New Proposals for Commercial Mediation (ADR)

As a matter of implementing Resolution No. 49-NQ/TQ of the Politburo dated 2 June 2005, as well as implementing Vietnam’s commitments on acceding to the WTO, the State has been developing the new Decree to govern the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for commercial disputes, called commercial mediation.

According to the draft composer, the Decree shall adopt relevant principals of UNCITRAL’s Model Law, these principals are:

  • The mediation process must always have the presence of a neutral third party to assist the parties in the dispute to settle.
  • Mediation is a voluntary solution, except unless otherwise required by laws or the type of dispute.
  • The parties in dispute participate in the process of mediation to build and to reach a mutual agreement themselves.
  • Mediation creates a safe, friendly communication environment for the parties in the dispute.
  • Mediation could be an independent procedure or part of court or arbitral procedure.
  • Mediation is confidential.
  • Mediation does not affect or prevent the parties from using other dispute resolution methods.

For a summary of the above principals, it is concluded that if mediation is successful, the parties would have another agreement to settle the dispute, called the settlement agreement. In case either party does not honor the settlement agreement, the remaining party could request that the court or arbitration make a request for honoring the settlement agreement.

Within the content of this article, we will discuss the binding effect of a settlement agreement under the draft Decree on Commercial Mediation dated 17 June 2015.

According to Articles 25 and 26 the draft Decree, it is written that a settlement agreement would have the effect of binding the obligations of the involved parties. Also, either party has the right to request the Court to recognize the settlement agreement. The procedure and process make the request to the Court must follow the regulations of Civil Procedure Code.

Speaking of this, we are of the opinion that when drafting the Decree with the above contents, there are two issues to be discussed:

  • First, it is contrary to the principals of the UNCITRAL’s Model Laws that mediation result is some form of a new agreement, or a new contract between the parties in dispute. The point is that, in other countries, in the event that one party breaches the settlement agreement, the remaining party can bring the settlement agreement to court or arbitration. At this stage, the court or arbitration shall not re-adjudicate the whole relationship or issues before the time the parties enter into the settlement agreement, but only review the settlement agreement as a new contract between the parties that replaces any other previous issues.
  • Secondly, there is currently no specific provision in both the Law on Commercial Arbitration or the Civil Procedure Code. Therefore, the Law on Commercial Arbitration and the Civil Procedure Code must be amended to be suitable for this Decree, however this solution is not possible. Moreover, there are some opinions that currently, the procedure for recognizing a foreign award or judgment is very complicated and risky, therefore, to add this issue may result in more complexity to the system.

We are of the opinions that Articles 25 and 26 of the draft Decree should be amended in the approach that the settlement agreement is a new contract that replaces all other previous issues relating to the parties, in case where one party dishonors the settlement agreement, the other party can request the court or arbitration to instigate a new case for its enforcement.

By Vietnam Law Insight (LNT & Partners)

Disclaimer: This Briefing is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as detailed advice in individual cases. For more information, please contact us or visit the website: Http://LNTpartners.com

New Law on Investment Effective on 1st July

The new Law on Investment (LOI) has become effective as of 1st July. The final draft Governmental Decree implementing the LOI, as well as the draft Circular implementing the Decree is now being prepared by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) for issuance.

CV 4326 BKHDT-DTNN huong dan tam thoi 30-6-2015

Meanwhile the MPI has issued Official Letter 4326 /BKHĐT-ĐTNN (OL 4326) for ad hoc guidance to implement the new LOI, as well as the forms to be used from 1 July 2015 to obtain the Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) and its amendments; they key points are:

  1. Online application for IRC: investors can file IRC application online at the National Investment Portal [NIP], and submit a paper dossier within 15 days from the online filing. In the event that the dossier is accepted, the investors will be given a temporary account to check the application status. Any incorrect or incomplete application must be notified within 3 days from receipt by the licensing authority.
  2. Project Code: the project code is a 10 digit code to be issued to the applied project (Project) during its operation.
  3. Forms issued: among the forms submitted, please noted that CPC Code and VSIC Code (for business line) is still required when submitting to obtain the IRC. Separate forms are also available for amendments to the project.
  4. M&A approval: the form for M&A approval is on form I.6 attached to OL 4326. This form is simplified, and the explanation to satisfy conditions for M&A is rather brief and must strictly follow the WTO Commitment. It is unclear how other restrictions under local laws could be satisfied or would need to be satisfied (e.g. ENT for distribution companies).
  5. Forms of decisions and IRCs: OL 4326 also provides new forms of IRCs, Principle Approvals and other decisions for authorities to use.

While it is a progressive move forward, there are issues still to be clarified (as noted in our previous alert on OL 4211). Any questions are encouraged to be addressed to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) for guidance.

By Vietnam Law Insight (LNT & Partners)

For more information about this article, please contact the author: Dr. Le Net, LNT & Partners, at the email: Net.le@LNTpartners.com

Disclaimer: This Briefing is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as detailed advice in individual cases. For more information, please contact us or visit the website: Http://LNTpartners.com

Conditional Acceptance of the Construction Works for Commissioning

The Law

On 15 May 2015 the Government issued Decree No. 46/2015/ND-CP (Decree 46) to provide further guidance on the Law on Construction 2015 with respect to quality management and maintenance of construction works, pointing out:

“The responsibility for the quality of the works remains with the survey construction contractors, design contractors, and supply contractors, even after their work has been inspected and accepted by the employer, or after the defect liability period has expired. This means that these contractors may be held liable for damages evidenced to be caused by the quality of their works.”

What does it mean for businesses?

Under Decree 15/2013/ND-CP, acceptance of construction works for commissioning into use when they have not satisfied all requirements of the design, of national technical regulations, of standards applicable to the construction works, and the technical specifications and other requirements of the employers specified in the agreements is generally not allowed.

However, Decree 46 entitles the employer to conditionally accept the construction works for commissioning into use, if the issues with respect to quality of construction works do not affect the weight-bearing capacity, the life cycle and the functions of the works and if the construction works conform to the safety requirements.

Decree 15/2013/ND-CP allows the employer and contractor to freely agree on the minimum amount of the warranty fee retained by the employer. However, to the extent of State owned works, this has been restricted by Decree 46. Accordingly, the warranty fee for State owned works must not be less than 3% of the contract value for works of grade 1 or special grade, and 5% of contract value for the works of other grades.

Decree 46 stipulates that survey contractors should pay significant attention to the quality of their works. Therefore, we suggest that survey contractors to provide sufficient and eligible resources to ensure their works are compliant with the technical plan, as this is required by Decree 46. We would also warn that the Decree also entitles the employer to completely suspend the construction survey works upon finding them not compliant with the technical plan, or the construction survey agreement.

Decree 46 will take effect from 01 July 2015

By Vietnam Law Insight.

Disclaimer: This Briefing is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as detailed advice in individual cases. For more information, please contact us or visit the website: Http://LNTpartners.com

Vietnam, FDI and the TPP ISDS: a Tentative Look

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”) is a multilateral agreement currently being negotiated that, when finally agreed, will encompass approximately 40% of the worlds GDP under a new generation of multilateral economic governance that is focusing on competition policy, labour rights, international investment law and the harmonization of other areas of law and aimed at boosting trade, investment and economic growth between members, who at the advanced negotiation stage include Japan, the USA, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Chile and Peru, with Canada and Mexico interested in joining. One of the most controversial aspects of the negotiations is that they are largely being held behind closed doors – with only limited information on draft chapters being released through memorandums, or via the medium of Wikileaks, hence why this short article is a tentative look – a detailed analysis at this stage is not possible until the final draft is released or leaked, which will not be for some time yet. This lack of transparency has helped foster strong opposition to the agreement before even considering the provisions contained within. This article considers some implications of the TPP’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement (“ISDS”) for investors of inward and outward FDI in Vietnam.

Opposing views mean uncertainty for ISDS in TPP

The ISDS provisions of the TPP have both strong support, and strong disapproval. The strong support comes primarily from the Japanese and US governments and firms that see the ISDS as crucial to the success of the TPP, and the need to protect their investment interests particularly in the SE Asian parties to the agreement. On the opposing side, with a particularly vitriol response is Australia, which has undergone a unique policy shift among developed countries and chosen to accommodate anti-ISDS voices, arguing that it ISDS is a threat to domestic rule of law and has an undermining effect on national judiciary systems. In light of this, Australia has become a proponent to abandoning the ISDS mechanism in the TPP. While the inclusion of an ISDS is still highly likely to be included as part of the agreement – with the USA pressuring opponent parties to endorse the ISDS – and arguing that there won’t be a TPP without it, there is still uncertainty around how the final draft of the TPP will be structured.

ISDS could bring new forms of investment to Vietnam

The inclusion of ISDS into the TPP agreement could have the effect further reducing the risk associated with foreign investment, which could encourage companies from developed countries party to the TPP such as those in the US, to engage in “discretionary” outsourcing, this refers to foreign investment that does not require a foreign presence to be successful (while “non-discretionary” investment outsourcing refers to investment that requires outsourcing to a foreign jurisdiction to be financially viable) , and to ensure performance, would usually be kept in the home country jurisdiction where investment is less risk averse. Such investment can include high quality manufacturing, research and development and others. This discretionary investment could further raise investor confidence in Vietnam as a destination for high tech, R&D and other forms of investment.

Vietnamese outward investment could be boosted

2014 was regarded as a bumper year for Vietnamese outward FDI, with approximately US$1 billion going to 129 projects around the world. While the biggest recipients of Vietnamese FDI have been Myanmar and Cambodia, the US and Singapore were also destinations, both of whom are parties to the TPP negotiations. This suggests that Vietnamese firms would be able to benefit from the ISDS mechanisms. While the US and Singapore have highly developed legal frameworks for the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards; both countries and Vietnam are indeed party to the New York Convention, this could seek to enhance Vietnamese enterprises’ access to a neutral ISDS mechanism. The wide scope of the Japanese and American positions on ISDS covering all major contracts between foreign investors and the host state, if agreed, could protect many forms of Vietnamese FDI to the US and Singapore.

A potential Appellate structure could enhance ISDS for investors

Although not confirmed as yet, the US has taken a leading role in the TPP negotiations in calling for an Appellate structure to the TPP ISDS. Such a mechanism has been widely promoted in US-led international investment agreements, and is included in the US model BIT as a review mechanism. Furthermore, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) secretariat has also considered reform to include an Appellate structure for reviewing arbitral awards. Such a mechanism in the TPP ISDS could have two implications for investors. Firstly, such a structure could harmonize the interpretation of the TPP treaty text, and allow for the correction of awards from the many private commercial arbitration institutions from different jurisdictions that contain different rules of interpretation, and provide a more legitimate investment framework for investors. Indeed, the basis behind the ICSID Appellate structure was to achieve the aforementioned.

Summation

This short look at some of the potential implications on both inward and outward investors in Vietnam suggests that there will be benefits to the international framework for investment in the region that will have the effect of boosting investor confidence between TPP members, on the back of a re-energized ISDS mechanism. With suggests that such negotiations are at an “advanced stage”, it is likely that more aspects of the agreement will be made public in the months to follow.

Bibliography

  • Sappideen, R. Ling Ling, He. ‘Investor-state Arbitration: The Roadmap from the Multilateral Agreement on Investment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’, 40 Fed. L. Rev. 207 2012
  • Cai, Congyan. ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Multilateralization of International Investment Law’, 6 J. E. Asia & Int’l. L. 385 2013
  • Ikenson, D. ‘A Compromise to Advance the Trade Agenda: Purge Negotiations of Investor-State Dispute Settlement’, 57 Free Trade Bulletin 2014
  • Mayer Brown JSM ‘A Guide to doing business in Vietnam’ 2015
  • Mayer Brown JSM ‘Will Vietnam Sink or Swim Amid a Proliferation of FTA?’ International Trade Asia, 2015
  • http://www.talkvietnam.com/2015/02/vietnams-outward-fdi-is-the-tide-turning/ Accessed 7/4/15
  • http://kluwerarbitrationblog.com/blog/2011/05/11/reconsidering-icsid-awards/ Accessed 7/4/15

By Joseph McDonnell – Vietnam Law Insight.

Disclaimer: This Briefing is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as detailed advice in individual cases. For more information, please contact us or visit the website: Http://LNTpartners.com