On Tuesday the 30th of June, the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (“EuroCham”) and the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Administrative Procedure Reform (“ACAPR”) held a dialogue in Hanoi to discuss administrative reform ahead of the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (“EVFTA”).
The event, “Administrative Reform: A Key Role in EVFTA Implementation” took place in the Melia Hotel and featured special guest speakers H.E. Minister Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Office of the Government (“OOG”) and Axelle Nicaise, Deputy Head of Mission at the EU Delegation to Vietnam. It also brought together business leaders, Government officials, journalists, and members of the diplomatic corps to discuss how administrative reform can help to unlock the full potential of the upcoming EVFTA, which is set to enter into force on the 1st of August.
The event also featured the launch of EuroCham’s 12th Whitebook publication. The Whitebook is EuroCham’s annual report, where the chamber’s 17 Sector Committees raise the issues most important to their business operations and highlight specific actions the Government could take to improve the business environment and increase trade and investment with the EU.
EuroCham Chairman Nicolas Audier opened the dialogue. He remarked that the EVFTA is also a strong vote of confidence in Vietnam from the European Union. He added that EuroCham will now focus its efforts on securing the successful implementation of the EVFTA, and to make sure that the provisions agreed to in principle are realised in practice. One of the most critical factors in the success of the EVFTA’s implementation will be accelerating Vietnam’s positive progress in administrative reform. Vietnam has made huge progress over the last few decades in streamlining business conditions, strengthening the business environment, and modernizing the legal framework. The purpose of the Whitebook is to support the Government of Vietnam in this program of administrative reform.
H.E. Minister Mai Tien Dung welcomed EuroCham's efforts in the publication of the 2020 Whitebook. Speaking at the event, the Minister said: “With solid foundation after 30 years of diplomatic relations, the soon implementation of the EVFTA will create stable and long-term frameworks to maximise co-operation potential, creating a new impetus to strongly promote and deepen economic-trade-investment relations between Việt Nam and the EU.” H.E. Mr Dung proposed European enterprises frankly share the difficulties they are facing and encouraged them to deliver recommendations for regulatory, policy, and administrative procedure reforms.
For the EU Delegation to Vietnam, Ms Axelle Nicaise provided an update on the EVFTA’s implementation. She reminded attendees that a lot of Vietnam’s products will receive tangible benefits. For example, the tariffs for textiles & garments, footwear, and fisheries products will have 0% customs duties within 7 years. However, the biggest benefits would not be limited to the removal of tariffs. There will also be wider implications for Vietnam’s business climate, legal environment, environmental protection, job market and labour standards, and foreign-direct investment flows. She concluded that it will be the private sector, not trade negotiators, who will shape the future of EU-Vietnam trade relations.
Mr Ngo Hai Phan, Vice-Chairman of the ACAPR, then gave a presentation on the Government’s program of simplification and reduction of regulations related to business activities. He discussed Resolution 68, which aims to reduce the time and cost for businesses of compliance with regulations; streamline procedures; and improve the effectiveness of State management. Mr Phan also outlined the Government’s system of receiving feedback from businesses, and provided an overview of how authorities respond.
EuroCham’s Sector Committees then made presentations to the Government under three thematic sessions: “Healthcare & Sustainable Development”; “Business Environment” (including Legal, Tax & Customs); and “Consumer Choice”. During these sessions, business leaders from companies including Unilever, Ekino, and Virbac alongside EuroCham Sectors Committees including Pharma Group, Medical Devices & Diagnostics, Nutritional Foods Group, Wines & Spirirs, and International Quality Medicines – Generic & Biosimilar, discussed a wide range of topics. Issues discussed included, among others, access to innovative pharmaceuticals and a predictable and consistent legal environment for investment; medical device machine installation in hospitals; goods labeling requirements; food safety inspection registration certificates; and tax tariffs applied to functional foods.
Government officials then provided their detailed feedback to the issues raised, and later participated in a Q&A session with EuroCham members, embassies, diplomats, think-tanks and other attendees.