTO?

Freer trade zone

Commitments in Trade in goods

Tariff and non-tariff barriers are reduced and removed substantially across all trade in services and goods under the CPTPP. Import tariffs are reduced for 100% goods traded among member states, with more than 90% being eliminated immediately when the Agreement takes effect. The CPTPP also covers issues which have never been addressed in the WTO, including export duties, import duties for re-manufactured goods, market access for re-furbished goods, stricter regulations on import and export licensing, monopolies and goods in transit.

Lower tariff barriers from the CPTPP will give Vietnam greater access to large consumer markets in Japan, Canada and Australia. The potential positive effect on trade could be transformative, with estimates that the CPTPP will boost Vietnam’s exports by over 37% until 2025.

Commitments in Trade in services and Investment

All 11 member states give consent to a liberalized trade in this area. More sectors are opened in the CPTPP compared with the WTO, such as telecommunications, distribution and manufacturing sectors.

In addition, besides incorporating basic WTO principles (national treatment (NT), most-favored nation treatment (MFN), market access, and local presence), the CPTPP takes a negative approach, meaning that their markets are fully open to service suppliers from other CPTPP Parties, except otherwise indicated in their commitments (i.e, non-conforming measures). In order to make such reservations, the member state must prove the necessity of such preservation and negotiate with other member states. If approved, the non-conforming measures are only limited to such list, except for measures in certain sensitive sectors which are included in a separate list. Member states are only allowed to adopt policies that are better than what they commit (ratchet principle). The CPTPP also includes obligations on removal of performance requirements (i.e., no conditions on local content requirements, export conditions, use of certain technology, location of the investment project, etc.) and reasonable requirements on senior management and board of directors. Notably, the CPTPP Chapter on Investment for the first time makes it very clear and transparent concerning the MFN principle, that countries operating in multi-state regime must give foreign investors the best investment conditions of all states, regardless of the state where the investment takes place. Investors are also allowed to petition against the Government from the investment registration stage.


Textiles are among Vietnam’s core negotiating sectors. According to suggestions by the United States, negotiations on textiles were conducted separately from negotiations on market access for other goods. To be qualified for CPTPP preferential tariff treatment, the CPTPP applies the yarn-forward principle, meaning textile products must be produced in CPTPP countries from yarn forward. However, the CPTPP includes exceptions that allow (i) certain materials to be sourced from outside CPTPP (“Short supply list”), (ii) certain manufacturing phases (for example, dying, weaving, etc.) to be conducted outside CPTPP; and (iii) one country to be able to use non-CPTPP materials in exchange for its export of certain textile goods to another country.

Government procurement

The CPTPP makes a list of government entities and agencies whose procurement of a particular̉ goods and services at a particular amount must be subject to public tender. This chapter includes NT and MFN principles, removes tender conditions favoring local tenders such as using local goods or local suppliers, conditions on technology transfer or two-way trade and investment, etc. These rules require all parties, especially Vietnam, in the context of China’s bidders predominantly win the bids with cheap offer price but low-quality services, to reform their bidding procedures and protect their own interests by disqualifying tenders with poor performance and low capacity.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The CPTPP aims at protecting investors and their investment in the host country by introducing requirements on non-discrimination; fair and equitable treatment; full protection and security; the prohibition of expropriation that is not for public purpose, without due process, or without compensation; the free transfer of funds related to investments; and the freedom to appoint senior management positions regardless of nationality. For the first time investors may sue the Government for its violation of investment-related commitments.

CPTPP also includes procedures for arbitration as means of settling disputes between investors and the host state. It covers new provisions compared with existing agreements such as transparency in arbitral proceedings, disclosure of filings and arbitral awards, and participation of interested non-disputing parties to make amicus curiae submissions to a tribunal. Arbitral awards are final, binding and fully enforceable in CPTPP countries.

Application of the CPTPP and older/ existing agreements

Member states of the CPTPP acknowledge existing rights and obligations of each member under existing international agreements to which all CPTPP member states are parties (for example, the WTO Agreement, NAFTA, or bilateral agreements) or at least two member states are parties. In case there is any consistency between a provision of the CPTPP and a provision of another agreement to which at least two CPTPP member states are parties, these parties will consult with each other to reach a mutually satisfactory solution. Please note that the case where an agreement provides more favourable treatment of goods, services, investments or persons than that provided for under the CPTPP is not considered as an inconsistency.

Implementation deadline of the CPTPP

Brunei, Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam still have some outstanding issues, so further negotiations are necessary. Canada and Japan will also have to agree on auto rules in the CPTPP. However, negotiators have set the goal of signing the CPTPP in the first quarter of 2018. After that, all 11 countries will have to ratify it before it can come into effect.


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.





Spotlight on APEC and Vietnam

While Vietnam’s central city of Danang is abuzz with preparations for the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders’ Week, and the much-anticipated visit by US President Donald Trump, businesses and investors are waiting for clearer signals on the US approach to the country and the region.


Unlike the visit of former president Barack Obama in 2016 and his administration’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy, Donald Trump has been less forthcoming about his stance on Southeast Asia. The moves that have been made – scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for example, heavily suggest the US is pivoting away again, and have seriously dented Vietnam’s free trade aspirations.


Some remain upbeat, saying that President Trump’s attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang this November is a positive sign, underscoring the US’s commitment to the partnership between the two nations and the region as a whole.


Trump’s speech at the summit will likely be the first articulation of his administration’s strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region. The White House has indicated a United States’ “vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” The details of this vision will no doubt have a big impact on the way international businesses view the region in the years to come.


Planned meetings between Trump and Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi are hoped to continue the thawing of relations that was accelerated under the Obama administration. During Obama’s visit in 2016, the arms sanctions that had been in place for over five decades were lifted, effectively transforming Vietnam into one of the United States’ leading comprehensive strategic partners in the region. Companies from the two countries inked new commercial deals involving planes, engines and wind energy, worth more than US$16 billion. Now, Vietnam is a major trading partner and free-trade advocate.


Politically, it is hoped that some more flesh will be put on the bones of the US foreign policy towards Southeast Asia, particularly on subjects like the South China Sea.


Focus on free trade


Setting aside predictions on US behaviour, the summit in Danang will gather economic leaders of 21 APEC members to discuss issues of shared concern, including the future of trade in the region – an issue of heightened importance considering the demise of the TPP. APEC is a key trading bloc, comprising 39% of the world’s population, 59% of its GDP and 48% of its trade. It is also a proponent of free trade, and since its inception in 1989 average tariff rates among members have fallen by nearly two-thirds – from 13.3 per cent in 1989 to 5.1 per cent in 2015, while intra-regional trade has risen more than seven-fold. Vietnam’s average most-favoured-nations (MFN) tariffs declined from 18.5 per cent in 2007 to 9.5 per cent in 2015.


All APEC member economies have set trade and investment liberalisation as a priority, through reduced trade barriers and the promotion of the free flow of goods, services and capital among APEC economies.


The region as a whole has enjoyed strong economic growth, and Vietnam is considered an attractive investment location, with opportunities bolstered by an emerging middle class, a young population, a skilled labour force, competitive labour costs, strong GDP growth and a stable political climate.


Indeed, the trade liberalisation process encouraged by APEC is having a positive effect on FDI inflows into Vietnam. Japan in particular is showing a healthy interest, currently positioned as Vietnam’s second-biggest foreign investor, with 3,523 valid investment projects, registered at US$46.15 billion. Even without the TPP, Vietnam’s involvement in a number of other free trade agreements helps improve the country’s attractiveness to foreign investment.


If Vietnam continues adopting APEC-promoted institutional reforms, and thus reduces the fees and risks associated with doing business in the country, this attractiveness can only improve. Currently, more needs to be done to create a business-friendly investment environment and reassure businesses that trade and investment disputes can be resolved with little fuss. Reassuring investors is a key priority for Vietnam to maintain its growth trajectory. The successful involvement of the country in forums like APEC helps to present an image of economic stability and strong leadership underscores its commitment to issues raised at the summit.


All eyes on Danang


Through hosting the 2017 summit, Vietnam has the opportunity to showcase itself as a business tourism and conference destination. Discussions in Danang will seek to establish new drivers for economic growth and cement the role of APEC in tackling common challenges in the region. Vietnam’s position of leadership will enhance its stature on the world stage and initiatives raised could attract global interest.


Large-scale FDI projects from APEC members have already made significant contributions to Vietnam’s socio-economic development. Giants like Samsung, Intel and Honda have established a presence in the country and could consider increasing their investments. Smaller players may also see similar potential.


For local businesses, the APEC meeting presents a golden opportunity to promote trade and investment with foreign partners. Representatives from thousands of international enterprises are expected to descend on the beachside resort, allowing for prime networking and the establishment of partnerships. Vietnam’s investment climate has improved markedly since it last hosted the summit in 2006, so observers can expect even more deals to come out of Danang.


For more information about Vietnam and APEC, 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.


Überblick über das Transpazifische Partnerschaftsabkommen (TPP)

Das TPP wurde ursprünglich bekannt als „Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership“, das 2006 zwischen Singapur, Neuseeland, Chile und Brunei als „P-4-Abkommen“ abgeschlossen wurde als Mittel zur Förderung der Handelsliberalisierung im asiatisch-pazifischen Raum. Wie der Name schon sagt, war der ursprüngliche Zweck der Vereinbarung nur, ökonomische Fragen zu betreffen. Da die Zahl der teilnehmenden Länder in der P-4-Vereinbarung gestiegen ist, beginnend mit den Vereinigten Staaten im September 2008 (welche aber 2017 wieder terminiert haben) und anderen Ländern, wie Australien, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Kanada, Mexiko und Japan bis Juli 2013 zu folgen, wird die Vereinbarung vereinbart “Eine umfassende, regionale Vereinbarung der nächsten Generation, die Handel und Investitionen liberalisiert und neue und traditionelle Handelsfragen und Herausforderungen des 21. Jahrhunderts anspricht” von den TPP-Handelsministern. Im Juni 2015 genehmigten die Vereinigten Staaten die Handelsförderungsbehörde für Präsident Obama. Die Vereinbarung endlich wird so, wie es heute durch harte Verhandlungsrunden ist, während die letzte Runde in Atlanta im September 2015 als die intensivste war. Die Verhandlungen zum TPP wurden bereits am 06. Oktober 2015 abgeschlossen. Im Februar kuendigten die USA das TPP worauf alle anderen Staaten sich einigten, das Schicksal des TPP im November 2017 endlich zu beschließen, wobei jetzt schon klar ist, dass die Mehrheit der Unterzeichnerstaaten das abkommen ratifizieren will (TPP11).

Der erfolgreiche Abschluss der TPP-Verhandlungen fügt Vietnam einer Gemeinschaft von 11 Nationen hinzu, die 28% des weltweiten Handels ausmacht.

Vietnam wäre der größte Profiteur dieses Handelspaktes. Das BIP in Vietnam würde eine sich zusätzlich um 13,6% steigern. Nach dem Weltwirtschaftsforum wird Vietnam voraussichtlich im Vergleich zu anderen TPP-Volkswirtschaften, RECP-Volkswirtschaften und RCEP-Volkswirtschaften die bedeutendste Veränderung des BIP im Jahr 2025 (d.h. 28,2%) aufweisen. Die Reallöhne von Vietnam werden bis 2025 ebenfalls voraussichtlich um 10,5% ansteigen, so dass Malaysias als zweithöchstes Einkommensaufsteigerland aus den TPP-Mitgliedern weit hinter sich gelassen werden wird.

Das TTP wird Vietnam dabei helfen, internationale Kooperationsmöglichkeiten zu nutzen, die Beziehungen zu den wichtigsten Märkten auszugleichen, sich größeren Märkten zu nähern, darunter Japan, Kanada, den Im- und Export zu steigern, das Import-Defizit zu reduzieren und ausländische Investitionen zu vergrößern. Darüber hinaus wird TTP auch dazu beitragen, dass die Wirtschaft Vietnams ihre Ressourcen effektiver nutzt und aktive Unterstützung der Prozesse der Umstrukturierung, der Innovation und der Verbesserung der Vorschriften ermöglicht und die Verwaltungsreformen verbessert.

Was macht das TPP zur Vorlage für kommende Vereinbarungen – Welche Verpflichtungen liegen außerhalb des WTO-Niveaus?

Die freiere Handelszone

Verpflichtungen im Handel mit Waren

Tarif- und nichttarifgebundene Handelshemmnisse werden im gesamten Handel mit Dienstleistungen und Waren im Rahmen des TPP erheblich reduziert und entfernt. Einfuhrzölle werden zu 100% für Waren reduziert, die zwischen den Mitgliedsstaaten gehandelt werden, wobei mehr als 90% sofort bei Abschluss des Abkommens beseitigt werden. Das TPP umfasst auch Fragen, die in Abkommen der WTO noch nicht angesprochen wurden, einschließlich der Ausfuhrabgaben, der Einfuhrzölle für Wiederverkäufe, des Marktzugangs für neu gestaltete Waren, strengere Vorschriften für Einfuhr- und Ausfuhrlizenzen, Monopole und Waren im Transit. Niedrigere Tarifbarrieren aus dem TPP geben Vietnam einen größeren Zugang zu großen Verbrauchermärkten in den USA, Japan, Kanada und Australien. Die potenziellen positiven Auswirkungen auf den Handel könnten transformativ sein, mit Schätzungen, dass das TPP die Ausfuhren Vietnams um über 37% bis 2025 steigern wird. Bemerkenswerterweise schloss Vietnam im August auch das Freihandelsabkommen mit der EU ab und ist somit dabei, Freihandelsabkommen mit drei seiner vier größten Exportziele – der EU, Japan und den USA – abzuschließen.

Verpflichtungen im Handel mit Dienstleistungen und Investitionen

Alle 12 Mitgliedsstaaten eröffnen die Möglichkeit eines liberalisierten Handels in diesem Bereich. Mehrere Sektoren werden im TPP im Vergleich zur WTO eröffnet, wie z.B. Telekommunikation, Vertrieb und Fertigung.

Darüber hinaus nimmt das TPP neben der Einbeziehung von grundlegenden WTO-Grundsätzen (nationale Behandlung (NT), Meistbegünstigung (MFN), Marktzugang und lokaler Präsenz) einen negativen Ansatz ein, so dass ihre Märkte für Dienstleister voll offen sind. Andere TPP-Parteien, soweit diese in ihren Verpflichtungen nichts anderes eingegangen sind (d.h. nicht- konforme Maßnahmen). Um solche Vorbehalte zu erheben, muss der Mitgliedsstaat die Notwendigkeit einer solchen Erhaltung und Verhandlung mit anderen Mitgliedsstaaten nachweisen. Bei der Genehmigung sind die nicht-konformen Maßnahmen nur auf solche Listen beschränkt, mit Ausnahme von Maßnahmen in bestimmten sensiblen Sektoren, die in einer separaten Liste enthalten sind. Die Mitgliedstaaten sind nur berechtigt, Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, die bereits besser sind als das bestehende (Ratchet-Prinzip). Das TPP schließt auch Verpflichtungen zur Beseitigung von Leistungsanforderungen ein (d.h. keine Bedingungen für lokale Anforderungen an Inhalte, Exportbedingungen, Nutzungen bestimmter Technologien, Standort des Investitionsprojekts usw.) und angemessene Anforderungen an die Geschäftsleitung und den Vorstand. Bemerkenswert ist, dass das TPP-Kapitel über Investitionen erstmals sehr klar und transparent im Hinblick auf das MFN-Prinzip ist, dass die Länder, die im Mehrstaatsregime tätig sind, den ausländischen Investoren die besten Investitionsbedingungen aller Staaten geben müssen, unabhängig von dem Staat, in dem die Investition findet statt. Investoren sind auch berechtigt, gegen die Regierung von der Investitionsregistrierung Anträge zu stellen.


Textilien gehören zu den wichtigsten Handelswaren Vietnams. Nach Vorschlägen der Vereinigten Staaten wurden die Verhandlungen über Textilien getrennt von Verhandlungen über den Marktzugang für andere Güter geführt. Um für die TPP-Präferenzzollbehandlung qualifiziert zu sein, wendet das TPP das Stoff-Verarbeitungs-Prinzip an, d.h. Textilprodukte müssen in TPP-Ländern aus Stoffen vorbereitet werden. Allerdings enthält das TPP Ausnahmen, die es erlauben, dass (i) bestimmte Materialien von außerhalb TPP bezogen werden (“Short supply list”), (ii) bestimmte Fertigungsphasen (z.B. Färben, Weben usw.), die außerhalb von TPP durchgeführt werden sollen; Und (iii) ein Land, um Nicht-TPP-Materialien im Austausch für die Ausfuhr bestimmter Textilwaren in ein anderes Land verwenden zu können.

Staatliche Logistik

Das TPP macht eine Liste von Regierungsstellen und Agenturen, deren Logistik von bestimmten Waren und Dienstleistungen in einem bestimmten Betrag der öffentlichen Ausschreibung unterliegen muss. Dieses Kapitel enthält NT- und MFN-Prinzipien, entfernt bevorzugte Bedingungen, die lokale Ausschreibungen wie die Verwendung lokaler Güter oder lokaler Lieferanten, Bedingungen für den Technologietransfer oder den Zwei-Wege-Handel und die Investition usw. begünstigen. Diese Regelungen erfordern die Mitarbeit aller Parteien, insbesondere Vietnams, in Bezug auf Chinas Vorreiterstellung durch die vielen Angebote mit niedrigem Angebotspreis, aber qualitativ minderwertigen Dienstleistungen, ihre Gebotsverfahren zu reformieren und ihre eigenen Interessen zu schützen, indem sie die Angebote mit schlechter Leistung und geringer Kapazität disqualifizieren.

Streitbeilegung zwischen Investoren und Staaten

Das TPP zielt darauf ab, Investoren und ihre Investitionen in das Gastland zu schützen, indem sie Anforderungen an die Nichtdiskriminierung einführt; eine gerechte Behandlung einfordert; einen vollen Schutz und Sicherheit wahrt; das Verbot der Enteignung, das nicht für den öffentlichen Zweck, ohne ordnungsgemäßen Prozess oder ohne Entschädigung ist; die freie Übertragung von Mitteln im Zusammenhang mit Investitionen; und die Freiheit, Führungspositionen unabhängig von der Nationalität zu ernennen.

Das TPP enthält auch Verfahren für die Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit als Mittel zur Beilegung von Streitigkeiten zwischen Investoren und dem Aufnahmestaat. Es deckt neue Bestimmungen im Vergleich zu bestehenden Vereinbarungen wie Transparenz in Schiedsverfahren, Offenlegung von Einreichungen und Schiedssprüchen und die Beteiligung interessierter nicht streitender Parteien, um amicus curiae (lat. für: unabhängige Sachverständige) Entscheidungen zu erhalten.

Vereinbarkeit des TPP und älterer / bestehender Vereinbarungen

Die Mitgliedsstaaten des TPP erkennen die bestehenden Rechte und Pflichten jedes Mitglieds im Rahmen bestehender internationaler Vereinbarungen an, zu denen alle TPP-Mitgliedsstaaten Parteien sind (z.B. WTO-Abkommen, NAFTA oder weitere bilaterale Abkommen) oder von den mindestens zwei Mitgliedsstaaten Parteien sind. Im Falle einer Kollision zwischen einer Bestimmung des TPP und einer Bestimmung einer anderen Vereinbarung, auf die mindestens zwei TPP-Mitgliedsstaaten Parteien sind, werden diese Parteien miteinander eine gemeinsame zufriedenstellende Lösung erreichen. Bitte beachten Sie, dass der Fall in dem eine andere Vereinbarung eine günstigere Behandlung von Waren, Dienstleistungen, Investitionen oder Personen als die Behandlung des TPP vorsieht, nicht als Inkonsistenz angesehen wird.

Frist der Umsetzung des TPP

Am 04. Februar 2016 trafen sich die Handelsminister in Neuseeland, um das Abkommen zu unterzeichnen, damit es in den einzelnen Mitgliedstaaten im nächsten Schritt vor dem Inkrafttreten des Abkommens ratifiziert wird. Die TPP wird nicht wirksam, wenn nicht mindestens sechs Länder, die 85% des BIP des Blocks ausmachen, es ratifizieren. Laut dem Vietnamesischen Minister für Industrie und Handel, Herrn Vu Huy Hoang, wird erwartet, dass das TPP im Jahr 2018 in Kraft tritt auch ohne die USA! Dies wird auf dem APEC Treffen im November 2017 entschieden.


Bitte zögern Sie nicht, Herrn Rechtsanwalt Dr. Oliver Massmann unter omassmann@duanemorris.com zu kontaktieren, sofern Sie Fragen haben oder mehr darüber erfahren möchten. Dr. Oliver Massmann ist der Geschäftsführer von Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Vielen Dank!






ドナルド・トランプ氏への手紙 環太平洋経済連携協定 – 絶好のチャンスを逃す危機 オリバー・マスマン  ドウェイン・モリス・ベトナム法律事務所 代表









  GDP(米ドル) 政府調達のGDPのパーセンテージ(%) 政府調達の総額(米ドル)
オーストラリア 1兆5,600億 12.44 194,064,000,000
ブルネイ 114億7,000万 4.1 470,270,000
カナダ 1兆8,270億 13.34 243,721,800,000
チリ 1799億 2.9 5,217,100,000
マレーシア 3053億 25 76,325,000,000
メキシコ 1兆2,610億 5.16 65,067,600,000
ニュージーランド 1858億 14.56 27,052,480,000
ペルー 1926億 17.6 33,897,600,000
シンガポール 2741億 9.74 26,697,340,000
ベトナム 1714億 12.84 21,000,000,000 -22,000,000,000
日本 TPP批准済) 4兆9,200億 16.22 798,024,000,000


















Letter to Mr. Donald Trump – Trans-Pacific Partnership – Don’t drop your Slice of the Pie


From Oliver Massmann – General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC

Dear Mr. Trump,

With respect to your recent statement that you will withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) right on day one of your office, we kindly request you to reconsider the possibility of your ratification of the TPP.

Dropping the TPP means that the U.S will lose access to government procurement of other TPP countries which amounts to USD1.492 trillion. The high standard of the government procurement chapter in the TPP can nowhere be found in existing international agreements. Moreover, it could take the U.S another decade to reach a bilateral agreement with government procurement standard as high as in the TPP. It is of utmost importance for the U.S to save time, jobs, and of course, billions of dollars by ratifying the TPP instead of negotiating a new one.

We believe the following facts will help with your decision and clearly show how TPP would help you to make America great again. What may interest you is the extremely high number of government procurement in the TPP country members from which America could benefit.

As you may already know, the population of the TPP countries exceeds 494 million people as of July 2015. The TPP countries account for 44.8 percent of U.S. total exports and 37.6 percent of U.S. general imports in 2014. By cutting over 18,000 taxes in regards to TPP, there would be a great benefit for American im- and exporters by enabling them to enter new markets.

As the U.S. international trade commission estimates, the U.S. exports of goods and services to the world would expand by USD27.2 billion by 2032 due to the TPP, while U.S. imports would expand by USD48.9 billion.

In the following table the data of each TPP country is listed to show you the procurement market American investors may get access:

  GDP (USD) Government procurement’s percentage of GDP (%) Total value of Government procurement (USD)
Australia 1.56 trillion 12.44 194,064,000,000
Brunei 11.47 billion 4.1 470,270,000
Canada 1.827 trillion 13.34 243,721,800,000
Chile 179.9 billion 2.9 5,217,100,000
Malaysia 305.3 billion 25 76,325,000,000
Mexico 1.261 trillion 5.16 65,067,600,000
New Zealand 185.8 billion 14.56 27,052,480,000
Peru 192.6 billion 17.6 33,897,600,000
Singapore 274.1 billion 9.74 26,697,340,000
Vietnam 171.4 billion 12.84 21,000,000,000 -22,000,000,000
Japan (ratified TPP) 4.92 trillion 16.22 798,024,000,000

Note: Data taken during the period of 2006-2017

As shown above government procurement of the TPP states is $1.492 trillion in total!

And those are old numbers. Most of the countries are states with strong economic growth. The sum may be much higher now.

How could America not want to get a slice of this fat pie?

The great advance of the TPP will be that even the three countries Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei which have not agreed to coverage of their government procurement ever before and are currently not covered by an existing U.S. Free Trade Agreement or the Government Procurement Agreement of the WTO (GPA), have undertaken to do so. This is a key export opportunity for U.S. goods producers and services companies. Currently Chinese companies profit the most. 90% of power, mining, manufacturing, ferrous and chemical projects of state-owned companies in Vietnam are awarded to Chinese contractors. China State Construction Engineering Corp. (CSCEC) keeps winning important contracts although it has a poor track record and has even been blacklisted by the World Bank due to bribery charges. With TPP that market would be open to US companies which probably would be welcomed.

Some Asian-Pacific and other countries have formal policies in place disadvantaging foreign tenderers. TPP will make it possible for the first time that an American cooperation could sue for example the Republic of Vietnam or Malaysia. The procedural and legal changes regarding government procurement will enable U.S. exporters to reach markets that were closed before and compete more effectively.

In addition Canada has agreed to replace the commitments in NAFTA and update them to the level of TPP. The new level of GPA is based upon the WTO 2014 guidance and provides stronger commitments than the NAFTA.

America cannot wait until bilateral agreements might be settled!

12 years have already passed since the first negotiations on TPP started. As international agreements like NAFTA (4 years), COMESA (16 years) or SAFTA (9 year) require a lot of time to be settled, bilateral agreements will do so as well. And there is no guarantee of success. In fact it is rather unlikely. Countries like Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam took huge steps by agreeing to a regulation of government procurement. How long a bilateral agreement would take, may be shown by the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) which took 4 years before it was concluded. However, the EVFTA does not reach the standard of the TPP regarding the Chapter on Government Procurement. The creation of a fair, transparent, predictable and non-discriminatory market should not be postponed. The level of GPA might be as high as never before. It is extremely unlikely that a better agreement could be negotiated but more likely that the U.S. will be replaced by China or Russia. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe already stated that China would be a possible replacement. But not only Japan would turn towards China. Negotiations of Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei regarding an FTA with China already began.

Skipping this agreement would cost America billions of money and would cut off American jobs. Negotiating bilateral agreements would cost America many years, billions of Dollars and it is highly unlikely that it would reach a GPA standard  that would be even close to TPP.

Is America’s interest able to wait?

The answer is NO!


Oliver Massmann


*Should you require any supporting evidence for the statements above, we will provide them immediately.



Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Why it is best to start preparing for transactions now in Vietnam ?


Vietnam has concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) and the EU- Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”). Meanwhile, the ASEAN Economic Community (“AEC”), which Vietnam became a full member in 1995, has been established since the end of 2015. With such deep integration into the multilateral and regional economy, Vietnam is expected to be an attractive investment environment for investors and witness a significant growth in the upcoming years.

Vietnam has made progress over 3 continuous years to reach 56th position in 2015 on the Global Competitiveness Index list, a jump of 12 positions compared to 2014. It is noteworthy that Vietnam is more competitive than 6 European Union countries on this list. Even more notably, 4 out of these 6 countries, namely Slovenia, Cyprus, Slovakia and Greece, are considered as advanced global economies, and have the GDP per capita of at least USD17,700, eight times more than Vietnam.

Samsung Electronics Company has decided to choose Vietnam as the Number 1 country to put their world largest mobile and tablet production and invested more than 6 Billion USD after a researching worldwide. Also major Japanese companies are convinced Vietnam is a top investment destination and become the largest investors in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Government has made great attempts to develop itself by opening its economy to international trade, investments and free movement of people. The following section provides an overview of these free trade agreements and the AEC to help investors understand what is awaiting them ahead and decide their investment in Vietnam.


The TPP was originally known as the Trans- Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership concluded in 2006 among Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei (P-4 agreement) as a means to promote trade liberalization in the Asia- Pacific Region. As its name indicates, the original purpose of the agreement was only to address economic issues. As the number of participating countries in the P-4 agreement increased, starting with the United States in September 2008 and other countries to follow being Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Japan until July 2013, the agreement is agreed to be “a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges” by TPP Trade ministers. In June 2015, the United States approved the trade promotion authority for President Obama. The Agreement finally becomes as it is today through tough negotiation rounds, while the last round in Atlanta in September 2015 was considered the most intensive one. The TPP was already concluded on 06 October 2015.

TPP Market Snapshot
·         GDP: US$28,136.0 billion (2012)

·         GDP per capita: US$35,488 (2012)

·         Population: 792.8 million (2012)

·         TPP % of world GDP: 39.0% (2012)

·         TPP % of world population: 11.3% (2012)

·         TPP % of world trade: 25.8% (2012)

The TPP includes thirty chapters with deep focus on comprehensive market access, a fully regional agreement, cross-cutting issues (regulatory coherence, competiveness and business facilitation, small and medium sized enterprises, and development), and new trade challenges (particularly rules on state owned enterprises and government procurement).

The TPP would expand market access in goods and services among its signatories. The market access issues include liberalization of trade barriers protecting dairy, sugar, and rice; tariffs and origin rules affecting textiles, clothing, and footwear; and services trade reforms, especially financial services, insurance, and labor services.

Vietnam would be the largest beneficiary of this trade pact, resulting from its strong trade ties with the United States, high level of protection against its main exports (i.e., apparel and footwear), and its highly competitive positions in industries such as manufacturing where China is gradually losing its competitive advantage. Statistics shows that by participating in the TPP, Vietnam’s GDP would add an additional increase of 13.6% to the baseline scenario.

TTP will help Vietnam make good use of international cooperation opportunities, balance relationships with key markets, approach larger markets including the U.S, Japan, Canada, boost import-export, reduce import deficit, and attract foreign investment. In addition, TTP will also help Vietnam’s economy allocate its resources more effectively, enabling active supports to the processes of restructuring, innovation and improving regulations, and improve administrative reforms.

Higher income will help Vietnam to invest more and grow more

Vietnam is among the largest income gains in TPP

The TPP is now being submitted for ratification in each country before it officially takes effect. Despite all political concerns, we strongly believe that the TPP will finally be implemented in 2018.


The AEC originates from the ASEAN Vision 2020, which was adopted in 1997 on the 30th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, made up of Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (ASEAN). With a population of more than 600 million and a nominal GDP of about $2.31 trillion, ASEAN is a strong economic community in Asia and also a driver of global growth.

The AEC encompass the following characteristics: (i) a single market and production base, (ii) a highly competitive economic region, (iii) a region of equitable economic development, and (iv) a region fully integrated into the global economy.

The AEC is expected to be an area where goods can circulate freely and in which custom duties on goods will be gradually reduced to 0%. It will establish ASEAN as a single market and production base, making ASEAN more dynamic and competitive with new mechanisms and measures to strengthen the implementation of its existing economic initiatives; accelerating regional integration in the prioritized sectors; facilitating movement of business persons, skilled labor and talents; and strengthening the institutional mechanisms of ASEAN.

The free flow of investment will also offer enhanced investment protection to all ASEAN investors and their investments in other ASEAN member countries, including the settlement mechanism of an investor state dispute based on a non-discrimination principle when investing in other ASEAN countries. Those principles play a very important role in providing investor confidence when making cross-border investment.

Once the AEC is completed, it will be a unified market, a common manufacturing area seeking for more dynamic and competitive development and to create new opportunities for tariff reductions as well as other trade incentives.

AEC Market Snapshot
·         GDP: US$2311.3 billion (2012)

·         GDP per capita: US$3748.4 (2012)

·         Population: 620 million, 60% under the age of 35

·         AEC % of world GDP: ~3.3%

·         AEC % of world population: 9%

·         AEC’s merchandise exports: US$1.2 trillion – ~54% of total ASEAN GDP and 7% of global exports

·         If ASEAN were one economy, it would be the 7th largest in the world – 4th largest by 2050 if growth trends continue


On 02 December 2015, after nearly 3 years with 14 rounds of negotiations, the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, H.E. Vu Huy Hoang and the European Commissioner for Trade, H.E. Cecilia Malmström have signed the EVFTA. Both parties will finalize the ratification process as soon as possible for the EVFTA to take effect from the beginning of 2018.

The EVFTA is considered one of the most comprehensive and ambitious trade and investment agreements. It is the second agreement in the ASEAN region after Singapore and it will intensify the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the EU.

The agreement has separate chapters on Trade of Goods, Rules of Origin, Customs and Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures and Technical Barriers to Trade, Trade in Services, Investment, Trade Remedies, competition, State-Owned Enterprises, Government Procurement, Intellectual Property, sustainable Development, Cooperation and Capacity Building, Legal and Institutional Issues.

Nearly all customs duties – over 99% of the tariffs will be eliminated. The small remaining number is mainly due to the transition period. Vietnam will liberalize 65% of import duties on EU exports to Vietnam at entry into force and the remaining duties will be eliminated due to the next ten years; EU duties will be eliminated over a seven year period. The market will be opened for most of EU food products, i.e. wine, spirits and frozen pork meat will be liberalized after seven years and dairy products after a maximum of five years. The EU will eliminate duties for some sensitive products in the textile and footwear sector. The EU has offered access to Vietnamese exports via tariff rate quotas (TRQs), because some sensitive agricultural products will not be fully liberalized. Furthermore, the agreement will contain an annex with provisions to address non-tariff barriers in the automotive sector. Vietnamese exports of textile, clothing and footwear to the EU are expected to more than double in 2020 as a result of  the EVFTA.

The EVFTA will help to increase quality of investment flows from EU, accelerate the process of sharing expertise and transfer of green technology and the creation of more employment activities.

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 is 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.

Vietnam’s GDP is expected to increase by 0.5% annually, increase in exports is 4-6% per year. If this trend continues until 2020, Vietnam’s exports to 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.

In 2013, the EU was Vietnam’s second biggest trade partner with a total value of trade in goods of EUR 24.2 billion. In the same the EU was also Vietnam’s biggest export market with EUR 21 billion, representing 19% of Vietnam’s total export. Vietnam’s export to EU increased by 28% from 2012 to 2013. In addition, the EU is among the biggest investors in Vietnam, with 1,810 FDI projects in 2013. The EU committed to continuing to support with the foreseen assistance amount of EUR 400 million in the coming six years. EU exports to Vietnam are dominated by high-tech products including electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products. Vietnam’s key export items to the EU include telephone sets, electronic products, footwear, textiles and clothing, coffee, rice, aqua products, and furniture.

Conclusion: Why investment in Vietnam now?

  • Vietnam ties in first place with Singapore, thus it provides highest possible protection for investment
Country Limitation of market access* Country Limitation of market access*
Malaysia medium Myanmar high
Indonesia medium Cambodia medium
Philippines medium Laos medium
Singapore low India high
Thailand medium China medium
Brunei high Vietnam low

*Typical restrictions: number of opened sectors, JV requirement, limits on foreign-owned shares, permission requirement

  • Vietnam has the fastest growing middle class with a very good demographic situation: about 90 Million people of which about 50 percent are under 30 years old.
  • Expectations of Vietnam parties might get unreasonable, the same as after Vietnam acceded to the WTO in 2007 and no projects could be done.
  • Market opening in certain sectors, for example, media, and there could be more competing companies from the AEC with better market access to Vietnam. Thus, it is vital that investors start working on their projects now to position themselves as early as possible before the coming into effect of the trade pacts.


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.


The National Assembly of Vietnam invited Oliver Massmann to present on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and its Impact on Vietnam




I thank the Members of the National Assembly of Vietnam very much for giving me the opportunity to present. I am very happy about the very positive feedback the Members of the National Assembly gave me for my presentation. I feel very honored!

Oliver Massmann

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement – Ratification and Key Impact for Vietnam

If the TPP is ratified and goes into effect, what do you see as the key areas of impact on Vietnam and its economic future?
Answer: Vietnam would be the largest beneficiary of this trade pact. Statistics show that by participating in the TPP, Vietnam’s GDP would add an additional increase of 13.6% to the baseline scenario. According to the World Bank and other institutions, Vietnam’s GDP in 2020 will increase by USD 23.5 billion and USD33.5 billion in 2035. Export value will also increase by USD 68 billion in 2025. Vietnam’s real income by 2025 is also forecast to increase by 10.5%, leaving Malaysia’s as the second highest income rising country out of the TPP members far behind at 5.6%.
TTP will help Vietnam balance relationships with key markets, approach larger markets including the U.S, Japan, Canada, boost import-export, reduce import deficit, and attract foreign investment. In addition, TTP will also help Vietnam’s economy allocate its resources more effectively, enabling active supports to the processes of restructuring, innovation and improving regulations, and improve administrative reforms.

What industries do you see within Vietnam would benefit the most, and where do you see major risks to established industries if the TPP is ratified?
Answer: The TPP will have significant positive impact on Vietnam’s exports in textile, footwear, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. This is due to major reduction in import duties for goods from Vietnam, especially in Japan and the United States. Supply chain established after the effectiveness of the TPP will also bring Vietnam a lot of new opportunities. Recently, many big corporations have chosen Vietnam as a part of their production chain of high tech products. The TPP will help to develop this trend.
The livestock industry will suffer from fierce competition as a result of the TPP. In Vietnam, the livestock industry is still small, not modernized, mainly household scale with participation of small and medium enterprises. Products have certain difficulties in meeting high quality and sanitary standards.
Textile industry is also a sector which bears negative impact from the TPP. The yarn-forward rule of origin makes Vietnam’s textile products difficult to be entitled with preferential import duties, as the domestic weaving industry has not well developed. Vietnam still has to import cloth and fabrics from non-TPP countries (for example, China). The textile industry sees this as an opportunity to re-structure the whole industry and improve the supply chain.

In your view, if the US does not ratify the TPP, do you see the RCEP as a replacement for Vietnam? And if so, what do you see as the major impacts (positive or negative) on Vietnam, as a result of implementing the RCEP without having a TPP?
Answer: I take a positive view that the TPP will sooner or later be ratified. However, in the unlikely worst scenario that the TPP will not be materialized, Vietnam will lose a great opportunity to integrate its economy deeper in the Asia- Pacific Region. RCEP has a lower level of trade liberalization and smaller commercial scale. RCEP does also not take a single-package approach, or in other words, it is not a comprehensive trade agreement which covers new issues of the era such as labour and environment standards, competition, SOEs, government procurement, IP rights, etc.) as the TPP. Thus, RCEP’s positive impacts on transforming Vietnam’s economy will not be as large as the TPP’s. Without the TPP, Vietnam will face strong competition from China – which is not a party to the TPP and this is Vietnam’s advantage over China. RCEP will put Vietnam in a disadvantaged situation in its relationship with China as a result of more liberalized and preferential bilateral trade from RCEP. Vietnam will no longer benefit from RCEP due to the similarities in the export structure between Vietnam and China.

If the TPP is ratified and goes into effect, do you see any effect with Vietnam – China trade? Especially given that there is already a trade agreement in place as part of the ACFTA.
Answer: Vietnam’s participation in the TPP will not harm Vietnam – China trade. I note that Vietnam has great trade deficits with China. However, while China is the biggest trading partner of Vietnam in terms of two-way trade, the United States is still Vietnam’s largest market. By being part of the TPP, Vietnam can take advantage of this opportunity to access to other TPP members’ market, improve its competitive capacity, thus reducing its reliance on China. Vietnam – China trade relations will then be improved towards better balance, stability and for mutual benefits.
Please contact the author Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

The TPP: A Win for Vietnam’s Workers

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the first trade agreement to subject Vietnam to enforceable labor commitments.”
By Oliver Massmann for The Diplomat
April 20, 2016

In the last decade, free trade agreements (FTAs) have expanded to cover more than traditional commercial matters like tariff reductions. Recent FTAs have increasingly included labor requirements to protect workers, especially in countries where companies pursue low-cost production through depressed wages, poor working conditions, and other subpar labor standards. This has dramatic effects on countries like Vietnam, where I have practiced law for 20 years. But even though FTAs regulating labor matters have increased dramatically in recent years, from four agreements in 1995 to 72 by 2015, Vietnam has refused to commit to labor requirements in FTAs — until now.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the first trade agreement to subject Vietnam to enforceable labor commitments like freedom of association, collective bargaining, and minimum work conditions. Additionally, Vietnam signed a labor implementation plan with the United States that identifies specific actions needed to comply with TPP and which are subject to an additional layer of enforcement. It is clear TPP lives up to its name as a “21st century agreement,” enacting the strongest labor provisions of any trade deal, giving the opportunity to improve living standards and the quality of work for Vietnam’s people. These advances range across a number of different areas:
Freedom of Association
The most far-reaching change to Vietnam’s labor landscape is on freedom of association. Currently, Vietnam only recognizes a limited right to organize. Vietnam’s Trade Union Law states that a trade union is a “socio-political organization of the working class and laborers… part of the political system of the Vietnamese society, placed under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.” As such, Vietnam does not have a pluralistic union regime. In other words, workers are not allowed to establish more than one trade union focused on protecting their interests regarding their employment. Instead, the only option is to join the one trade union available, Vietnam’s General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), under the direction of the Communist Party.
The VGCL has poorly represented and protected the rights and legitimate interests of its members and workers. In my time here, we have barely seen the presence of VGCL in demonstrations and strikes for social insurance or payment of backwages to hundred of workers when enterprises close down. This inaction is due to the lack of independence and representation in trade union leadership. Essentially, members of VGCL from the district level all the way to the top are government officials instead of workers. This will change with the TPP.
Article 19.3 requires all TPP parties to adopt and maintain regulations that comply with the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including freedom of association. This broad requirement is detailed in the U.S.-Vietnam Plan for the Enhancement of Trade and Labor Relations, which lays out the statutes and language for Vietnam to come into compliance with the TPP. Key reforms include provisions that ensure all workers be permitted to “form a grassroots labor union of their own choosing … without prior authorization” and with the right to “autonomously elect its representatives.” This means that workers can finally organize unions independent from the VGCL that are run by workers. This is significant because it empowers employees to protect their own interest — particularly when it comes to collective bargaining.
Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining is the negotiation between the representatives of the labor collective and the employer to establish working conditions formalized in a collective labor agreement (CLA). As a result, a CLA between employees and employer will define working conditions, labor usage, and obligations of each party in their employment relationship. The CLA serves as the basic document detailing legal requirements in each enterprise and grants workers the chance to negotiate with their employer for labor terms better than statutorily required. As such, a CLA is critical in an employment relationship.
Given their importance, many enterprises in Vietnam have prepared and implemented CLAs. However, many enterprises often use CLAs to temporarily deal with pressure from authorities and include terms contrary to or less favorable than statutorily required. The reason for such low-quality CLAs range from a lack of awareness of procedure to government influence on self-selected union leaders. Given the wide range of issues preventing high-quality CLAs in Vietnam, the TPP makes a number of important reforms.
Article 19.3 requires all TPP parties to adopt and maintain regulations for the “effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.” Moreover, the TPP supports better negotiating outcomes by ensuring unions can consult “international worker organizations” regarding labor union activities like collective bargaining and securing autonomy of grassroots labor unions from upper-level unions. Combined with the protection for independent association, the TPP gets to the heart of the system plaguing collective bargaining from adequately serving worker’s interests in Vietnam–setting the regulatory framework for improved labor conditions.
Vietnam is held accountable to these labor commitments through TPP’s enforcement mechanism. Like all TPP partners, Vietnam is subject to dispute settlement with the weight of trade sanctions if it systematically fails to uphold its commitments under the Labor Chapter. More significantly, the details in the implementation plan must be completed before any benefits of the trade agreement can flow to Vietnam. Therefore, there are two layers of enforcement specifically for labor obligations: one to facilitate rapid regulatory reform, and another to maintain compliance.
With this comprehensive approach, I am optimistic the TPP will bring positive changes to the labor environment in Vietnam over the next five years. When labor unions finally speak with the voices of workers, there will be improvement in living standards and individual rights. This is exactly what the TPP promises. As such, both the United States and Vietnam must urgently take action to pass the TPP and seize the opportunity for a better civil society in Vietnam.
Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.