Company to pay $62.5 million for alleged transshipments to evade dumping duty on Chinese saccharin

Univar USA Inc.  has agreed to pay the United States $62.5 million to settle allegations under the customs penalty statute that it was grossly negligent or negligent when it imported 36 shipments of transshipped saccharin between 2007 and 2012. The saccharin was manufactured in China and transshipped through Taiwan to evade a 329 percent antidumping duty that applied to saccharin from China. The antidumping duty was a remedial measure in response to injury sustained by the domestic saccharin industry by reason of dumping of Chinese saccharin. The transshipment resulted in the evasion of approximately $36 million in antidumping duties. Read more

Dozens of businesses join hands to reduce plastic waste to protect the environment

The Earth Day Compostable Campaign to minimize the use of plastic bags and replace them with compostable bags made from corn starch has been officially launched on the occasion of Earth Hour by An Phat Holdings. It is estimated that dozens of tons of plastic bags will be replaced thanks to the campaign.

Supermarket, restaurant chains and residential areas in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are working with An Phat Holdings to minimize the use of plastic bags.

In the first phase of the campaign, BigC, Aeon, Intimex, Ls Place, Unik Mart, Seika, Teekiu, V + Hoa Binh and Nam An all joined together. For restaurants and café chains, Saint Honore stores and a number of others took part. For urban areas, the EcoSunday fair in Ecopark enthusiastically responded thanks to a shared common orientation: green development and environmental protection.

To accomplish the above objectives, the Earth Day Compostable campaign deployed two main activities. Firstly, it offered advice to consumers about how to reduce the use of plastic bags. Secondly, participants in the campaign used compostable bags AnEco made from corn starch. As its name suggests, AnEco compostable products easily decompose within six months to one year without producing microplastics that affect human health and the environment.

The type of bag used in Earth Day Compostable Campaign is AnEco bag – the first compostable product produced by Vietnam since late 2015.

With the total amount of plastic bags currently consumed reaching tons per day from supermarkets, restaurants and urban areas, replacing them with compostable bags will help save our living environment. Moreover, the participation of big enterprises in this campaign will be the first step and motivation for practical, regular and long-term actions. It also provides inspiration to motivate other businesses, organisations and communities to make strong changes to build a green economy and a clean environment in Vietnam.

An Phat Holdings’ Earth Day Compostable campaign has also co-operated with many other organizations and individuals on environmental protection activities, including the Central Youth Union, the “Rowing & Picking Up” event to clean the Saigon River, and the Earth Day event of “Clean & Green Vietnam” in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Phase 2 of the Earth Day Compostable Campaign will take place from April 20-22, promising to have more supermarkets, restaurants, urban areas and organisations to join and spread the message of environmental protection.

Nguyen Le Hang, Deputy CEO of An Phat Holdings Group, said: “On March 22, at Big C Thang Long Supermarket, there was a successful rehearsal of the Earth Day Compostable Campaign. Within a morning, more than three thousand customers were instructed to minimize the use of plastic bags and instead use AnEco compostable products made from corn starch. Everyone welcomed the program enthusiastically. An Phat Holdings is confident in the Earth Day Compostable Campaign thanks to co-operating with businesses and organisations that share a common goal to reduce plastic waste and aim for a “green” target. We believe that with co-operation like this, it is absolutely feasible to protect the living environment in particular and the Earth in general. This is also a way to share the burden in dealing with plastic waste with the government and communities.”

 

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Dozens of businesses join hands to reduce plastic waste to protect the environment

Joining in global value chains helps improve firms’ brand names

Global value chains were an indispensable way for local firms to build and develop brands, said Le Hoang Tai, deputy director of the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (VIETTRADE).

Tai told the conference that international trade had seen the establishment of global value chains with active participation of not only developed countries but also developing ones and emerging economies.

“With developing countries like Vietnam, global value chains help them gradually join the production network and take advantage of trade, thus accelerating the industrialisation process. Taking part in the chains helps firms gain a foothold in the global market,” he added.

Việt Nam’s economy in general and its industrial sector in particular has seen positive changes in the past few years. According to a report from the General Statistics Office (GSO), the country’s GDP in 2018 rose by 7.08 per cent from the previous year. This was the highest growth since 2008. The industrial sector maintained a growth rate of 8.79 per cent, accounting for 28 per cent of GDP.

The index of industrial production (IIP) in 2018 posted a 10.2 per cent year-on-year increase. Manufacturing and processing continued to be the main momentum for the industrial sector’s growth.

He said both local and foreign investors had put their trust on the stability of Việt Nam’s marco-economy and continue their strong investment into industrial sector.

Some big projects include the Vinfast automobile manufacturing complex with total investment of VNĐ35 trillion (US$1.5 billion) and the $1.2 billion LG Innitek Hải Phòng plant.

GSO figures showed that last year, the processing and manufacturing sector attracted the highest FDI capital of $9.06 billion, accounting for half of total registered investment.

The presence of many big multinational companies in Việt Nam such as Samsung and LG would create opportunities for Vietnamese firms to join the global value chain.

Samsung Việt Nam needed 500 suppliers by 2020, showing the potential for local firms to join the global value chain.

However, Trương Thị Chí Bình, vice chairwoman cum general secretary of the Việt Nam Association for Support Industry (VASI), said Việt Nam’s electronics sector had shortcomings such as high input costs including taxes, fees and bulky production. In addition, many small-and-medium sized enterprises had been unable to serve big orders due to a lack of completed production process.

The Government should prioritise policies to call for both domestic and foreign investments into production. — VNS

 

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Joining in global value chains helps improve firms’ brand names

Trump told Moon he is open to dialogue with N. Korea: White House

U.S. President Donald Trump told South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their meeting Thursday that he remains open to continuing dialogue with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, the White House said.

The two leaders held talks at the White House earlier in the day to seek a solution to the deadlock in denuclearisation negotiations with the North.

Washington and Pyongyang have been at an impasse since Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Việt Nam in February collapsed without a deal.

“President Trump and President Moon discussed our two countries’ mutual goals of achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the way forward with the DPRK following the Hà Nội Summit,” the White House said in a statement, using North Korea’s official name.

It added that Trump “reiterated that he has a very good relationship” with Kim and “noted that the door remains open to dialogue.”

Moreover, the White House said, Moon and Trump affirmed the importance of continuing close coordination and cooperation on issues related to North Korea and discussed the “enduring strength” of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, “which remains the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.”

During their talks, the leaders also lauded the improvements made by the revised South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to two-way trade.

In that vein, Trump noted South Korean companies’ investments in the American manufacturing industry, including the automotive sector, in support of U.S. jobs and exports.

Speaking of recent devastating wildfires in South Korea’s northeastern province of Gangwon, Trump “commended the bravery of Korean first responders, whose heroic efforts saved countless lives,” the White House said. — YONHAP

 

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Trump told Moon he is open to dialogue with N. Korea: White House

Climate-smart food production key for agricultural sector

As Vietnam’s agricultural sector is facing serious impacts of climate change, it is necessary to adapt and improve food production.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Le Quoc Doanh, made the statement at a regional policy forum entitled “Opportunities for Climate-Smart Food System in Viet Nam” held in Hanoi on Wednesday.

Doanh said positive results have been achieved after raising added value and securing sustainable development over the past six years.

After the adoption of climate-smart agriculture, localities in the Mekong Delta region have shifted 40,000ha of farming land to aquaculture and growing fruit trees. However, rice production has been maintained due to an increase in the productivity and improved quality of rice seed.

“It proves that concerted efforts of international organisations, scientists, state management agencies and farmers can work together to set forth measures which help raise farmers’ income and ensure global food security in the context of climate change,” Doanh said.

In order to address climate change-related issues, he said there should be coordination between countries.

In the past, international organisations have helped Việt Nam, particularly in the Mekong Delta areas, to reduce adverse impacts of climate change, Doanh said.

He hoped international organisations would continue to play a key role and work with Vietnamese agencies and localities in more specific programmes to ensure sustainable agriculture.

Participants at the forum agreed that solutions to ensure food security, poverty reduction and prevent droughts were urgent issues worldwide. This required the application of climate-smart food production systems.

“If we have to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to poverty, climate change and food and nutrition security by the year 2030, we need to then change the way food is produced, processed and consumed,” said Samarendu Mohanty, Asia regional director of the International Potato Centre (CIP).

Mohanty said there were seven agricultural production countries taking part in the seed sharing agreement.

He expected that Việt Nam would join because agricultural production, especially cereals, faced major challenges in coping with climate change.

Indian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ashwini Kumar said his country was working with seven Asian countries in the production of plant varieties adapting to climate change.

He offered to share with Việt Nam its models.

At the forum, participants also discussed policy actions based on various research conducted in Việt Nam, experiences from the field, and insights from policy makers.

The policy actions that should be addressed include how to increase agricultural productivity, enhance food and nutritional security and improve incomes for farmers as well as how to build resilience to climate change and reduce agriculture greenhouse gas emissions.

The forum was organised by the International Potato Centre, Vietnam Academy of Agriculture  Sciences in collaboration with Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security in Southeast Asia. — VNS

 

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Climate-smart food production key for agricultural sector

PM orders hindrances be addressed to fuel growth

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has issued Directive 09/CT-TTg,  specifying solutions to remove obstacles to production and business activities so as to achieve this year’s growth target.

In this directive, he made clear that the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6.79 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 was lower than the predicted scenario.

Difficulties hampering economic growth had appeared, he said, noting that the expansion of processing and manufacturing had slowed down; the export of some key commodities had dropped; the disbursement of public investment capital, especially for major projects, had yet to meet expectations; while animal diseases, particularly African swine fever, had become complicated.

Therefore, to attain this year’s growth target of 6.8 per cent, tasks for the remaining months, including tackling hindrances to production and business and promoting economic growth, are “very heavy”, requiring stronger efforts by all sectors and authorities at all levels, PM Phuc emphasised.

He asked ministers, heads of governmental agencies, chairpersons of provincial-level localities’ administrations, and State-owned enterprises to concertedly and effectively implement tasks and solutions.

Noting seven solutions to facilitate production and business activities and economic growth, the directive underlined the need to step up institutional building.

It pointed to the necessity to strongly improve the investment and business climate, substantively reduce business conditions, reform administrative procedures, and remove production and business bottlenecks so as to create momentum for enterprises’ expansion.

Other solutions include taking drastic measures to control animal diseases; fostering agro-forestry-fishery development to serve export; and accelerating the disbursement of capital for big industrial projects. VNS

 

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PM orders hindrances be addressed to fuel growth

Vietnam recorded positive economic achievements in Q1

In the first quarter of 2019, Vietnam recorded positive economic achievements despite a range of difficulties both in and outside the country, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a Government cabinet meeting in Hanoi yesterday.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at a Government cabinet meeting in Hanoi.— VNA/VNS Photo Thong Nhat

The country’s GDP growth was estimated at 6.79 percent, while the macroeconomy was stablised and foreign currency reserves were on the rise.

The inflow of foreign investment increased by nearly 31 percent, with US$4.12 billion disbursed, and total revenue from retail sales and services rose 12 percent, he added.

During the reviewed period, Vietnam’s exports continued to expand amidst the global economic slowdown, helping the country to enjoy a trade plus of $536 million in the first three months of 2019, PM Phuc said.

The government leader highlighted the promising outcome of budget collection, reaching almost 27 percent of the annual target, and the establishment of new businesses, with more than 28,400 enterprises set up during the period, along with a low unemployment rate.

Although the global economy was predicted to slow this year, international organisations still had a positive outlook for Vietnam, he said, citing growth forecasts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) of 6.8 percent and 6.6 percent, higher than the predicted average growth of 6 percent in Asia-Pacific.

Apart from challenges caused by the global economic slowdown, Vietnam would have to face pressure in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) as China’s Foreign Investment Law was set to help raise the country’s competitiveness, he warned.

The PM asked ministries and localities to take measures to step up foreign investment attraction, thus creating resources for national economic development.

At the meeting, PM Phuc also mentioned African swine fever which has been reported in 23 cities and provinces nationwide, along with climate change and drought in the Central Highlands and the Southwestern regions, affecting domestic production.

He urged ministries, agencies and sectors to uphold their responsibility and overcome these challenges to fulfill their yearly targets, saying the greatest efforts should be made to ensure economic growth targets were met and to address social issues, especially in culture and education.

The government leader underlined the need to handle bottlenecks hindering the country’s economic growth, especially the low disbursement of public investment.

Given the disbursement of capital sourced from the state budget dropping 30 percent year-on-year, PM Phuc asked the Minister of Planning and Investment and other ministries and agencies to clarify the problem and accelerate disbursement in April.

Mentioning the credit growth rate of only 2.38 percent as compared with the yearly target of about 14 percent, the PM asked the State Bank of Vietnam to employ measures to support production.

In terms of environmental protection, he asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and localities to work harder to encourage the public to reduce the use of plastic products, helping to handle plastic waste, especially along the country’s coastline.

Regarding the recently-announced provincial competitiveness index, the PM asked localities to pay more attention to transparency, personnel training, corporate support and administrative reforms in land, tax and customs.

Cabinet members also discussed some reports, including those regarding administrative reforms in the first three months of 2019, and the Government’s programme on law and ordinance building, among others.

Social problems

Prime Minister Phuc on the same day asked ministries and sectors to quickly address recent social issues of public concern such as school violence and superstitious activities.

He cited the case of school violence in Hung Yen Province in which a female student was brutally attacked by other students, with another one capturing the scene and uploading the video online. Phuc also mentioned the case of Ba Vang Pagoda in Quang Ninh Province, where tens of thousands of worshippers paid up to thousands of dollars each to have their “bad karma” removed.

“Is this alarming? What are the responsibilities of the education ministry and localities when it comes to school violence?” Phúc said.

“Ministries and authorities need to address this issue so it does not lead to public outcry. Stronger solutions are needed,” he said.

The PM said while economic development was of great importance, it was also necessary for authorities to focus more on social problems.— VNS

 

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Vietnam recorded positive economic achievements in Q1

Foreign investors set their sights on poorly-performing banks

M&As in the banking industry had remained quiet for the past two years after witnessing a record from 2011-16.

However, Hieu said things were warming up this year as the Government wanted to speed up the restructuring of ailing banks while small banks also had to increase capital to meet the SBV’s Basel II regulations by 2020.

“The Vietnamese financial market holds a lot of potential, but license applications to establish a bank are very difficult, so purchasing shares in local banks or acquiring a 100 per cent stake in ailing institutions are the best options for foreign investors,” Hieu told Viet Nam News.

Last week, Japanese-based J Trust Corp expressed an interest in acquiring a stake in the Construction Bank (CB) – one of three weakest State-owned banks under the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) – took over for zero Vietnamese dong in 2015 to prevent a systematic collapse of the banking system due to its inability to settle soaring bad debts.

During a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue on Friday, Nobiru Adachi, Senior Managing Director of J Trust, said his group wanted to be involved in the restructuring of CB.

Besides the capital contribution, J Trust would also support CB in terms of technology and financial operations, Adachi said, expressing his hope that the Vietnamese Government and the SBV would create favourable conditions for the success of its negotiations and the transaction.

According to Hue, the Vietnamese government provides every possible support for domestic and foreign investors, especially those with strong financial and governance capacity as well as experience in banking, to take part in restructuring poorly-performing Vietnamese banks.

Although the Vietnamese Government has no plans to establish more wholly foreign-owned banks in the country, it encourages foreign investors to participate in restructuring weak banks and then become an entity holding 100 per cent of capital in line with domestic legal regulations.

Hue asked Adachi and collaborators to continue discussing their offer to submit to the Vietnamese government and the Prime Minister for consideration.

Apart from CBBank, Hue also welcomed the involvement of J Trust, which successfully revived several financial-consumption companies and restructured weak banks in the Republic of Korea and Indonesia, in restructuring other credit organisations in Viet Nam.

On the same day, Richard F.Chandler, chairman of the Singapore-based Clermont Group, also expressed his desire to invest in Vietnamese banks during a meeting with SBV Governor Le Minh Hung.

With experience in bank restructuring and bad debt settlement in Brazil, Russia, Japan and India, he said his group wanted to take part in the restructuring of Vietnamese banks, noting that the group wished to make more contributions to Vietnam.

In Vietnam, Clermont Group invested in the Hoan My Medical Corporation in 2013. From six hospitals at that time, Hoan My now comprises 15 hospitals and six clinics, where more than 4,000 employees serve 3.7 million patients annually.

SBV representatives also announced a potential foreign investor was willing to acquire OceanBank – another bank acquired by the SBV for zero dong.

 

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Foreign investors set their sights on poorly-performing banks

Vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

There is no denying that inexpensive plastics have made many aspects of food and water distribution much easier, however, emerging research and data from decades of increasing use of plastics suggest that people need to seriously re-evaluate their plastic usage.

As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9 per cent has been recycled and another 12 per cent has been incinerated.

Vietnam is one of Asia’s five worst ocean plastic waste polluters, according to international organisations. With 13 million tonnes of waste released to the ocean every year, the country ranks 17th in the world for ocean plastic waste pollution, according to Vietnamnews.vn.

Although there are no official statistics about the amount and varieties of plastics in the Vietnamese sea and islands, plastic waste is easy to spot in Vietnamese waters, as the country’s 112 estuaries carry plastics to the open ocean.

Numbers from the Vietnam Plastics Associationillustrate the scale of the problem. In 1990, each Vietnamese consumed 3.8 kilogrammes of plastics per year, but 25 years later, the figure hit 41 kilogrammes.

As many as 1,000 plastic bags are used each minute, but only 27 per cent of them are treated and recycled.

On the plus side, the country in general and each citizen in particular has been making efforts to manage imported plastic scrap and monitor plastic production and consumption.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

Vegetables wrapped in banana leaves at a Co.opmart store

According to the media representative of Saigon Co.op, knowing the advantages of using natural materials to pack food, the corporation’s supermarket system including Co.opmart, Co.op Xtra, Co.op Food, and Co.op Smile are experimenting and gradually replacing the packaging of fruits and vegetables by fresh banana leaves.

While banana leaf packaging is more expensive than nylon bags, the different is not significant, making it a practical way for supermarkets and consumers to contribute to the environmental protection drive.

Wrapping vegetables in banana leaves was tested at Co.opmart Phan Thiet. Many customers were interested in seeing scallion, celery, and water spinach wrapped in fresh green banana leaves.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

Customers are interested in the new packaging

Like Saigon Co.op, understanding the alarming extent of climate change and the long-term harm of plastic bags, from April 1, 2019 Big C Hanoi supermarkets – including Big C Thang Long, Big C Long Bien, Big C Hadong, Big C Le Trong Tan, and Big C The Garden – will officially begin wrapping vegetables in banana leaves. Products in the scheme will include celery, green asparagus, cilantro, basil, lettuce, herbs, and dill, among others.

vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

Lotte Mart Vietnam has been piloting the use of banana leaves instead of plastic bags at Lotte Mart in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. The small, environmentally friendly changes elicited enthusiastic response from customers. The representative of Lotte Mart said that the supermarket is still testing the idea, but if it proves successful, Lotte Mart will replicate the scheme all across Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces.

By Tan Duong

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Vietnamese supermarkets replacing plastic bags with banana leaves

Court decision closes loophole for China goods exported to U.S. (Customs FAQ)

“The U.S. Department of Commerce imposed countervailing and anti-dumping duties (19 U.S.C. 1671) on the importation of solar cells and modules, laminates, and/or panels, containing solar cells imported or sold for importation from China. In defining the class or kind of merchandise within the scope of the orders, Commerce used a new test, rather than the typically-used “substantial transformation” test, to determine the country of origin. If Commerce had used the substantial transformation test, it would have concluded that the country of cell production confers origin because the process of assembling the solar cells into solar panels does not substantially transform those solar cells. The Court of International Trade and the Federal Circuit upheld that determination as supported by substantial evidence. The Tariff Act does not require Commerce to define the “class or kind of merchandise” in any particular manner. It is reasonable to use the country where the merchandise was assembled to define the class or kind of merchandise within the scope of the orders—especially where, as here, the very imports found to cause injury due to unfair pricing and/or subsidies were panels assembled in China containing cells produced in other countries.” Read more