EuroCham Meets with MOFA to Discuss the Business Environment during COVID-19

On Tuesday 3 August, EuroCham held a high-level meeting with Vice-Minister Nguyen Minh Vu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The online meeting was held to discuss how Vietnam can facilitate European business activities during the fourth wave outbreak of COVID-19 and recover after the pandemic.

The Vice Minister asked EuroCham to share the insights and recommendations of European business leaders as to how Vietnam can support foreign enterprises during the current outbreak and also unlock the full potential of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

EuroCham Chairman Alain Cany and Vice-Chairs Torben Minko, Nguyen Hai Minh, and Jean-Jacques Bouflet joined the meeting. Mr Cany opened the discussion for EuroCham, praising Vietnam’s handling of the pandemic while highlighting the significant difficulties that businesses are now facing during the current fourth wave. He mentioned that different provinces are taking different approaches to business operations and requested that the Government ensure a consistent approach.

Vice-Chair Torben Minko then shared the challenges of the current international travel restrictions. While these have been essential to prevent the spread of the virus, now that vaccines are available, EuroCham encourages Vietnam to allow more vaccinated European business leaders to travel to Vietnam. This will help to support the dual goals of the Government: maintaining growth while protecting health. The travel restrictions are causing significant issues for European companies of all sizes, and EuroCham requests that MOFA create a streamlined, fast-track process for vaccinated business leaders, experts, and their families to enter Vietnam. Mr Cany added that the feedback from our members is that this process is long, requiring documents that are hard to obtain and legalize during COVID-19.

Vice-Chair Nguyen Hai Minh then discussed the impacts of Directive 16 on business operations and supply chains. Each province takes a different approach, and checkpoints are making the transport of goods and people much more difficult; interrupting normal logistics operations and creating problems replacing staff who are required to remain on site. This, in turn, is having a negative impact on the perception of foreign investors. As a result, some major companies could reconsider their decisions to invest in Vietnam. Considering the huge contribution that foreign-invested companies make to Vietnamese exports, he urged the Government to address these issues.

Vice-Chair Jean-Jacques Bouflet then stressed the need for Vietnam to maintain its positive reputation from the first three waves of the pandemic. He urged the Government to roll out a mass vaccination drive in order to achieve this, and to create a special fast-track process to support the arrival of business leaders. Mr Bouflet then discussed the issue of work permits for foreign workers, since the new regulations could act as a disincentive to new foreign investment. Turning to the EVFTA, he emphasized that it is important to respect not just the letter but also the spirit of the agreement. In particular, Mr Bouflet stressed that the use of transition periods to introduce new trade barriers – such as those in the pharmaceutical sector – counteracts the upcoming tariff reductions.

Concluding the meeting, Alain Cany said that EuroCham is pleased with the first 12 months of the EVFTA’s implementation. He shared his confidence that, as soon as mass vaccination is achieved, trade and investment between Europe and Vietnam will continue to grow and thrive.

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