Tag Archives: vietnam

VIETNAM – SOLAR POWER SECTOR – NEW MODEL PPA FOR ROOFTOP SOLAR POWER PROJECTS

On 8 January 2019, the Prime Minister issued Decision 02 to amend certain articles of Decision 11 on mechanism for encouragement of development of solar power in Vietnam. Decision 02 promulgates new payment scheme to replace the troublesome net-metering structure of the rooftop solar power projects under Decision 11. However, Decision 02 was alleged to be a lackluster as it did not provide any model PPA for rooftop solar power projects and it only applies to limited rooftop solar power projects which having commercial operation date – COD, together with electricity meter readings confirmation, prior to 1 July 2019. It is worth noting that Circular 16 required a rooftop solar power generator to enter into a model PPA (in the form attached to Circular 16) with EVN or its authorized subsidiary. However, such model PPA and the net-metering under Circular 16 were not supported by EVN due to its payment complexity nature. In fact, following Decision 02, Ministry of Industry and Trade (”MOIT”) did not issue any model PPA for rooftop solar power project to support Decision 02 until 11 March 2019.

On 11 March 2019, the MOIT has issued Circular 05/2019/TT-BCT (“Circular 05”) to replace old model PPA for rooftop solar power projects attached to Circular 16 and extend the FITs for all rooftop solar power projects. Circular 05 will become effective on 25 April 2019. We highlight some key items of this Circular as follows:

FITs for all Rooftop Solar Power Projects

Circular 05 has abolished the requirement on COD deadline of rooftop solar power projects to enjoy FITs in Article 16 of Circular 16.

Prior to 1 January 2018, FIT for rooftop solar power projects is VND2,086 / kWh not inclusive of VAT (approx. USD9.35 as the central exchange rate between VND / USD of the State Bank of Vietnam on 10 April 2017, i.e., VND22,316 / USD1). This FIT is supposed to apply for outstanding rooftop solar power projects came into operation prior to 1 January 2018.

From 1 January 2018 onward, the FIT must be adjusted according to the last applicable central exchange rate between VND / USD issued by the SBV on the previous year.

Improved Model PPA for Rooftop Solar Power Projects

The new model PPA has been simplified for the sale of solar power from the rooftop solar generators to EVN / power purchasers, and completely canceling the net-metering structure which mixing of sale / purchase of power between the parties. In addition, the sale of power from EVN / retail power companies to rooftop solar power generators shall be made under separate retail power purchase agreements and in accordance with the rules for supplying retail powers to end-user consumers.

We outline below some improvements:

(i) The model PPA indicates clearly that the FIT will be applicable for 20 years from the COD.
(ii) The model PPA provides a detail but simple formula to calculate the power generated and the price paid to the generators.
(iii) The model PPA separates payment and invoice procedure for corporate entities from the one for individuals / households.
(iv) The model PPA regulates the obligation of power purchasers to pay default interest (i.e., average inter-bank interest rate of 1 month issued by SBV on the payment date) on
any late payments owing to rooftop solar generators.

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

Anwalt in Vietnam Dr. Oliver Massmann – WINDKRAFT NEUIGKEITEN – NEUER MUSTER- STROMABNAHMEVERTRAG BESCHLOSSEN – VERBESSERTE FINANZIERBARKEIT? WAS SIE WISSEN MÜSSEN:

Vietnams Ministerium für Industrie und Handel (MoIT) veröffentlichte ein Rundschreiben 02 (gültig ab dem 28. Februar 2019) einschließlich finalem Musterstromabnahmevertrag (Power Purchase Agreement, PPA) für den Windenergie Sektor. Das Rundschreiben wurde erteilt um die 39. Entscheidung des Premierministers zur Regulierung der neuen FiT für Onshore und Offshore Windkraftprojekte in Vietnam zu leiten. Das Rundschreiben 02 wird vorherige Regelungen im Rundschrieben 32 von 2012 und Rundschreiben 06 von 2013 der MoIT ersetzten.

Rundschreiben 02 und PPA-Vorlagen werden als obligatorisch für Windprojekte eingestuft. Unglücklicherweise wurden nur wenige Verbesserungen im Vergleich zu den PPA-Vorlagen in Rundschreiben 06/ Rundschreiben 32 vorgenommen. Potentielle Investoren haben immer noch ernsthafte Bedenken hinsichtlich der Höhe und Art des Risikos, das das PPA versucht hat, auf die Anleger zu verlagern, und die vermittelte Botschaft war, dass, wenn die Regierung nicht bereit ist, einige der gleißendsten Probleme anzugehen, nur wenige seriöse ausländische Akteure der Windindustrie und, ebenso wichtig, nur wenige seriöse Finanziers bereit wären, sich zu involvieren.

Zu den Problemen gehören fehlende Maßnahmen zur Kompensation der Produzenten für die Unterbrechung der Fähigkeit Strom zu beziehen, die Bedingungen bei höherer Gewalt, Vertragsverweigerung, „Step-in“ Rechte der Kreditgeber vorbehaltlich der Zustimmung von EVN und Streitschlichtung.

Tarif mit aktuellem Wechselkurs

Mit der Bestätigung der FiT-Rate von (i) 1.1 US-Cent/ kWh für Onshore-Windenergieprojekte und (ii) 9.8 US-Cents/ kWh für Offshore-Windenergieprojekte, bestätigen Entscheidung 39 und Rundschreiben 02, dass die FiT für 20 Jahre für Projekte oder Teil-Projekte, die den kommerziellen Betrieb vor November 2021 erreichen, zur Verfügung steht. Das Rundschreiben 02 regelt ferner, dass sich der Energieentwickler bei Windkraftprojekten mit Netzanschluss mit sowohl Onshore-Turbinen als auch Offshore-Turbinen mit der EVN / den Stromabnehmern auf einen Plan für die Installation von Messgeräten und auf die Messung und Berechnung der separaten Leistung der Onshore- und Offshore- Turbinen als Grundlage für die Anwendung der entsprechenden Stromhandelspreise einigen muss.

Das endgültige PPA enthält keine Indexierung der FiT auf den Verbraucherpreisindex (CPI), um Inflationsrisiken zu berücksichtigen. Als Reaktion auf die Besorgnis über schwankende Wechselkurse wird in dem Rundschreiben jedoch festgelegt, dass der Fremdwährungskurs die zentralen Wechselkurse des vietnamesischen Dong gegenüber dem US-Dollar sein soll, die von der State Bank of Vietnam am Tag der Zahlung angekündigt wurden. Dies ist ein guter Schritt, um das Problem der Preisschwankungen anzugehen.

Ein immer noch zu hohes Risiko?

Gemäß Entscheidung 39 (die auch die FiT festlegt) und der endgültigen Fassung des PPAs im Anhang des Rundschreibens 02, ist Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) verantwortlich für den Einkauf der gesamten Stromerzeugung aus Netzverbindungs-Projekten zu den angegebenen FiT.

Das PPA befreit EVN jedoch von Zahlungspflichten in Fällen, in denen sie wegen eines Ausfalls des Übertragungs- oder Verteilungsnetzes, nicht in der Lage sind Strom zu beziehen. Da sich viele.

Windprojekte derzeit auf wenig zentrale Standorte konzentrieren, muss die Fähigkeit der bestehenden Anlagen, Energie aufzunehmen, Anlass zu einiger Besorgnis geben, da das PPA ein solches Risiko auf Stromerzeuger überträgt.

Dem PPA fehlt jeglicher Mechanismus zur Kompensation der Stromerzeuger im Falle von Unterbrechungen, die außerhalb ihrer Kontrolle liegen. Das PPA sieht nicht nur keine Fristverlängerung im Falle höherer Gewalt vor, darüber hinaus könnte, wenn höhere Gewalt einen Stromerzeuger daran hindern sollte, seine Verpflichtungen für ein Jahr zu erfüllen, die EVN das PPA sogar einseitig und ohne Entschädigungen kündigen. Bei derartigen Umständen wird der Stromerzeuger allein im Unklaren gelassen.

Solche Vereinbarungen könnten für Projekte akzeptabel sein, die es schaffen, klare “Take or Pay”- Bedingungen und/oder staatliche Garantien auszuhandeln, aber es ist höchst fragwürdig, ob und inwieweit eine dieser Optionen im aktuellen Klima möglich sein wird. Als direkte Konsequenz ist es ebenso fraglich, inwieweit private Finanziers bereit sein werden, das Risiko zu tragen, eine Tatsache, die Unternehmen veranlassen wird, günstigere Bedingungen auf anderen Märkten zu suchen.

Vietnams Spielregeln einhalten

Anleger könnten sich ferner durch das Fehlen von Besonderheiten im Hinblick auf eine investorenfreundliche Streitbeilegung entmutigen lassen. Das PPA unterliegt vietnamesischen Recht und beinhaltet selbst nicht ausdrücklich das Recht, zur Vereinbarung eines internationalen Schiedsverfahrens zur Beilegung von Konflikten, eine Bedingung, die typischerweise als wichtige Voraussetzung angesehen wird.

Nach dem Stand der Dinge können Streitigkeiten der Abteilung für erneuerbare Energien für Elektrizität (ehemals Generaldirektion der Energie) zur Mediation vorgelegt werden. Sofern dies nicht weiterhilft gibt es die Möglichkeit das Problem an die Elektrizitätsregulierungsbehörde von Vietnam (ERAV) weiterzuleiten oder einen Rechtsstreit vor Vietnams Gerichten zu führen.
Das PPA gestattet es, dass “eine weitere Streitschlichtungsstelle von den Parteien vereinbart wird”, was den Verkäufern potenziell die Möglichkeit eröffnet, mit der EVN über die Streitbeilegung, einschließlich internationaler und ausländischer- oder sogar inländischer Schiedsverfahren, zu verhandeln. Es ist jedoch nicht klar, ob die EVN einer direkten Änderung der PPAs zustimmen wird, um eine ausdrückliche vorherige Vereinbarung über ein Offshore-Schiedsverfahren zu ermöglichen oder lediglich die Tür für eine solche Diskussion zum Zeitpunkt eines Streits öffnet. Im letzteren Fall hat EVN eindeutig die besseren Karten.

Zahlungspflicht

Das PPA schließt die fälligen Zahlungsverpflichtungen der EVN / der Energieunternehmen von der Freistellung aufgrund höherer Gewalt aus und könnte sicherstellen, dass EVN und Energieunternehmen Zahlungen unabhängig von Ereignissen höherer Gewalt leisten.

Die Zeit zur Zahlung nach Erhalt der Belege wird nunmehr für EVN von 15 Tagen (aus dem alten Vorlage-PPA) auf 25 Tage erhöht.

Der Verzugszinssatz für den noch nicht gezahlten Rechnungsbetrag der Energieunternehmen an die Entwickler ist nun der durchschnittliche Interbanken-Handelszins (leicht gesunken von derzeit 1,5-mal dem durchschnittlichen Interbanken-Handelszins für einen Monat).

Step-in Rechte der Kreditgeber

Das Wind PPA scheint, obwohl der Entwurf unklar ist, es den Entwicklern, vorbehaltlich einer schriftlichen Genehmigung der EVN, zu ermöglichen, das PPA zu übertragen oder den Kreditgebern Step-in Rechte zu gewähren, sofern diese auch die EVN unverzüglich schriftlich benachrichtigen. Dies ist enttäuschend, da die alte Vorlage Kreditgebern Step-in Rechte ohne Genehmigung von EVN ermöglicht.

Ein Schritt nach dem anderen … Nur abwarten!

Das MoIT ist sich der Schwachstellen des PPA bewusst und weiß, dass dieses in seiner derzeitigen Fassung nicht die Art von Investitionen anziehen wird, die Vietnam benötigt, wenn es sowohl seinen Energiebedarf als auch seine Ziele für erneuerbare Energien decken will. Sie wissen, dass Investoren gehofft haben, dass einige der Defizite behoben sein würden, so dass das Rundschreiben ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung ist.

Wir haben Informationen von unseren Kontakten in dem MoIT, dass die Standard Solar-PPA innerhalb des nächsten Monats geändert werden wird.

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Für weitere Informationen über Vietnams Energiesektor kontaktieren sie bitte Dr. Oliver Massmann unter omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann ist der General Director von Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

VIETNAM – WIND POWER BREAKING NEWS – NEW MODEL POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT OUT – IMPROVED BANKABILITY? WHAT YOU MUST KNOW:

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) released Circular 02 (effective from 28 February 2019) including final template power purchase agreements (PPA) for the wind energy sector. This Circular is issued to guide the Prime Minister’s Decision 39 to regulate new FiT for onshore and offshore wind power projects in Vietnam. Circular 02 will replace previous regulations under Circular 32 dated 2012 and Circular 06 dated 2013 of the MoIT.

Circular 02 and PPA templates are stated to be mandatory templates for wind projects. Unfortunately, little improvements have been made comparing with the old template PPA under Circular 06 / Circular 32. Would-be investors now still have serious concerns over the amount and type of risk the PPA sought to shift to investors, and the message delivered was that unless the government was willing to address some of the most glaring problems, few reputable foreign wind players and, just as importantly, few reputable financiers would be likely to sign up.

Issues include a lack of measures to compensate producers for interruption in the ability to receive power, force majeure conditions, contract suspension, lender’s step-in rights subject to EVN’s approval and settlement of disputes.

Tariff with actual foreign exchange rate

With the FiT rate of (i) 8.5 US cents / kWh applicable to onshore wind power projects, and (ii) 9.8 US cents / kWh applicable to offshore wind power projects confirmed, Decision 39 and Circular 02 confirm that the FiT is available for 20 years to projects, or parts of projects, that reach commercial operation before 1 November 2021. Circular 02 further regulates that for grid-connected wind power projects having both onshore turbines and offshore turbines, the power developer must agree with EVN / power buyers on a plan for installing meters and on how to measure and calculate the separate power output of the onshore turbines and that of the offshore turbines as the basis for applying the appropriate power trading prices.

The final PPA does not include any indexation of the FiT to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to address inflation risks. However, in response to concerns over fluctuating exchange rates, the circular does state that the foreign exchange rate shall be the central exchange rates of the Vietnamese dong against the US dollar announced by the State Bank of Vietnam on the payment date. This is a good step to address the price fluctuation issue.

A risk still seem high?

Under Decision 39 (which also set the FiT) and the final version of the PPA appended to Circular 02, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) is responsible for purchasing the entire power output from grid-connected projects at the stated FiT.

However, the PPA relieves EVN from payment obligations in cases where it is unable to take power due to a breakdown of the transmission or distribution grid. With many wind projects currently focused on few central locations, the capacity of existing facilities to absorb power must be a cause of some concern given the PPA’s transfer of such risk to power producers.
The PPA lacks any mechanism to compensate power producers should interruptions happen outside of their control. Not only does the PPA not provide for extension of time in case of force majeure, but if force majeure were to prevent a power producer from meeting its obligations for a year then EVN could unilaterally terminate the PPA with no compensation payable. In such circumstances, the power producer is left alone in the dark.

Such arrangements might be acceptable to projects that manage to negotiate clear ‘take or pay’ terms and/or government guarantees, but it is highly questionable whether and to what extent either of these will be possible in the current climate. As a direct consequence, it is equally questionable to what extent private finance will be prepared to bear the risk, a fact that will prompt capital to seek more favourable conditions in other markets.

Playing by Vietnam’s rules

Investors may be further discouraged by the lack of specifics in terms of an investor friendly dispute resolution. The PPA is governed by Vietnamese law and does not itself expressly include the right to agree on international arbitration to resolve disputes, a condition that would typically be considered an important requirement.

As it stands, disputes can be submitted to the Electricity Renewable Energy Department (formerly the General Directorate of Energy) for mediation. If that doesn’t work, there is the option of escalating the issue to the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Vietnam (ERAV) or pursuing litigation in Vietnam’s courts.

The PPA does allow for “another dispute resolution body to be agreed by the parties”, which potentially opens the door for sellers to negotiate with EVN on dispute resolution, including international and offshore or even domestic arbitration. But it is not clear if EVN will agree to directly amend PPAs to allow for express prior agreement on offshore arbitration or simply open the door for such a discussion at the time of a dispute. Clearly in the latter case the deck is firmly stacked in EVN’s favour.

Payment obligation

The PPA does exclude the due payment obligations of EVN / power companies from force majeure exemption and it could ensure EVN and power companies to make payments regardless force majeure events occurring.

The time for EVN making payment upon receipt of receipts is now increased from 15 days (from old template PPA) to 25 days.
Default interest rate for unpaid amount of power companies to the developer is now the average inter-bank trading interest (slightly decreased from current 1.5 times the average interbank trading interest rate for one month).

Lender’s step-in Right

The Wind PPA appears to enable the developers to transfer the PPA or provide step-in rights to lenders but subject to always written approval from EVN, provided that also it notifies EVN immediately in writing, although the drafting is unclear. This is a disappointment as the old template allows lender’s step-in right without approval from EVN.

One step forward… wait and see

The MoIT is well aware of the deficiencies in the PPA and knows that, in its current form, it will not attract the kind of investment Vietnam needs if it is to meet both its energy demands and renewable targets. They know that investors were hoping for some of the shortfalls to have been addressed, thus this Circular is the step in the right direction .
We have information from our contacts in the MOIT that the standard Solar PPA will be amended within coming months.

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For more information about Vietnam’s energy sector, please contact Dr. Oliver Massmann and lawyer Thanh Tran Minh under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

Vietnam’s draft new solar tariffs – more sun, less cents, more sense

A new proposed tariff structure for solar energy projects in Vietnam sets out different rates for different irradiation regions and gives long-awaited indication of direction for the market after 30 June 2019.  On 29 January 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (“MOIT“) released parts of a draft decision to update the country’s current feed in tariff (FiT) structure which is only valid until 30 June 2019 (the “Draft”).

The Draft is of course still just that, a draft, but forecasts a clear change in strategy with respect to FiTs.

Under the current FiT policy (regulated by Decision 11 and Decision 16) there is only one FiT for all projects regardless of location.  That is an internationally respectable FiT of 9.35 US cents per kWh for all on-grid solar power projects that achieve commercial operation date (“COD”) prior to 30 June 2019 (with the exception of some projects in Ninh Thuan province which have a later COD timeline).

The Draft however sets out a wide range of differing FiTs that vary based on: (i) when COD happens, (ii) location (3 regions are identified based on solar irradiation data), and (iii) the type of solar projects (i.e., floating, ground-mounted, integrated storage system or rooftop solar).

The table below shows what the Draft contemplates:

Projects with COD from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020

 

Solar power types Region 1 (see regions below)

(28 northern provinces with annual solar irradiation of up to 1,432.8 kWh/m2/year)

Region 2

(6 central provinces of Vietnam with annual solar irradiation of up to 1,676.1 kWh/m2/year)

Region3

(29 central highlands and southern provinces of Vietnam with annual solar irradiation of up to 1,910.3 kWh/m2/year)

VND / kWh US cent equivalent VND / kWh US cent equivalent VND / kWh US cent equivalent
Floating solar power projects 2,135 9.35 1,838 8.05 1,612 7.06
Ground-mounted solar power projects 2,095 9.18 1,802 7.89 1,583 6.94
Solar power projects with integrated storage system N/A N/A N/A N/A 2,052 8.99
Rooftop solar power projects 2,448 9.85 1,933 8.47 1,697 7.43
Projects with COD from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021

 

Floating solar power projects 2,028 8.88 1,746 7.65 1,531 6.71
Ground-mounted solar power projects 1,990 8.72 1,712 7.50 1,504 6.59
Solar power projects with integrated storage system N/A N/A N/A N/A 1,949 8.54
Rooftop solar power projects 2,023 8.86 1,740 7.62 1,527 6.69

 

While no changes will please everyone, especially the many developers who have committed considerable resources based on assumptions of the current FiT rate, the changes still indicate strong support for solar power projects generally and a rational approach to reflect the markedly different irradiation levels across the country.  Such an approach should take some pressure of heavily-stretched Southern hotspots (stretched from both power infrastructure and bureaucratic bottleneck perspectives).

We will continue to monitor this and update further as possible.  Meanwhile, we’d be delighted to hear views from developers and financiers about the change of strategic policy direction and FiTs forecast by the Draft.  Get in touch and tell us what you think.

Region 1: comprising 28 northern provinces of Vietnam with annual solar irradiation of 1,225.6 – 1,432.8 kWh/m2/year or daily solar irradiation of 3.36 – 3.92 kWh/m2/day. Including: Ha Giang, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Bac Giang, Hai Duong, Hoa Binh, Hanoi, Ha Nam, Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Hai Phong, Ninh Binh, Thai Binh, Ha Tinh, Nam Dinh, Quang Binh, Thanh Hoa, Lai Chau, Nghe An and Son La.

Region 2: comprising 6 central provinces of Vietnam with annual solar irradiation of 1,456 – 1,676.1 kWh/m2/year or daily solar irradiation of 3.99 – 4.59 kWh/m2/day. Including: Quang Tri, Dien Bien, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Da Nang and Quang Ngai.

Region 3: comprising 29 central highlands and southern provinces of Vietnam with annual solar irradiation of 1,703.9 – 1,910.3 kWh/m2/year or daily solar irradiation of 4.67 – 5.23 kWh/m2/day. Including: Kon Tum, Ca Mau, Hau Giang, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Bac Lieu, Kien Giang, Soc Trang, Gia Lai, Can Tho, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Dak Lak, Khanh Hoa, Lam Dong, Ben Tre, Tien Giang, An Giang, Dak Nong, Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Long An, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan.

For more information about Vietnam’s solar and renewable energy sectors, please contact Giles at GTCooper@duanemorris.com, Tran Thanh at MTTran@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 – ROOFTOP SOLAR POWER PROJECTS – NEW POLICY TO ADDRESS NET-METERING ISSUE

On 8 January 2019, the Prime Minister has issued Decision No. 02/2019/QD-TTg (“Decision 02”) to amend certain articles of Decision 11/2017/QD-TTg dated 11 April 2017 of the Prime Minister on mechanism for encouragement of development of solar power in Vietnam (“Decision 11”). Decision 02, became effective on 8 January 2019, promulgates new payment scheme to address the net-metering issue of the rooftop solar power projects under Decision 11. We elaborate the above topic further as below:

In 2017, Decision 11 introduced the net-metering scheme for rooftop solar power projects. In brief, rooftop projects must be implemented in net-metering with two-way electricity meters. In a trading cycle, if the amount of electricity generated from rooftop projects is greater than the consumed amount, the surplus will be carry forward to the next trading cycle. At the end of the year or when the contract is terminated, the surplus amount of energy will be sold to EVN at the rate mentioned in the power purchase agreement signed by the seller and EVN either at the end of the relevant year or upon termination of the agreement. Circular 16/2017/TT-BCT (“Circular 16”) dated 12 September 2017 of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (“MOIT”), requires a solar power generator, as the seller, to enter into a model power purchase agreement (in the form attached to Circular 16) with EVN or its authorized subsidiary. However, in practice, the model power purchase agreement has not been applied by EVN since the MOIT and the MOF had no guidance on the finalization, payment scheme and invoicing mechanism for such net-metering purposes. Other words, EVN claimed that it is very challenging for them to calculate and invoice the power based on net-metering scheme.

In order to address the net-metering issue, Decision 02 now has introduced a new payment scheme for rooftop solar power projects. In brief, the power generated by rooftop solar power project will be metered independently and paid by EVN to the seller. The power sold by EVN or its power company to consumers being rooftop solar power investors will be metered as usual like other households / consumers.

All rooftop solar power projects having their commercial operation date (operation and metering confirmation) prior to 1 July 2019 will enjoy FIT of US$9.35 / KWh under Decision 11. The price of rooftop solar power for following years must be adjusted according to the last year exchange rate between Vietnamese Dong and USD issued by the State Bank of Vietnam.
The MOIT shall promulgate technical regulations on solar power, regulations on measurement of energy of solar power projects and provide instructions on the connection, installation of electricity meters and the calculation of rooftop solar power project.

We will keep you informed with any new guidance from the MOIT for rooftop solar power projects.

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

VIETNAM AGRICULTURE FARMING 4.0 – Issues and Solutions – Impact of the Major Trade Agreements CPTPP, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

A. Introduction

The biggest challenge in the agriculture and farming sector is to actually take the step to invest in new digital technologies. From a short perspective, this is associated with high costs for farmers. In the long term, however, it can increase yields and protect the environment significantly. So far, there have been three key phases in the development of agriculture and farming, namely mechanization, the introduction of mineral fertilizers and industrialization. The fourth phase is the currently evolving digitization. The positive effects of intelligent and digital agriculture can be significant.

When technological agriculture started (with utilization of satellite navigation and remote sensing to farm each square meter as efficiently and sustainably as possible), it seemed to be very unlikely for the ordinary farmer to gain benefits from it since the costs were too high. However, nowadays, it is possible for many farmers to collect a tremendous amount of data and use inexpensive small processors to make use of the information and to control equipment or monitor animals with it. Through digital smartness and connectivity, the agricultural machines can collect weather data, order spare parts or access detailed information about the field from a central, cloud based farm management software.

However, the technology development in the farming sector in Vietnam is still in its infancy. The digitalization has not reached Vietnams farming sector yet. The farmers are still using basic computers, standard internet information and basic information and communications technology in general. Many did not even reach the industrialization yet, using the telephone, light bulb, and the internal combustion engine. Still, a growing number of farmers is starting to adopt digital technology and data-driven innovations.

B. Precision Agriculture

Precision Agriculture (PA) is a key component of the agricultural digitization and means to apply the exact and correct amount of inputs like water, fertilizer, pesticides etc. at the correct time to the crop for increasing its productivity and maximizing its yields. It provides farmers with information to build up a record of their farm, helps to make decisions, promotes traceability and provides better marketing of farm products. Finally, it enhances the quality of the product itself.

Efficient farming must increase and the government should support investors of this sector. For instance, from 1900 to 1930 worldwide, each farmer produced enough food to feed about 26 people. In the 1990s, the so-called Green Revolution lead to new methods of genetic modification, therefore each farmer was able to feed about 155 people. The global population is increasing and by 2050 it is expected that the worldwide population will reach to almost 10 billion, thus food production must effectively double from the current magnitude. With the introduction of new technological improvements of precision farming, each farmer could be able to feed 265 people on the same acreage.

The first steps of PA came in the forms of satellite and aerial imagery, weather prediction, variable rate fertilizer application, and crop health indicators. The second wave collects the machine data for even more precise planting, topographical mapping and soil data. Another example of developed technology is the Geo-Localization. With this, field data can be captured. An analysis of soils, residual nitrogen, soil resistance and past harvests takes place. Further, by now, self-steering tractors do most of the work. The farmer only needs to intervene in emergencies. Through GPS connection, they spread fertilizer or plough land. Another notable innovation is a solar powered machine that identifies weeds and precisely kills them with a dose of herbicide or lasers.

C. Precision Livestock Farming

Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) aims to improve the efficiency of production. It helps the farmer and ensures the well-being of the animal through applying advanced information and communication technologies, targeted resource use and precise control of the production process. Through this technology, the contribution of each animal is streamlined. By this individual approach, the farmer can deliver better results in livestock farming. Those results can be quantitative, qualitative and sustainable.

PLF can significantly improve livestock farming. It can ensure animal welfare because the whole procedure is being documented on farms. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emission can be reduced and environmental performance of farms can improve. Further, PLF can facilitate product segmentation and reduce illegal trading of livestock products.

D. Benefits and obstacles

Utilizing new technology can deliver more yields and greater environmental protection. For instance, farms in Germany using advanced digital technology have reported higher yields per hectare while reducing nitrogen levels considerably, as well as cutting herbicide and diesel use by 10% – 20%. Farmers thus obtain a return on their investment by saving on water, pesticides and fertilizer costs. The second large-scale benefit is to reduce the environmental harm. Applying the right amount of chemicals in the right place and at the right time benefits crops, soils and groundwater, and thus the entire crop cycle.

However, there are rarely any examples of successful commercialization of PLF technologies. There is currently an abundance of information available to livestock managers, but it is not generally structured in a way that can be applied readily.

The farmers and investors hesitation might be due the involving risks. The noted risks include financial failure because of unforeseen environment or market circumstances, damage to the farm infrastructure such as soils and pasture, compromises to animal health and welfare, and increased stress on farmers from managing the allegedly complicated systems. Thus, it is important to develop a management system that ensures only the most essential procedures are carried out, they are all carried out correctly and consistently, and in a way that controls risk.

E. Solutions

For the implementation of digital farming in Vietnam, a good collaboration between the public sector, industry players and the farming community is significantly important. In specific, decision-makers and the national government need to ensure that the basic digital infrastructure for rapidly growing data flows, in terms of network coverage and transmission rates in rural areas, is put in place. Further, the government must set incentives that boost investment in agriculture, especially during low time commodity prices. Lastly, it is important that the farmers accept and are able to handle the upcoming change. Not only is their attitude important, but also to ensure that they have the necessary digital skills.

The international market can only be reached by more transparency and traceability. For consumers and retailers it gets increasingly more important to trace the origin of their food. How was the crop cultivated, under what conditions did the animal grow up and be bred? At the same time, the gathering of this information can simplify the farmer´s documentation on compliance with legislation. Lastly, farmers need the security, that ownership and control of their data are protected. For this, a regulating contract law, that states that the data generated on a farm is the property of the farmer, needs to be settled.

F. Outlook on Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Recently, on the 12th November 2018, Vietnam has officially became the seventh member of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will make the Vietnamese market more attractive due to technology advances and the reduction of production costs. The effects of the TPP 11 promise great benefits for the agriculture sector in Vietnam and will support Vietnam’s national agriculture to transform into a self-sufficient and competitive sector. Furthermore, sustainable environments are a primary concern of the CPTPP agreement. With the Most-Favored Nation Treatment principle, the TPP 11 is ensuring a fair competition, which will attract new foreign investments as well as support for the agriculture sector in its restructuring process. Moreover, national farmers must adopt high-developed technologies in nutrients and animal healthcare to be competitive. This will lead to more safety and trust of the consumer in the agriculture market in Vietnam.

One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers.
Both agreements promise great benefits for the agricultural and farming sector in Vietnam. The food industry is a very hesitating industry in general. Naturally, farmers usually invest part of their gains in technology. However, they buy just the ordinary machinery instead of new technology like software or sensors. The trade agreements could lead to the end of this hesitation and finally demonstrate the economic benefits of the new technologies. Further, the co-ordination between researches, developers and technology suppliers of PLF tools could be streamlined.

To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.

Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. Every investor should use these standards. It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. 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.

Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.

This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM – BANKING AND FINANCING SUSTAINABLE GROWTH – Issues and Solutions – Impact of the Key Trade Agreements CPTPP, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

A. Introduction

Vietnam is one of the countries in Asia with the most impressive economic growth. Inflation remains well controlled and foreign exchange reserves are at their highest levels in years and they continue to rise. The effective and economic state administration has been recognized by the international markets, most recently with the appreciation of the Vietnamese credit rating by Fitch Ratings. In the future, it is expected that Vietnam will continue to show strong economic growth. A particularly strong area is the electronics production. In addition, financing sustainable growth and providing credit and good financial services is essential to all who need it.

The focus of the government and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) should be geared to lending in strong sectors. This implies that quotas should be distributed appropriate and that there should be no upper limits in a given sector. Only with this credit can be provided sufficiently in the priority sectors. This will benefit strong and profitable companies while controlling and reducing risk in critical sectors.

In addition, the focus is on recapitalization and consolidation of the financial sector, which leads to fewer but stronger banks. Furthermore, the digitization of the Vietnamese economy continues to increase, with the next step being to create a comprehensive legal framework that further promotes digital development, including the use of the forthcoming national biometric identity system.

In the future, a change in banking regulations should be also considered. The rules are currently issued on the basis of basic laws such as the Civil Code. As a result, opening accounts for companies that are not legal entities is difficult. Addressing the above issues will, in the long term, lead to a strengthening of the banking sector. This will bring more and more FDI´s into the country and Vietnamese people and companies will benefit from it.

B. Decree 116 and related issues

With regard to Decree 116, there are problems in lending that banks have. There are currently challenges related to public information and verification. It is very time-consuming for the banks to obtain the relevant information from the client, there are only limited independent sources of information, and there are different definitions of the criteria used to identify beneficiaries in Vietnam and international common practices.

Banks are facing the difficult situation of being able to verify that a natural person owns 10% or more charter capital in a legal entity. Natural persons who hold 20% or more charter capital to companies whose equity capital is more than 10%; private business owners; and other persons actually controlling the company, in accordance with the provisions for determining beneficial owners referred to in Article 5.1, Decree 116/2013 / ND-CP.

The banks have difficulties in how to verify that an individual holds 10% or more charter capital in a legal entity, individuals holding 20% or more charter capital in entities having more than 10% equity in the legal entity, private business owners and other individuals who actually control the entity, under regulations on identifying beneficial owners referred to in Article 5.1, Decree 116/2013/ ND-CP.

To solve this problem, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) could make the following arrangements. Only the ultimate beneficial owner holding directly and indirectly 25% or more of the charter capital must be identified. Further, it is not necessary to identify ultimate beneficial owners in case the customer is rated as low-risk by financial institutions incorporated in Financial Action Task Force member nations, because these institutions have advanced anti-money laundering and financing terrorism control systems, and are monitored by relevant host country regulators.

C. Outlook on Circular 19/2014/TT – NHNN

Circular 19/2014/TT – NHNN contains revisions for foreign exchange control in direct investment and portfolio investment to be consistent with latest rules on foreign investment. One of most frequent issues related to foreign-invested companies is the Investment certificate being used as the only reference to identify a directly investing business for foreign investment capital account opening purposes. However, this does often not reflect properly the nature of the investment activity and existing regulations on investment activities (Investment Law of Nov. 26, 2014, Decree 118/2015/ND-CP, providing details and implementing guidance for specific clauses of the Investment Law).

Furthermore, given the development of derivative markets in Vietnam, the Circular can be revised to cover specifically derivative securities and include relevant reporting indicators for investment in these securities by foreign investors.

D. Outlook on the Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Recently, on the 12th November 2018, Vietnam has officially become the seventh member of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. This will stimulate domestic reforms in many areas, especially the financial sector. As a result, the above mentioned issues could be addressed gradually and therefore more FDI´s will come to Vietnam.

One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam. Due to easier opportunity on making business, trade and sustainable development will be a good consequence for an even more dynamic economy and even better investment environment in Vietnam in general and especially in the financing sector.

To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.

Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. Every investor should use these standards. It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. 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.

Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.

This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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

Thank you very much!

Vietnam – Mining Action Plan – Issues and Solutions – Impact of the Major Trade Agreements CPTPP, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

A. Outlook

Vietnam´s mining industry is still largely undeveloped. Most operations are insufficient and harm the environment. However, there is great potential due to the variety of unexploited mineral resources. The discovery and mining of new minerals can be significantly facilitated with Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). This provides the opportunity to use international, modern, efficient, sustainable and secure technologies for the procedure. This implementation would have a huge impact on Vietnam’s economic growth and would lead to a reduction of public debt.

For most countries in the world, mining has been the cornerstone of economic growth and infrastructural development. It has been estimated that only about 10 percent of Vietnam’s base metal and precious metal resources have been discovered so far. This is because the country has so far never been methodically researched with modern technologies and the right know-how to find deeper, richer or larger deposits. The focus of the Vietnamese mining industry has been almost exclusively on less expensive, easily findable or near-surface energy materials such as coal and bulk commodities such as iron ore, bauxite, sand and limestone.

Vietnam’s largest state-owned mining company is Vinacomin. According to their estimates, more than 1.500 mining companies are registered in Vietnam, of which about 55% are state-owned, 36% by private Vietnamese companies and only 9% by foreigners.

B. Lack of technology

Vinacomin is the first company to acknowledge the major shortcomings and confirmed the existence of obsolete technologies, lack of mechanization, inadequate infrastructure, large workforce but with low productivity, excessive energy consumption, high safety deficiencies and unacceptable environmental pollution. In Decision No. 2356-TKV of 15 June 2016, Vinacomin has now set its priority on technological innovation.

The challenge, therefore, is to modernize the Vietnamese mining industry and make innovative technologies accessible. To do this, the government must create incentives to encourage investors, otherwise FDI’s hardly ever come to Vietnam.

C. Government´s mining policies and issues

The current mining policy in Vietnam has two major weaknesses. First, the existing laws are unstructured and are therefore applied inconsistently. There is some evidence that there are conflicting interpretations of fees, tariffs, environmental protection fees, product quality and to it related mining taxation issues between local regional authorities and ministries such as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Finance.

Second, Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest taxes on mining worldwide. This has a negative impact on investments in modern technologies and technological innovations. All of this leads to further problems such as the continuation of inefficient and wasteful mining practices, the deterioration of well-known mineral deposits and the environment of Vietnam as well as the increase of illegal mining and tax evasion. Vietnam’s royalties, export duties and other charges are far above other comparable countries. As an example, the royalty for nickel is 10%, but other minerals such as tungsten and gold have even higher license rates. Many mining projects therefore fail due to lack of sufficient profitability.

Positively, there is, however one exception. A hitherto highly successful project of modern technologies and international standards on a Vietnamese mining operation is the Nui Phao. This is the largest tungsten production mine in the world to date, contributing significant value to Vietnam’s economy by converting the ore into purified chemical products before exporting. However, as with all mining projects, future development will depend on the continued evolution of global commodity prices, variability of ore grades, mining conditions, etc., and therefore the prohibitively high taxes themselves may jeopardize this project.

The reasons for the high taxation are to some extent comprehensible or the background can be explained. Hereby the aim is, to maximize benefits for the government and Vietnam´s economy. However, this can not be achieved if the taxes are so high that mines are closed because they are not profitable. As a result, this leads to a change to the contrary, namely to the loss of valuable tax revenue, because first, the tax revenue source for the government is lost (mining companies) and secondly, the number of people trying to circumvent the tax rules increases. The former also leads to the loss of legal employment opportunities.

D. Solutions and conclusion

A solution to the above mentioned conflicting legislation could be to create clear and unambiguous legal regulations. Alternatively, there is a possibility to be practice-oriented and to ensure a uniform application of the law through state support in advising the mining industry and coordinating intergovernmental departments. The effectiveness of this coordination and the associated transparency would be a clear incentive for the providers of FDI as well as for strong local investors.

Regarding the high taxes for mining, the problem can be solved by a fair tax system for the government and investors. The taxes should simply be reduced, which means no negative consequences for Vietnam’s economic budget (see above).

The advantages associated with the solutions are obvious. It goes without saying that the richest mineral deposits are located in more remote and mountainous areas. The population in these areas is usually characterized by particular poverty and the infrastructure is in need. A modern mining project would have a positive impact on both. On the one hand, every mining project creates a large number of jobs, local goods are promoted and orders are distributed to service providers. On the other hand, the infrastructure will develop significantly, because modern and efficient mining is hardly possible without a good infrastructure, so that the construction companies are forced to build the infrastructure itself.

To sum it up, there are essentially three solution concepts. First, existing mining legislation could be revised and more transparent, clearer, investor-friendly rules could be created. Second, state co-ordination of law enforcement can be established to ensure a consistent and effective application of the relevant rules. Third, a fair tax system for government and investors likewise should be created.

E. Outlook on Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Recently, on the 12th November 2018, Vietnam has officially become the seventh member of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. The Agreement could bring the needed FDI to the mining industry in Vietnam. Hence new mining methods and better technologies will be introduced to the mining industry and this will lead to the spare of environment. To be able to benefit from the TPP 11, Vietnam has to amend its mining regulations, particularly, the above mentioned taxes and royalty rates must be reduced.

One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers, which is a key aspect in terms of working at mining projects. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam. Due to this significant boost, the government might reconsider its mining tax regulations. If that step will be eventually taken, there are good prospects for investors that bring modern technologies and international standards to the country, that their mining project will be successful just as the Nui Phao operation is.

To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.

Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. Every investor should use these standards. It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. 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.

Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.

This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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

Thank you very much!

Vietnam – Healthcare and Medical Devices – Investment – With Outlook on the Major Trade Agreements CPTPP, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

A. Overview of the future of Vietnam´s healthcare sector

There is no denying that Vietnam truly is an attractive investment destination in South East Asia. It has great potential to develop a qualitative, self-sustaining life science sector. Improvements on the healthcare sector will lead to several benefits. With increasing focus on healthcare, manufacturing, service providers, clinical research organizations and others are being stimulated. As a result, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are boosted and exports could replace the need for foreign aid by attracting sustainable FDIs and PPPs.

Of particular importance for a positive development is the close cooperation between the major stakeholders from the private and public sector. In this process, certain core goals should be set. Significantly, it is important to ensure swift, sustainable access to medical treatment and to urgently improve the quality of the treatment process. High-quality domestic treatments not only improve patient satisfaction but also improve one’s own economy by counteracting outgoing medical tourism.

Furthermore, it should be ensured that the existing investors remain in Vietnam and new ones are pulled ashore. To do this, investors must be shown that the Vietnamese market does not contain undetected risks, but is stable and predictable. Further, integrate opportunities for collaborations and partnerships to develop local capability.

B. Outpatient: Home care and home-treatment

One major issue regarding Vietnams Healthcare sector is the limited capacity in hospitals. There is a gap between bed capacity and demand of inpatient treatment. The Minstry of Health has his hands full to counteract the overloading of hospitals. Even institutions with larger bed capacity have eventually set up a home care service to enhance the follow-up monitoring of chronic and long-term illnesses for patients that have been released from the hospital.

The patients in Vietnam are financially overburdened with the costs of treatment, therefore affordable treatment is needed. This however, has to be reached without the loss of quality. Especially the indirect costs of healthcare, such as travelling, meals during hospitalization and loss of income during treatment put patients and their families under enormous financial pressure. Due to the overload and the fact, that the home care services are not fully developed yet, patients tend to take care for themselves with the help of their family. This causes eventually potential additional health complications due to the lack of professional follow-up. Furthermore, patients will return often back to the hospital and subsequently, in some cases, with more severe conditions.

The healthcare expanses are moreover, as in almost every country, a significant burden for the household.

Overall, professional homecare programs and access to them should be simplified and improved to counteract hospital congestion. This is especially necessary for the chronically ill. Home care and home-treatment can help to reduce public spending on chronic diseases and thus spare the health budget. At the same time, easier access helps the chronically ill.

C. Implementation

There are two major requirements for putting the whole thing into practice. Firstly, the creation of a clear legal framework. It contains incentives for small and large scale investors and creates transparency. This encourages multinational companies to invest and transfer their know-how to Vietnam, eventually ultimately work closely with the local companies. Secondly, to streamline the administrative process to shorten the process of delivering new, high-quality patient care solutions, and to respond to the growing need for a growing Vietnamese population for rapid and sustainable access.

D. Medical Devices Industry Code of Conduct

Background of the Code of Conduct for medical devices are the various risks associated with the industry, in particular unfair competition between industry players. The Code is intended to facilitate ethical interactions among members of society who develop, manufacture, sell, distribute or distribute medical technology in Vietnam and individuals and organizations that apply, recommend, buy or prescribe medical technologies in Vietnam. The content of the Code of Conduct should focus on 1) strict compliance with laws and regulations in the area; 2) prioritization of people and health and safety of patients and 3) promoting scientific and educational activities to best benefit the patient.

For multinational companies, the compliance area is usually very pronounced and strict. It is therefore particularly important to invest in an ethical business environment, especially when investing in high-risk jurisdictions. The commitment to uphold high ethical standards would certainly bring about long-term benefits for the health sector in Vietnam and attract more investors.

E. Outlook on Major Trade Agreements TPP 11, EUVNFTA and Investment Protection Agreement

In January 2017, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the US’ participation in the TPP. In November 2017, the remaining TPP members met at the APEC meetings and concluded about pushing forward the now called CPTPP (TPP 11) without the USA. The provision of the agreement specified that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries). The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October 2018, therefore the agreement will finally come into force on 30 December 2018. Recently, on the 12th November 2018, Vietnam has officially become the seventh member of the CPTPP.

The CPTPP is targeting to eliminate tariff lines and custom duties among member states on certain goods and commodities to 100%. An increase of trade will have great influence to the health- and medical sector. The agreement is suitable to support Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs), which could lead to a positive impact in development of innovative technologies of medical devices and facilitate the transfer of necessary know-how. Lower or no trade tariffs can lead to lower import costs for the essential components of medical devices. This, in turn, results in lower acquisition costs for the medical practices and hospitals, thus eventually lowering the treatment costs.

The annexes of the CPTPP (TBT chapter) deal with specific challenges of trading regarding pharmaceuticals, medical devices and technology products. The provisions commit the Members to define what medical products are and when they are subject to the state laws. These information have to be published. Furthermore, the annexes will help to optimize regulatory approvals and make the regulations clearer. Authorization decisions are made based on certain risk-based criteria. Moreover, the regulations help to ensure timely mitigation measures if a product application is not approved or is deemed deficient. Due to this new transparency, and the tariff elimination, the CPTPP will bring great benefits for all traders of medical devices, employees in the medical industry as well as for patients.

A specific example would be, that Canada currently faces tariffs of 7% imposed by Vietnam regarding exports of life sciences products such as medicines in doses for retail sale. With the agreement to become effective, these tariffs will be fully eliminated. As a result, Canada and other countries are exporting more and more products to Vietnam, gradually improving equipment in Vietnam’s medical facilities.

One another notable major trade agreement is the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EUVNFTA). The EUVNFTA offers great opportunity to access new markets for both the EU and Vietnam and to bring more capital into Vietnam due easier access and reduction of almost all tariffs of 99%, as well as obligation to provide better conditions for workers. In addition, the EUVNFTA will boost the most economic sectors in Vietnam. Both agreements promise great benefits for the health- and medicine sector.

To enable at least some parts of the FTA to be ratified more speedily at EU level, the EU and Vietnam agreed to take provisions on investment, for which Member State ratification is required, out of the main agreement and put them in a separate Investment Protection Agreement (IPA). Currently both the FTA and IPA are expected to be formally submitted to the Council in late 2018, possibly enabling the FTA to come into force in the second half of 2019.

Furthermore, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability and protection for investors. These standards should be used by every investor. It is going to be applied under the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. 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.

Further securities come with the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is going to be part of the TPP 11 and the EUVNFTA. The GPA in both agreements, mainly deals with the requirement to treat bidders or domestic bidders with investment capital and Vietnamese bidders equally when a government buys goods or requests for a service worth over the specified threshold. Vietnam undertakes to timely publish information on tender, allow sufficient time for bidders to prepare for and submit bids, maintain confidentiality of tenders. The GPA in both agreements also requires its Parties assess bids based on fair and objective principles, evaluate and award bids only based on criteria set out in notices and tender documentation, create an effective regime for complaints and settling disputes, etc.

This instrument will ensure a fair competition and projects of quality and efficient developing processes.

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

Thank you very much!

VIETNAM INVESTMENT REVIEW – INTERVIEW WITH LAWYER IN VIETNAM DR. OLIVER MASSMANN – ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTION PLAN – NEW LAW – WHAT YOU MUST KNOW:

1. It’s been observed that corruption in the non-state sector “has been growing rampantly and with complexity, especially in the areas of loaning, bidding, contracting, and in unofficial costs like gifts, tours, or job generation”. Will this law prevent or stop these various modes of corruption?

OM: Whether the law can prevent or stop these various modes of corruption depends on how well the law is enforced. Even if the law is written perfectly, without effective enforcement of said laws, they will only remain meaningless words on paper. Therefore, whether a law has a preventative or deterrent effect depends on how well the law is enforced. However it must be stated clearly that it is not possible for a law to stop all acts that it forbids – that is not possible in any country, for any law.
“Modes of corruptions” mentioned above can be classified into three categories: activities within one non-state actor, activities between two or more non-state actors, and activities between non-state actors and state actors.

Corruption in the areas of bidding, lending, contracting occur between non-state actors or between non-state and state actors. The regulation of commercial activities between non-state actors should be left to the realm of civil and contract law, and potentially criminal law for very serious offences to define what is legal and what is not, rather than corruption law, as these transactions are conducted purely in the private sector.

As for corruption between a non-state and state actor, including official costs, it is more efficient and realistic to target the corruption within the state actor rather than the non-state actor. Corruption in this situation can only happen if the state actor is susceptible and willing to receiving bribes, embezzlement or can be easily “bought”. Anti-corruption law should ensure that state actors are deterred from receiving bribes and unofficial costs, and criminal law should ensure the punishment of non-state actors for carrying out such activities. On top of that, private companies are profit-driven. No business would like to increase their costs unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately without such unofficial costs, the private businesses are unlikely to be able to get anything done at all, as the authorities and state actors may purposefully hinder or create difficulties for the non-state actors. Thus, many non-state actors, especially SMEs, must make the sacrifice of engaging in corruption and bearing the costs in order to keep their businesses going. The prevention of such various modes of corruption must begin with the state sector.

2. The law also states that government officials cannot consult individuals and organizations in both state and non-state sectors in tasks that are related to state secrets, secret work, and work in which they have the authorization in or have part of the authorization in (Article 20)
Will this create difficulty in how businesses function well without government experts’ advice? The law forbids consultation but does not imply to forbid meetings or restrict communications. Will this be a loophole?

OM: It is reasonable to forbid government officials to consult other individuals and organizations in the non-state sector on information related to state secrets, secret work and work in which they have the authorization in or have part of the authorization in, as this may affect national security and public order. As for consultation with state actors, it should be clear what purpose of the consultation is, the position and security clearance of both parties sharing and receiving the information, and whether the consultation is necessary.
However, in order for this provision to be effective, there must be a clear definition as to what constitutes “state secret” or “secret work”, to avoid abuse of the law such as state actors unreasonably withholding information from non-state actors. On top of that, the inclusion of only consultation is also potentially a loophole, unless the law is left open on purpose. Therefore a clear definition for “consultation” is also needed to clarify which acts constitute consultation and is thus forbidden.

3. How would this affect FDI and foreign businesses in Vietnam and their needs to remain “private” as they call themselves?
Nguyen Quang Vu, a business lawyer from Venture North Law Limited, told local press that the provisions are “irrational”. He also said that private firms have their own regulations about asset transparency and control and supervision over all activities of their heads. Thus the state should not interfere in their activities. Private firms often have many stakeholders, whose interests are protected by the law and the firms’ regulations. The stakeholders are responsible for their assets, not the state.
Do you agree with him? Why/why not?

OM: Private firms may have their own regulations about asset transparency and control supervision over the activities of their employees and executives. I agree with the fact that laws should not interfere with businesses’ activities. The firms may have internal motivations to do this, for example to prevent embezzlement and abuse of corporate funds, ensure business efficiency and trust.

Having said that, some external motivations can also be useful. Providing clear laws on the illegality of such acts can also incentivize businesses to create internal regulations that comply with laws, but also give the businesses a legal recourse in the event that an individual within their company does abuse the regulations. Without legal consequences, the only recourse for a business in such situations may be to dismiss and civil action against the individuals. The additional severity from legal consequences can be both a deterrent and correctional mechanism.

The key point here is that the law-makers must find a balance between upholding the benefits of anti-corruption whilst not overly impeding upon the business’ interests, and also comply with the provisions of international agreements of which Vietnam is a member.

4. What’s your comment on the expansion of Vietnam’s anti-corruption fight to private sector? Considering the existing Criminal Law also covers these entities with specific punishments? What else can the government do? Do you foresee any chilling effect this law would have on legitimate private business?

OM: As mentioned in question 3, corruption within the non-state actor can be classified into three categories: corruption within one non-state actor, corruption between two or more non-state actors, and corruption between non-state actors and state actors.

The justification for expanding corruption to include the non-state sector is that such corruption reduces competition in the market, negatively affects the businesses’ operations and in turn hampers the country’s economy as a whole. Expansion of corruption to the non-state sector will also be consistent with Criminal Code 2015 regulating the responsibilities of individuals within private businesses for acts of embezzlement and bribery.[1]

It is clear that the intention behind including non-state actors in the new Anti-corruption law is to target corrupt acts of individuals in a non-state actor, especially those that operate on a large scale such as public companies, commercial banks and investment funds which handle extremely large sums of money and can potentially impact the rights and benefits of many other individuals and businesses. Although many of such acts are also already covered by the Criminal Code 2015, nevertheless the duplication in the Anti-Corruption Law may hold a symbolic significance, to clearly signify the severity and also moral and political implications of such acts.

The law also needs to find a balance between regulating and preventing corruption in the private sector, but also a law not too intrusive that it over-burdens legitimate private businesses, especially SMEs where they are less likely to have the resources to bear the costs.Thus the current inclusion of the whole private sector in anti-corruption law is too expansive. The law should not be all-inclusive, but perhaps include only certain private sector actors to avoid over-burdening the private sector because the Criminal Code 2015 covers large parts already. Overlapping regulations do serve nobody.

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Please do contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com or any other lawyers in our office listing if you have any questions on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director or Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.