EuroCham’s WhiteBook 2020 Briefing: European Business and Ho Chi Minh City Leaders Join Together to Discuss EVFTA Implementation

On Tuesday the 28th of July, the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (“EuroCham”) and the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee (“HCMC PC”) held a dialogue at the Rex Hotel to launch EuroCham’s WhiteBook 2020 Briefing. The event: “Economic Development & Grasping Opportunities under the EVFTA” also discussed future collaboration between EuroCham and City Departments in the upcoming time.
     
      
The event featured special VIP speakers, including H.E. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Phong, Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. Other high-level speakers included H.E. Mr. Vincent Floreani, Consul General of France, and representatives of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Industry and Trade, who presented the city’s import-export development plan and orientation in light of the EVFTA. It also brought together City leaders, Government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, Vietnamese industry associations, business leaders, and journalists, to discuss a wide range of issues in three thematic sessions: Infrastructure, Customs & Trade Facilitation; Smart & Sustainable Development; and Consumer Choice & Healthcare.
       
     
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. The Chamber holds this WhiteBook Briefing in Ho Chi Minh City with the aim of updating the European business community, which is mainly based in Ho Chi Minh City, and of creating opportunities for collaboration with the local authorities in the city.
    
     
Speaking at the Briefing, EuroCham Vice-Chairman Jean-Jacques Bouflet remarked that Ho Chi Minh City has long been one of the most open, competitive, and business-friendly locations for foreign enterprise, including for European enterprises. With the EVFTA set to enter into force on 1 August, the co-operation between the two sides will grow stronger than ever. He added that EuroCham members appreciate the swift and effective measures Government and the City leaders have taken to contain the spread of COVID-19. Confidence of European executives is now starting to bounce back, as can be seen in EuroCham’s latest Business Climate Index.
    

H.E. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Phong, Chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, welcomed EuroCham’s 12th WhiteBook publication with significant efforts to update the European business community on the trade and investment environment in Vietnam. The Chairman highlighted that the dialogue is an opportunity to strengthen cooperation with the European business community, to address difficulties and challenges, and to provide solutions for businesses. This will help to ensure the implementation of the EVFTA and facilitate production, development, and export to the EU market. Speaking at the event, H.E Mr. Phong said: “This year marks the 30-year anniversary of diplomatic relations between the EU and Vietnam and the city heads toward its target: European and Vietnamese business communities ‘reaping the fruits’ that the EVFTA brings”.
   
    
Meanwhile, H.E. Mr. Vincent Floreani, Consul General of France, affirmed that EuroCham has become a close partner and reliable advisor to the Government of Vietnam, with its annual WhiteBook publication providing many interesting and valuable observations on the policies of the Government across important sectors of the economy. He reminded the attendees that, from the effective date of the 1st of August, 71 per cent of Vietnamese exports will be duty-free when entering the EU and many key products will receive tangible benefits. However, the biggest benefits would not be limited to the removal of tariffs. Greater transparency and predictability in Vietnam’s legal and business environment and stronger FDI flows will, in turn, trigger more employment opportunities, enhance quality of life, and increase sustainable economic growth in Vietnam. Mr. Floreani highlighted the importance of raising businesses’ awareness of the FTA. He acknowledged the efforts of EuroCham and the importance of the WhiteBook publication, and encouraged the Chamber to continue its advocacy works to support businesses.
    
    
Mr. Le Huynh Minh Tu, Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Industry and Trade, then introduced the City’s import and export Development Plan and Orientation in the context of the EVFTA. In 2019, the total trade value of the City accounted for 17.8 per cent of the national volume. Trade value with the EU market, meanwhile, reached USD 47.7 billion, with the most-exported products being computer components, footwear, bags, etc. However, challenges remain, in particular that exports are spread out across a wide range of sectors, while lacking specialised exports in certain advantageous sectors. He informed the attendees that HCMC is simultaneously implementing eight solutions to support exports in the context of international economic integration. These include focusing on supporting industries, attracting investment into high technology, contributing to global supply chains, encouraging innovation in high-tech zones, and accelerating administrative procedure reforms toward reducing 50 per cent time of the time taken when receiving and handling customs dossiers.
        
    
EuroCham’s Sector Committees then made presentations to the Government under three thematic sessions: “Infrastructure, Customs & Trade Facilitation”; “Smart & Sustainable Development”; and “Consumer Choice & Healthcare”. During these sessions, business leaders from companies like L'Oreal and from EuroCham’s Sectors Committees including Pharma Group attended and discussed a wide range of topics including, among others, access to innovative pharmaceuticals and a predictable and consistent legal environment for investment.
    
     
Presenting the opportunities and challenges in the EVFTA for businesses exporting Vietnam’s food and foodstuffs Mr. Nguyen Dang Hien, Vice-Chairman of Food & Foodstuff Association of Ho Chi Minh City, underlined that entering supply chains and ensuring food safety and environmental protection remain the two main challenges. He proposed enhancing trade promotion by continuing and increasing exchanges at least once per year. He also prpopsed having policies to support connectivity between enterprises, developing neighbouring provinces, improving capability to tracking origins, and applying high technology to create value. HCMC Departments’ leaders 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.
   
    
Concluding the Dialogue, H.E. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Phong acknowledged EuroCham’s issues and recommendations for study and assigned City Departments to take prompt actions and provide responses to EuroCham on the presented issues. He also assigned each and all Departments (Industry and Trade, Planning and Investment, Justice, etc.) to review the current legal framework and practices and to provide proposals for EVFTA implementation plans by mid-August for the City’s final approval.
     
     
The Chairman reaffirmed the City’s commitment to support businesses by taking concrete actions. Regarding EuroCham’s request for support in the entry of foreign experts, he responded in order to shorten the process, HCMC in the coming time will open a Special Coordinating Taskforce (Departments of Home Affairs, Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Health, and Immigration agency, Planning and Investment etc.) to facilitate the entry. The Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism shall also advise on the 8 hotels in which experts shall stay during the quarantine.

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