Vietnam's Government has, in 2016, implemented several actions to enforce more control and execute its international commitments in field of customs. Among those, several noteworthy developments are as follows:
1. Stricter Control on Customs Valuation
In December 2016, the General Department of Customs (GDC) issued a number of directives to strengthen the control on customs valuation of 9 commodity groups including:
a. Alcoholic and beverage products;
b. Electrical appliances of HS headings 8418, 8450, 8516, 8415, 8414, 8509, & 8422;
c. Fruits, confectionary, cooking oils;
e. Cell phones, tablets, projectors;
h. Playing cards; and
i. Motorcycles, tricycles.
Accordingly, customs authority will reject the declared value of these commodities, and impose a prescribed customs value if importers fail to provide appropriate explanation.
2. Implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement
The Government issued Decision No. 1969/QD-TTg on 13 October 2016 approving the "Plan of preparation and implementation of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation (the TFA) of the World Trade Organization", and identifying specific responsibilities of each ministry in upcoming years ("Decision No. 1969").
As a developing country, Vietnam is entitled to special and different treatment (SDT). According to which, Vietnam can determine when it will implement specific provisions of the TFA. To benefit from SDT, Vietnam must categorize each provision of the TFA and notify other WTO Members of these categorizations at the time the TFA comes into effect:
- Category A: TFA provisions that Vietnam will implement by the time the TFA enters into force
- Category B: TFA provisions that Vietnam will implement after a transitional period following the entry into force of the TFA;
- Category C: TFA provisions that Vietnam will implement on a date after a transitional period following the entry into force of the TFA and requiring the acquisition of assistance and support for capacity building.
Decision No. 1969 identifies the Ministry of Finance (MOF) as the national agency to implement the TFA. MOF is responsible for, inter alia,:
- Implementing national outreach plans to provide information on the TFA;
- Operating the single-window system;
- Classifying Categories A, B, and C provisions;
- Seeking technical support and assistance for capacity building;
- Formulating roadmap for implementation of Categories B and C provisions; and
- Reviewing relevant legal framework for further amendments.
According to Decision No. 1969,
- Vietnam has notified its Category A provisions to the WTO;
- Within the first quarter of 2017, the MOF in coordination with other competent authorities and the business communities will identify (i) Category A provisions which have not been fully implemented, (ii) Category B provisions; and (iii) Category C provisions;
- Domestic legislation will be amended to fully implement Category A provisions;
- Vietnam will inform the WTO of its official plan to implement Categories B and C provisions within 1 year from the effective date of the TFA; and
- For capability building, Vietnam has been seeking support from WB, ADB, UNCTAD, WTO, etc. and from developed countries such as the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan.
The following authorities / organizations have been tasked with coordinating with the MOF in implementing specific aspects of the TFA: the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Vietnam.
As such, the business community should keep an eye on seminars / work shops organized by the MOF and / or the relevant competent authorities on TFA implementation. Businesses should also seek inputs from their legal, compliance and operation teams to identify specific issues concerning trade facilitation and voice their concerns to the authorities in order for timely and appropriate categorization of TFA commitments by Vietnam.
3. Promulgation of Decrees to implement 9 Free Trade Agreements for the 2016- 2019 period
The Government issued 9 Decrees on preferential import tariff specifically for the implementation of the Free Trade Agreements to which Vietnam is a member in the period from 2016 to 2018 and from 2016 to 2019. The concerned Free Trade Agreements are Vietnam Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (VJEPA), ASEAN - India Free Trade Agreement, ASEAN - Australia - New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), ASEAN - China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), ASEAN Trade In Goods Agreement (ATIGA), ASEAN - KOREA Free Trade Agreement (AKFTA), Vietnam - Korea Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA), Vietnam - Chile Free Trade Agreement (VCFTA), and ASEAN - Japan Free Trade Agreement (AJCEP).