New Whitebook’s key themes

15:29 | 14/03/2019
EuroCham’s Whitebook 2019 is set to be launched this week, and features a number of interesting insights. Nicolas Audier, EuroCham’s co-chairman, talked to VIR’s Bich Thuy on the focus of recommendations from members and fresh opportunities of the ambitious EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.
new whitebooks key themes

What are the highlights in ­EuroCham’s Whitebook 2019, and how can it help EuroCham members deal with business activities in ­Vietnam?

Over the past decade, the insights and recommendations of our members have helped to shape the nation’s ­business environment, and to further improve trade and investment with ­Europe’s market-leading companies. Now, as the country moves up the value chain through digitalisation and Industry 4.0, and further integrates into the international community through free trade agreements such as the upcoming EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), European business will once again represent a strong and stable partner for the next stage of the nation’s development.

In our 11th edition of the ­Whitebook, we share sector-specific recommendations to help improve the overall legal framework and business environment in the country. If taken on board, these insights can help push the nation further and faster on its path of growth and development, benefitting not just domestic and foreign ­businesses, but ordinary citizens and wider society too.

While some issues remain ­unresolved, we can see the trade and investment environment today is ­significantly more competitive, open, and business-friendly. Many of the positive changes we have seen have been raised by EuroCham members in previous editions of the Whitebook, so it is clear that our publication is an ­effective and impactful tool.

What are the key themes in the ­recommendations given by the ­Whitebook 2019?

Just as in previous editions, our 2019 edition sees each sector ­committee make a number of detailed recommendations to improve trade and investment in their own sector. However, the common themes which run through all sectors and industries is the need to continue reducing ­administrative burdens on foreign ­enterprises, further liberalise the ­economy, and continue to reform the legal framework to create a more ­predictable trade and investment ­environment.

The launch of the Whitebook in Hanoi will bring together the issues and recommendations of our sector ­committees under three main themes including healthcare, tax and customs, and ­sustainability. Our members will ­discuss a wide range of issues with the government including tax and transfer pricing, logistics and infrastructure, green growth, human resources, health, and legal issues. If taken on board and ­addressed, we believe the ­recommendations of our members in these areas will not only help to ­improve the business environment and increase trade and investment, but also help to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of ordinary citizens.

The EVFTA is expected to be signed this year. What focus does the Whitebook 2019 give to the deal?

The EVFTA is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious deals ever concluded between the EU and a developing nation. Once it is ratified during the next session of the ­European Parliament, Vietnam will join a select group of countries with privileged, tariff-free access to ­Europe’s 500-million-strong consumer market and world-leading goods and services across all sectors and ­industries.

Once it comes into force, the EVFTA will set in motion a gradual ­reduction of 99 per cent of tariffs across a range of products and ­eliminate technical barriers to trade. This will boost trade and investment, while also helping to further reform the nation’s legal ­framework and improve standards. In short, the EVFTA will increase trade, and make Vietnam a more attractive investment destination for European companies in the region.

In the Whitebook, our members outline the opportunities that the EVFTA will bring in areas from ­government procurement to market ­access for European goods and ­services to investment dispute ­settlements.

However, in order to ­unlock these opportunities, and for the country to fulfill its potential as a ­leading investment destination for ­European companies in the ASEAN, some issues still must be resolved. In the spirit of co-operation, and to ensure a smooth implementation of the EVFTA, our members have also shared their recommendations on how to overcome these issues.

Which changes to investment do you foresee being instigated through the Whitebook?

If the recommendations of our members are taken on board, Vietnam will see greater foreign ­direct investment from Europe across a range of sectors and industries. To take just a few examples, further ­improvements to the tax and customs environment in Vietnam, such as in the areas of transfer pricing, special consumption tax or improving transparency in customs procedures, would help to create a more predictable ­environment for foreign enterprises.

Meanwhile, addressing issues in information and communication technology such as apprenticeships, or in human resources and training, such as work permits for foreign employees, would help to up-skill the Vietnamese workforce.

These changes could help better prepare them, and the economy as a whole, for the jobs and opportunities of the future. These changes, in turn, would encourage greater ­investment from European companies across all sectors and industries.

The Whitebook 2019 will be launched in Hanoi on March 14 and in Ho Chi Minh City on March 20.The Whitebook is EuroCham’s landmark publication on trade, investment issues, and recommendations. Published annually since 2007, the Whitebook is the main product of EuroCham’s core activity: advocacy.

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