High hopes for Vietnam’s capital markets in 2017

Vietnam is hoping the combination of a relaxation of foreign investment rules, for, stock exchange growth, a push for state-owned enterprises (SOE) equitisation and a gradual opening of bond markets will help its economy to grow this year. Asialaw spoke to lawyers in the jurisdiction to get a glimpse into the latest changes and expected trends in the capital markets for 2017.

Encouraging foreign investment

One of the major changes to encourage foreign investment in Vietnam is that certain industries including, securities firms, were opened up to 100% foreign holding in 2016.

 
 Le Net

“With the removal on foreign ownership cap at 49%, those needing capital to grow will be able to,” says Le Net, partner at LNT & Partners. “PE [private equity] and M&A interest have been coming from Thailand, Japan, China, Korea and Indonesia,”

 “There are other 18 sectors including transportation, construction and real estate where offshore investors can take a degree of ownership subject to certain conditions,” says Dang The Duc, managing partner at Indochine Counsel. “The increase of foreign ownership will create positive sentiment for the investors, enhancing stock market liquidity and M&A activities in Vietnam, especially for big companies with the aim to increase their market share.”

Growth of stock exchanges

Vietnam’s benchmark VN Index (VNI) has been one of the fastest growing markets in Southeast Asia so far this year. “VNI has gotten a new peak in 2016,” says Duc. “The Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HOSE) is expected to break into the top five biggest stock markets in the region by 2020, with market capitalisation of 60% of the country’s GDP and average daily trading value at $250 million. However, there were still some garbage stocks which were margin forced to sell in 2016 that were harmful to the quality of stock market.”

Dang The Duc

“Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) has developed the action plans for sorting stocks on the unlisted public company market (UPCoM), including selection of the best stocks break down by criteria such as size of the business, production and business situation – financial, situation governance, liquidity, etc., to put on the UPCoM premium list which is aimed towards adoption of open policy for good business groups,” adds Duc.

A merger of the HNX and HOSE, which was first announced in 2012, is expected to be completed by early 2017.

State owned enterprises equitisation

To support the development of the unlisted public company market, the Vietnamese government has put together a series of policies targeting divestment of SOEs associated with registration and listing on the stock market. It is mandatory for an equitised SOE to list the company’s shares on the stock exchange after one year, if it satisfies the listing criteria.

After the equitisation of SOEs, there will be an increased scale of listed enterprises registered for trading in the near future.

The deadline for divestment of state economic groups and state corporations from non-core sectors expired on December 31. “However, just over one-third of total investment capital were completed,” says Duc. “Therefore, the stock market will receive a boost from the country’s efforts to accelerate share sales in SOEs.”

Debt capital markets poised for growth

The trading volume in the Vietnam bond market reached $40.13 billion in the first half of 2016, an increase of 4.7% compared to 2015. Of that, 98% were government bond sales, which amounted to 22% of total GDP and is expected to increase to 40% by 2020. At $5.7 billion in 2015, the corporate bond market in Vietnam is still relatively small. “However, this is expected to grow as Vietnam plans to open its first corporate bond trading platform in early 2017 as it expects a rise in issuances of company debt,” says Duc. “The SSC has been actively implementing the corporate bond scheme to make the local corporate bond market work next year.”

“The bonds market has been nascent,” says Le. “There hasn’t been many corporate bonds since the companies have to be profitable and they need to be able to show investors that they can pay interest. Many newly established companies aren’t ready yet.”

Strengthening regulations

A number of rules have been amended to strengthen regulation around the banking and securities sector. Circular No. 07/2016/TT-BTC of the Ministry of Finance was issued in 2016 to amend 43 of the securities lending restrictions such that securities companies cannot use money and property of the company or the customer to ensure payment obligations for third parties by the securities companies.

“The government will continue restructuring banking sector, owing to the high level of bad debts, to reduce the number of local commercial banks by 2020, but these efforts will make only gradual headway,” says Duc.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has drafted a banking restructuring plan for the 2016-2020 to:

  • continue reducing non-performing loans sustainably;
  • reduce numbers of illiquid banks;
  • reduce the lending interest rate to 5%; and
  • ensure 70% of commercial banks comply with Basel II, the second of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s recommendations to set minimum capital requirements for financial institutions by 2020.

With the combination of the stock exchanges, opening up of the derivatives and bonds markets and encouragement for foreign investment, the increased availability of products and liquidity for capital markets in the emerging markets of Vietnam pose a world of opportunity for investors, both domestic and abroad.

Source: Asialaw

DEVELOPMENTS IN ARBITRATION IN VIET NAM

Hôm nay,  7/12/2016, Tiến sĩ Lê Nết  tham dự buổi Hội thảo “Managing International Arbitration with a South East Asian Dimension: A Masterclass for Arbitration” được tổ chức ở Singapore. Tại đây, Tiến sĩ Lê Nết  đại diện cho Trung tâm trọng tài quốc tế Viêt Nam (VIAC) trình bày về “Development in arbitration in Vietnam”.

Dưới đây là bản tóm tắt nội dung phần diễn thuyết của Tiến sĩ Lê Nết bằng tiếng Việt. Bạn đọc click link để theo dõi.

Development-in-arbitration

Luật sửa đổi, bổ sung danh mục ngành, nghề đầu tư kinh doanh có điều kiện của Luật đầu tư 2014

Trong Hội thảo “Sự thay đổi của pháp luật đầu tư kinh doanh – AmCham” ngày 30/11/2016 vừa qua, Tiến sĩ Lê Nết đã có bài trình bày rất sinh động về “Luật sửa đổi, bổ sung danh mục ngành, nghề đầu tư kinh doanh có điều kiện của Luật đầu tư 2014”. 

Nếu bỏ lỡ cơ hội tham dự buổi hội thảo vừa rồi, bạn đọc hãy click link để xem văn bản tóm tắt  phần trình bày của Tiến sĩ Lê Nết.

Conditional businesses _30112016

Sổ tay Luật sư – Chương 6: Tư vấn lĩnh vực xây dựng

Chương 6 của Sổ tay luật sư trình bày một số vấn đề pháp lý cơ bản liên quan đến việc tư vấn trong lĩnh vực xây dựng, bao gồm (i)  hợp đồng xây dựng, (ii) các rủi ro chính phát sinh trong quá trình xây dựng, (iii) quy định về hợp đồng xây dựng theo luật Việt Nam và theo FIDIC, và (iv) Giá hợp đồng xây dựng, phương thức thanh toán và hồ sơ thanh toán.

Tại chương này, một số quy định của pháp luật đã hết hiệu lực chẳng hạn như Luật Xây dựng 2003, Luật Đấu thầu 2005, Nghị định 48/2010, Nghị định 99/2007 được viện dẫn để đối chiếu với những thay đổi so với các quy định hiện tại, đặc biệt là Nghị định 37/2015 và Thông tư 09/2016 hoặc được viện dẫn để làm rõ lý do cho những thay đổi trong pháp luật hiện tại.

Phương pháp luận chủ yếu được trình bày xuyên suốt tại Chương 6 này là (i) trình bày vấn đề cần đề cập; (ii) phân tích và đánh giá; (iii) đưa ra các kết luận và kiến nghị cần thiết. Tuy nhiên tại một số tiểu mục do tính chất đặc thù, phương pháp luận này sẽ không được trình bày rõ ràng như vậy hoặc được lược bớt những phần không quan trọng.

Để đọc nội dung chi tiết của chương 6, vui lòng click link bên dưới:

Link Chuong 6: Tu van linh vuc xay dung

Luật sư Lê Nết

LNT & Partners

#LNT #vietnam #law

ĐỐI TƯỢNG BẢO HỘ SÁNG CHẾ MỚI THEO TPP VÀ TÁC ĐỘNG ĐẾN THỊ TRƯỜNG DƯỢC PHẨM TẠI VIỆT NAM

Tóm lược

Pháp luật sở hữu trí tuệ, bên cạnh vai trò là ngành luật bảo vệ quyền tài sản của các chủ thể, còn đóng vai trò quan trọng đối với sự tiến bộ về khoa học công nghệ của mỗi quốc gia, do đó, bất kỳ sự thay đổi nào trong pháp luật về sở hữu trí tuệ đều có thể dẫn đến những tác động mạnh mẽ đến tiến trình phát triển của nền kinh tế. Trong bối cảnh các cam kết về bảo hộ sáng chế ở mức độ cao trong Hiệp định TPP có khả năng sẽ được thi hành, Việt Nam cần chuẩn bị những biện pháp nhằm giảm thiểu những tác động tiêu cực đến ngành công nghiệp dược phẩm trong nước. Bản tham luận này đề cập đến những khó khăn và thách thức mà ngành công nghiệp dược phẩm sẽ phải đối mặt khi Việt Nam mở rộng đối tượng bảo hộ sáng chế theo cam kết trong TPP, cụ thể là thực hiện bảo hộ cách sử dụng, phương pháp sử dụng hoặc quy trình sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết. Trên cơ sở làm rõ những tác động của những đối tượng này đến thị trường dược phẩm, bao gồm trở ngại trong việc sản xuất thuốc gốc, giá thuốc tăng cao, khả năng tiếp cận thuốc của cộng đồng bị hạn chế, bản tham luận đã đề ra một số giải pháp về mặt chính sách cũng như về mặt kinh tế và khoa học nhằm hạn chế phần nào những tác động thiếu tích cực mà việc bảo hộ các đối tượng sáng chế mới có thể mang lại cho ngành công nghiệp dược phẩm tại Việt Nam

Dẫn nhập

Hiệp định đối tác chiến lược xuyên Thái Bình Dương (gọi tắt là Hiệp đinh TPP) đã được Bộ trưởng các nước tham gia đàm phán ký kết vào đầu năm nay. Mặc dù đến thời điểm hiện tại, các nước thành viên vẫn đang trong giai đoạn thực hiện các thủ tục pháp lý nội bộ để phê chuẩn Hiệp định. Tuy nhiên, Việt Nam với tư cách là một bên tham gia đàm phán và ký kết Hiệp định, nhiều khả năng sẽ phải thực hiện các cam kết được ghi nhận trong Hiệp đinh, trong đó có các cam kết liên quan đến vấn đề sở hữu trí tuệ.

Quá trình đàm phán Hiệp định TPP đã diễn ra không hề suôn sẻ khi các bên tham gia đàm phán phải nỗ lực trung hoà những lợi ích đối lập. Chương 18 của bản dự thảo Hiệp định TPP, đề cập đến vấn đề sở hữu trí tuệ, bao gồm các vấn đề về sáng chế, chỉ dẫn địa lý, thực thi quyền,… đã gây ra những tranh luận gay gắt giữa nhóm các nước có nền kinh tế phát triển và nhóm các nền kinh tế đang phát triển trong số 12 nước tham gia đàm phán TPP. Tuy nhiên, để có thể đạt được một thoả thuận chung, hài hòa lợi ích của tất cả các bên, mỗi quốc gia thành viên đều phải có những nhượng bộ trong một số lĩnh vực nhất định.

Đối với Việt Nam, có cơ sở để nhận định rằng, những thoả thuận được ghi nhận tại Chương Sở hữu trí tuệ của TPP là sự đánh đổi lớn của Việt Nam để đạt được các lợi ích quan trọng khác về thương mại và đầu tư. Theo đó, Việt Nam đã chấp nhận những điều kiện bảo hộ về sở hữu trí tuệ cao hơn rất nhiều so với mức độ mà Việt Nam đang thực hiện. Đặc biệt là mức độ bảo hộ cực kỳ cao đối với sáng chế, thể hiện rõ nét qua các điều khoản mở rộng phạm vi đối tượng được bảo hộ, được dự đoán sẽ là thách thức cho nền công nghiệp dược phẩm, một ngành công nghiệp non trẻ và nhạy cảm của Việt Nam.

Bản tham luận này, sau đây sẽ phân tích những tác động, đồng thời cũng là những khó khăn mà ngành công nghiệp dược phẩm của Việt Nam sẽ phải đối mặt trong tương lai khi một số đối tượng mới được bảo hộ theo cam kết trong TPP. Qua đó, đề xuất một số biện pháp khắc phục phù hợp với các cam kết quốc tế cũng như điều kiện và khả năng thực tế của Việt Nam.

intellectual-property

Đối tượng bảo hộ sáng chế mới theo cam kết tại Hiệp định TPP

Chương 18 của Hiệp định TPP về sở hữu trí tuệ thiết lập một cơ chế bảo hộ mới, được đánh giá là cao hơn nhiều so với mức độ bảo hộ hiện tại được ghi nhận tại Hiệp định về các khía cạnh thương mại của quyền Sở hữu trí tuệ (Hiệp định TRIPS) cũng như Luật Sở hữu trí tuệ mà Việt Nam đang áp dụng. Cụ thể, Chương 18 Hiệp định TPP về sở hữu trí tuệ ghi nhận các thỏa thuận chung của các quốc gia trong lĩnh vực bảo hộ sáng chế, bao gồm các điều khoản về phạm vi các đối tượng được bảo hộ, điều chỉnh thời hạn của bằng độc quyền sáng chế, bảo vệ dữ liệu thử nghiệm,… Trong số các điều khoản tại Chương này, điều khoản ghi nhận sự mở rộng về phạm vi đối tượng được bảo hộ sáng chế được nhận định sẽ có tác động mạnh mẽ đến hệ thống bảo hộ sáng chế của Việt Nam.

Cụ thể, liên quan đến phạm vi các đối tượng được bảo hộ sáng chế, Điều 18.37.2 Hiệp định TPP quy định như sau:

Điều 18.37: Đối tượng được bảo hộ sáng chế.

  1. Theo khoản 3 và 4 và phù hợp với khoản 1, mỗi Bên khẳng định rằng bằng sáng chế có thể được cấp cho các sáng chế yêu cầu bảo hộ một trong các yếu tố sau: cách sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, phương pháp sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, hoặc quy trình sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết.Một Bên có thể hạn chế các quy trình sử dụng mới đó với những đối tượng không đòi hỏi việc sử dụng sản phẩm theo quy trình như vậy.”

Theo quy định của TRIPS và Luật Sở hữu trí tuệ Việt Nam, sáng chế là giải pháp kỹ thuật dưới dạng sản phẩm hoặc quy trình nhằm giải quyết một vấn đề kỹ thuật xác định. Để được bảo hộ là sáng chế, một sản phẩm hoặc quy trình phải đáp ứng yêu cầu về tính mới, tính sáng tạo và có khả năng áp dụng công nghiệp.[1] Theo đó, các đối tượng như cách sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, phương pháp sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, hoặc quy trình sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết không thể được bảo hộ là sáng chế do bản thân chúng, một cách độc lập, không phải là sản phẩm hay quy trình, hoặc nếu có, cũng không có đủ tính mới hay đủ trình độ sáng tạo.[2]

Tuy nhiên, trong trường hợp Hiệp định TPP được thông qua và vận hành, Việt Nam nhiều khả năng sẽ thực hiện bảo hộ đối với các đối tượng mới này. Điều này được đánh giá sẽ tạo ra sự tác động mạnh mẽ đối với thị trường dược phẩm tại Việt Nam.

Tác động của việc bảo hộ các đối tượng mới đến thị trường dược phẩm tại Việt Nam

Đối với ngành công nghiệp sản xuất thuốc gốc (thuốc generic), thuốc tương tự sinh học (thuốc biosimilar):

Khi một loại thuốc mới được nghiên cứu thành công và được cấp phép lưu hành, được gọi là biệt dược gốc (thuốc brand name) được cấp bằng sáng chế, chủ sở hữu bằng sáng chế của biệt dược gốc đó có độc quyền trong việc sản xuất biệt dược đó. Thông thường, để có thể sản xuất một biệt dược đang được bảo hộ, các doanh nghiệp sản xuất dược phẩm sẽ phải trả phí chuyển quyền sử dụng sáng chế (phí license) cho chủ sở hữu bằng độc quyền sáng chế của biệt dược đó. Trong hầu hết các trường hợp, phí chuyển quyền sử dụng sáng chế do các bên thỏa thuân, vì vậy, khoản phí này thường được chủ sở hữu ấn định ở mức rất cao. Tại Việt Nam, một nước đang phát triển với trình độ khoa học và tiềm lực kinh tế còn hạn chế, các công ty dược phẩm muốn sản xuất biệt dược thường phải chờ đến khi văn bằng bảo hộ sáng chế cấp cho biệt dược hết thời hạn để tiến hành sản xuất theo công thức của biệt dược đó. Sản phẩm của quá trình sản xuất này được gọi là thuốc gốc. Theo đó, thuốc gốc là thuốc có tính tương đương sinh học với biệt dược, chứa cùng lượng dược chất, sử dụng trong cùng điều kiện sinh khả dụng, tức là có tốc độ hấp thu vào cơ thể giống như biệt dược.[3]

Tương tự như vậy, chủ sở hữu của bằng độc quyền sáng chế đối với các loại thuốc có nguồn gốc sinh học (còn được gọi là các chế phẩm sinh học bao gồm các hormone tái tổ hợp, các chế phẩm máu, kháng thể đơn dòng, vắc xin tái tổ hợp và các sản phẩm ứng dụng công nghệ gen khác) cũng sẽ được cấp độc quyền sản xuất trong một khoảng thời gian nhất định. Khi hết thời hạn này, các doanh nghiệp sản xuất thuốc dù không được chủ sở hữu cho phép cũng có quyền sản xuất và đưa ra thị trường các sản phẩm thay thế có cùng bản chất và cùng chỉ định điều trị, tuy nhiên, với các điều kiện ngặt nghèo hơn so với thuốc gốc. Cụ thể, để có thể được lưu hành trên thị trường, thuốc generic chỉ cần chứng minh tính tương tự bào chế, tính tương đương sinh học, trong khi thuốc tương tự sinh học phải có dữ liệu thử nghiệm lâm sàng và tiền lâm sàng độc lập mà không được sử dụng dữ liệu thử nghiệm của chế phẩm sinh học đã được bảo hộ trước đó như đối với thuốc gốc. Các loại thuốc được sản xuất theo phương thức này được gọi là các thuốc tương tự sinh học (thuốc biosimilar).

Theo các quy định hiện tại của Hiệp định TRIPS cũng như các quy định của pháp luật sở hữu trí tuệ Việt Nam, đối với mỗi sáng chế, bằng độc quyền sáng chế có hiệu lực trong vòng 20 năm kể từ ngày nộp đơn yêu cầu bảo hộ. Kết thúc thời hạn này, các doanh nghiệp sản xuất thuốc có quyền sản xuất thuốc gốc hoặc thuốc tương tự sinh học mà không phải trả phí chuyển quyền sử dụng sáng chế. Tuy nhiên, với nội dung cam kết tại Điều 18.37.2 của Hiệp định TPP, chủ sở hữu bằng độc quyền sáng chế, cụ thể là một số doanh nghiệp sản xuất dược phẩm, có thể kéo dài thời hạn 20 năm độc quyền lên gấp nhiều lần bằng phương thức có tên gọi là “evergreening”.

Có nhiều định nghĩa khác nhau về thuật ngữ “evergreening”, tuy nhiên, có thể hiểu “evergreening” là phương thức được chủ sở hữu sử dụng để kéo dài thời gian được bảo hộ độc quyền sáng chế nhờ việc tạo ra một thay đổi nhỏ đối với sáng chế mà thậm chí không làm tăng thêm giá trị sử dụng của sáng chế đó.[4] Ví dụ, trong trường hợp muốn kéo dài thời hạn bảo hộ sáng chế của một sản phẩm thuốc biệt dược, khi sắp hết thời hạn bảo hộ, chủ sở hữu tiếp tục nộp đơn yêu cầu bảo hộ cho một công dụng mới của loại thuốc đó, một dạng bào chế mới, hoặc một một cách sử dụng mới. Đối với dược phẩm, ngay cả người không có chuyên môn trong lĩnh vực này cũng biết rằng, một loại thuốc hoàn toàn có thể có nhiều công dụng, nhiều dạng bào chế, và nhiều cách sử dụng khác nhau.

Như vậy, quy định tại Điều 18.37.2 Hiệp định TPP rõ ràng đã tạo điều kiện vô cùng thuận lợi cho chủ sở hữu sáng chế nói chung, đặc biệt là chủ sở hữu sáng chế dược phẩm thực hiện phương thức “evergreening”. Bằng cách tạo ra những thay đổi nhỏ đối với loại thuốc đã được bảo hộ (ví dụ sản xuất thuốc dạng nước thay vì dạng viên cứng như trước đây hoặc sử dụng bằng đường uống thay vì đường tiêm,…) từ đó thời hạn bảo hộ độc quyền đối với một loại thuốc có thể bị kéo dài thêm nhiều lần so với thời hạn 20 năm ban đầu.

Như một hệ quả tất yếu của việc thời hạn bảo hộ bị kéo dài thêm nhiều lần, không có bất kỳ một doanh nghiệp dược phẩm nào được quyền sản xuất thuốc gốc nếu sáng chế được bổ sung thêm một công dụng, một dạng bào chế mới hoặc một cách dùng mới vào thời điểm nó gần hết thời hạn bảo hộ, các doanh nghiệp sản xuất thuốc gốc sẽ phải chờ một khoảng thời gian dài gấp nhiều lần 20 năm, mới có thể sản xuất thuốc gốc. Do đó, nếu TPP được vận hành, quy định tạo điều kiện cho phương thức kéo dài thời hạn bảo hộ tại Điều 18.37.2 sẽ được Việt Nam nội luật hóa, ngành công nghiệp sản xuất thuốc gốc và thuốc tương tự sinh học, vốn chiếm tỷ trọng lớn trong ngành công nghiệp sản xuất dược phẩm của Việt Nam, sẽ bị ảnh hưởng nghiêm trọng.

  • Đối với giá thuốc và quyền tiếp cận thuốc của người dân Việt Nam.

Từ trước đến nay, dược phẩm luôn được xem là sản phẩm thiết yếu và nhạy cảm, ảnh hưởng đến lợi ích công cộng và tính mạng, sức khỏe con người và chất lượng cuộc sống. Thuốc gốc, do không phải bao gồm chi phí nghiên cứu và phát triển cũng như phí chuyển quyền sử dụng sáng chế, thường có giá thành rẻ hơn rất nhiều so với thuốc biệt dược. Vì vậy, thuốc gốc trở thành lựa chọn của rất nhiều bệnh nhân, đặc biệt là tại Việt Nam, đất nước có thu nhập bình quân đầu người ở mức thấp so với nhiều quốc gia trong khu vực cũng như trên thế giới.

Chấp nhận bảo hộ các đối tượng tại Điều 18.37.2 Hiệp định TPP đồng nghĩa với việc chấp nhận rằng thời gian bảo hộ độc quyền sáng chế đối với dược phẩm rất có thể sẽ tăng lên gấp nhiều lần bằng phương thức “evergreening”. Khi thời hạn bảo hộ sáng chế bị kéo dài thêm, các doanh ngiệp dược phẩm không thể sản xuất thuốc gốc để cung cấp cho nhu cầu phòng và chữa bệnh của cộng đồng. Chưa kể đến các lợi ích về kinh tế mà ngành sản xuất thuốc gốc bị thiệt hại, hệ quả ngay trước mắt là người dân và các bệnh nhân không còn sự lựa chọn nào khác ngoài việc trả một mức giá rất cao cho sản phẩm thuốc được bảo hộ sáng chế để bảo vệ sức khỏe và tính mạng của mình. Rõ ràng, các quy định về bảo hộ sáng chế trong TPP đã hạn chế đáng kể quyền tiếp cận thuốc của người dân đặc biệt là những bệnh nhân nghèo tại Việt Nam.

Một số đề xuất khắc phục những khó khăn của Việt Nam khi thực hiện bảo hộ các đối tượng mới

Đã từ lâu, trên cơ sở phù hợp với khả năng kinh tế và tiềm lực phát triển khoa học công nghệ của mình, các quốc gia luôn tìm kiếm một chính sách phù hợp nhằm cân bằng giữa việc bảo hộ quyền sở hữu trí tuệ và quyền tiếp cận thuốc của cộng đồng. Bằng Tuyên bố Doha 2001 về Hiệp định TRIPS và sức khỏe cộng đồng, tất cả các thành viên WTO, trong đó có các nước TPP đã ghi nhận tầm quan trọng, sự cần thiết và phù hợp đạo đức của việc áp dụng linh hoạt các quy định của TRIPS nhằm bảo vệ sức khỏe cộng đồng.

Trong quá trình đàm phán Hiệp định TPP, đoàn đàm phán chương sở hữu trí tuệ của Việt Nam đã bày tỏ quan điểm không chấp thuận các đề xuất liên quan đến việc tăng cường mức độ bảo hộ sáng chế. Trong Bản khuyến nghị chính sách của cộng đồng Doanh nghiệp Việt Nam về phương án đàm phán Chương sở hữu trí tuệ cũng như Thư kiến nghị về đàm phán Chương sở hữu trí tuệ của Phòng thương mại và công nghiệp Việt Nam (VCCI), các doanh nghiệp, hợp tác xã, nhóm bệnh nhân,… trên toàn quốc đã đề nghị đoàn đàm phán cần kịch liệt bác bỏ những đề xuất tăng cường bảo hộ sáng chế, đặc biệt là các quy định mở rộng phạm vi đối tượng bảo hộ sáng chế như cách sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, phương pháp sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết, hoặc quy trình sử dụng mới của một sản phẩm đã biết[5]. Tuy nhiên, như đã nói, các quy định trong Chương Sở hữu trí tuệ trong Hiệp định TPP là sự đánh đổi của Việt Nam để đạt được những lợi ích kinh tế và chính trị cấp bách trong các lĩnh vực thương mại và đầu tư.

Quy định tại Điều 18.37.2 Hiệp định TPP, vốn được dự đoán là sẽ tạo điều kiện cho việc thực hiện “evergreening” đối với sáng chế, là điểm mới trọng tâm của việc bảo hộ sáng chế theo TPP so với pháp luật hiện hành của Việt Nam. Trên thế giới, nhiều nước bao gồm Ấn Độ và Philipines coi “evergreening” là một biểu hiện của việc lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ và đã có những biên pháp hết sức quyết liệt để cấm hành vi này.[6] Vì vậy, trên cơ sở phù hợp với các cam kết trong TPP và vận dụng linh hoạt các điều khoản tùy nghi của Hiệp định TRIPS cũng như tinh thần của Tuyên bố Doha, Việt Nam cũng cần áp dụng một số biện pháp để bảo vệ sức khỏe cộng đồng và ngăn chặn việc lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ đặc biệt trong vấn đề bảo hộ sáng chế đối với dược phẩm.

  • Nới lỏng những điều kiện về chuyển giao quyền sử dụng sáng chế bắt buộc trong lĩnh vực dược phẩm.

Bắt buộc chuyển giao quyền sử dụng sáng chế, hay còn được gọi là li-xăng không tự nguyện sáng chế, là việc cơ quan nhà nước có thẩm quyền cho phép một bên không phải là chủ sở hữu sáng chế được phép sử dụng sáng chế đó mà không cần có sự đồng ý của chủ sở hữu sáng chế. Hiệp định TPP cho phép các bên có quyền đặt ra ngoại lệ đối với độc quyền được cấp cho chủ sở hữu sáng chế, cụ thể, Điều 18.40 Hiệp định TPP quy định:

Điều 18.40: Ngoại lệ

Mỗi Bên có thể thiết lập một số ngoại lệ đối với độc quyền cấp cho chủ sở hữu sáng chế, với điều kiện các ngoại lệ đó không xung đột quá mức với việc khai thác bình thường sáng chế và không gây phương hại một cách bất hợp lý đến lợi ích hợp pháp của các chủ sở hữu bằng sáng chế, có tính đến lợi ích hợp pháp của các bên thứ ba.”

Hiện nay, Luật Sở hữu trí tuệ Việt Nam cũng đã quy định cụ thể các căn cứ bắt buộc chuyển giao sáng chế như: Sử dụng sáng chế nhằm mục đích công cộng, đảm bảo đáp ứng các nhu cầu cấp thiết của xã hội; Chủ sở hữu sáng chế không thực hiện nghĩa vụ sử dụng sáng chế hoặc thực hiện hành vi phản cạnh tranh;… Tuy nhiên, không phải trong bất cứ trường hợp nào cơ quan nhà nước có thẩm quyền cũng có đủ các căn cứ để thực hiện biện pháp bắt buộc chuyển giao quyền sử dụng sáng chế. Đồng thời người được chuyển giao quyền sử dụng sáng chế dược phẩm theo quyết định bắt buộc khi thực hiện sản xuất cũng bị hạn chế đáng kể về phạm vi sử dụng và quy mô sản xuất.

  • Tạo điều kiện cho việc nhập khẩu song song dược phẩm.

Nhập khẩu song song dược phẩm là việc nhập khẩu các sản phẩm thuốc được đưa ra thị trường nước ngoài một cách hợp pháp. Đối với Việt Nam, các sản phẩm thuốc tại thị trường nước ngoài, đặc biệt là các sản phẩm được sản xuất theo quyết định bắt buộc chuyển giao quyền sử dụng sáng chế, thường có giá thành rẻ hơn so với thuốc được sản xuất theo sự cho phép của chủ sở hữu sáng chế, ngay cả khi đã tính thuế nhập khẩu. Mặc dù tại thời điểm hiện tại, Luật sở hữu trí tuệ Việt Nam đã cho phép nhập khẩu song song dược phẩm, tuy nhiên, các quy định có liên quan khác (ví dụ: Thuế, cấp phép lưu hành, quản lý giá thuốc,…) vẫn chưa được thuận lợi đến mức độ có thể khuyến khích thực hiện nhập khẩu song song thuốc. Bởi vậy, Việt Nam nên tạo điều kiện thuận lợi, bao gồm tạo hành lang pháp lý toàn diện cho các doanh nghiệp thực hiện việc nhập khẩu song song các loại dược phẩm.

  • Quy định cụ thể hành vi lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ như một hành vi phản cạnh tranh.

Luật cạnh tranh của Việt Nam tại thời điểm hiện tại chưa ghi nhận những hành vi lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ, đặc biệt là độc quyền sử dụng sáng chế như một hành vi gây phản cạnh tranh. Trên thực tế, độc quyền sáng chế mang lại một thế mạnh cạnh tranh vô cùng lớn cho chủ sở hữu. Tuy nhiên, để đảm bảo quyền lợi ích hợp pháp, pháp luật về sở hữu trí tuệ trao cho chủ sở hữu sáng chế những độc quyền trong một thời hạn nhất định. Thời hạn đó đã được nghiên cứu kỹ lưỡng trên cơ sở cân nhắc lợi ích các bên và ấn định sao cho cân bằng giữa việc đảm bảo quyền lợi chính đáng của chủ sở hữu và việc đảm bảo tính cạnh tranh lành mạnh giữa các chủ thể kinh doanh trên thị trường. Bất kỳ hành vi nào, bằng cách thức nào, cố tình kéo dài thời hạn đã được ấn định đó, đều phải bị coi là hành vi lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ và gây hạn chế cạnh tranh một đáng kể. Vì vậy, để đảm bảo một môi trường cạnh tranh lành mạnh cho thị trường dược phẩm, ngăn chặn các hành vi phản cạnh tranh, Việt Nam cần đưa vào pháp luật cạnh tranh của mình các quy định cụ thể về hành vi lạm dụng quyền sở hữu trí tuệ.

  • Một số biện pháp dành cho các doanh nghiệp dược phẩm.

Việc khắc phục những khó khăn đối với thị trường dược phẩm khi các đối tượng mới được bảo hộ theo cam kết trong TPP đòi hỏi không chỉ sự thay đổi về chính sách và pháp luật từ phía nhà nước và các cơ quan chức năng mà còn đòi hỏi sự ỗ lực đổi mới và phát triển từ phía các doanh nghiệp dược phẩm. Để có thể tồn tại trước thế mạnh cạnh tranh của các công ty dược phẩm nước ngoài, các doanh nghiệp trong nước cần không ngừng cải tiến công nghệ, nâng cao năng lực về tài chính, đẩy mạnh đầu tư cho nghiên cứu và phát triển. Trước mắt, có thể các doanh nghiệp trong nước chưa thể tự mình nghiên cứu được các loại thuốc hoàn toàn mới, tuy nhiên, việc tìm ra công dụng mới, dạng bào chế mới hay cách thức sử dụng mới của một loại thuốc đã có là hoàn toàn có thể. Quyền đăng ký sáng chế đối với các đối tượng này không phải chỉ được trao cho chủ sở hữu sáng chế của sản phẩm đã biết, vì vậy, các doanh nghiệp trong nước, không cần tốn quá nhiều công sức cũng có thể dành được độc quyền đối với sáng chế chỉ bằng việc tìm ra những điểm mới rất nhỏ xung quanh sáng chế đó (invent around and patent fences). Khi đã có được một số độc quyền xung quanh sáng chế của các doanh nghiệp nước ngoài, các doanh nghiệp trong nước hoàn toàn có thế mạnh để đàm phán về việc cấp phép sử dụng sáng chế gốc, bao gồm một số hình thức như góp vốn bằng độc quyền sáng chế, cấp phép ngược, cấp phép chéo,…

Bằng các biện pháp cả về mặt pháp lý lẫn về mặt kinh tế, kỹ thuật đã nêu trên, hành vi “evergreening”, cố tình kéo dài một cách bất hợp lý thời hạn bảo hộ sáng chế, hoàn toàn có thể được hạn chế một cách đáng kể, khắc phục hiệu quả những khó khăn đối với việc sản xuất thuốc gốc và đẩy mạnh phân phối thuốc giá rẻ, đảm bảo quyền tiếp cận thuốc của người dân Việt Nam. Ngay cả trong trường hợp Hiệp định TPP không được thông qua và đưa vào vận hành, trên phương diện của Việt Nam, các biện pháp kể trên vẫn có tác dụng triệt để trong việc ngăn chặn hành vi lạm dụng độc quyền đối với sáng chế, góp phần bảo vệ quyền lợi công cộng, thúc đẩy cạnh tranh và phát triển khoa học công nghệ.

Kết luận

Tới thời điểm này, Hiệp định TPP đã được ký kết. Hiệp định được đánh giá sẽ nâng mức độ bảo hộ sáng chế tại Việt Nam, vốn đã cao, lên đến mức bất hợp lý, không phù hợp với khả năng và tình hình thực tế của Việt Nam. Vì vậy, dù Hiệp định có được thông qua và đưa vào vận hành hay không, Việt Nam cũng cần có những biện pháp để kéo cán cân giữa việc bảo hộ độc quyền sáng chế dược phẩm và lợi ích, sức khỏe cộng đồng, vốn đang và ngày càng nghiêng về phía bảo hộ độc quyền sáng chế, trở về vị trí cân bằng.

(Tác giả: Tiến sĩ Luật Lê Nết, Đặng Thị Thùy Linh – Công ty Luật LNT & Partners)

[1] Xem: Điều 4.12 và Điều 58 Luật Sở hữu trí tuệ Việt Nam năm 2005, sửa đổi bổ sung năm 2009.

[2] Xem: Phòng Thương mại và Công nghiệp Việt Nam (VCCI), “Khuyến nghị chính sách của Cộng đồng doanh nghiệp Việt Nam về phương án đàm phán Hiệp định TPP – Chương Sở hữu trí tuệ”, tháng 7 năm 2012.

[3] Xem: Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Generic Drugs”, 2006.

[4] Xem: Ove Granstrand và Frank Tietze, “IP strategies and policies for and against evergreening”, tháng 4 năm 2015.

[5] Xem: Phòng Thương mại và Công nghiệp Việt Nam (VCCI), “Khuyến nghị chính sách của Cộng đồng doanh nghiệp Việt Nam về phương án đàm phán Hiệp định TPP – Chương Sở hữu trí tuệ”, tháng 7 năm 2012.

[6] Xem: Sushmita R., Christ Law College, “Evergreening: An abuse of the patent system” tháng 1 năm 2015.

VIETNAM CAPITAL MARKET AND PROJECT FINANCE: Its Structure and Future

Feel free to download the PDF for your ease of reference: VIETNAM CAPITAL MARKET AND PROJECT FINANCE

Dr. Le Net, LNT & Partners

Although Vietnam’s capital markets were established more than twenty years ago, the participation of Vietnam-based law firms i the markets, both locally and internationally, is still rare. The main reasons for this have been the standardization of the State Securities Committee (SSC), the dominance of state capital, and strict foreign exchange controls.  The central new Government, formed in 2016, declared this year to be the “Enterprise Year” and issued many changes to laws and regulations to help make Vietnam become of the top four most open markets in ASEAN. The Government also accelerated its privatization plan (so-called “equalization”) and reduced interference from official development assistance (ODA) with project financing, as well as with recent legal reforms. The time for Vietnamese lawyers in capital markets and project finance is forthcoming.

  1. CAPITAL MARKET STANDARDIZATION AND EQUALIZATION

The Law on Securities (LOS) governs Vietnam’s debt market for bonds, and the equity market for shares of public companies – joint stock companies (JSC) that have more than 100 shareholders. The largest trading volume in the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HOSE) and the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) is from Government bonds, which are invested by financial institutions with very rare involvement from law firms. Shares are traded by listed companies, whose IPO’s are prepared by securities companies rather than law firms, unlike in other countries. Corporate bonds and project bonds are still rare, although recently, there have been a number of offshore bonds available on the market.

The role of law firms is mainly for either IP offshore or pre-IPO onshore dealings between strategic partners with a target state owned enterprise (SOE) before equalization has taken place. So far, only leading international law firms or the top three local law firms have been eligible to participate in this narrow market.

Under the LOS, a public company must be registered at the SSC and its shares must be deposited at the Vietnam Securities Depository (VSD). Acquisitions gaining more than 25% of their total shares will be subject to a mandatory public offering (MPO). Almost all state owned enterprises (SOE) going through equalization will become public companies. In reality, many of the equitized SOEs are not registered with the SSC, and therefore, neither the MPO nor the UPCoM apply to them. To facilitate M&As in those companies, certain complex and often unprecedented restructuring models are required, and leading local law firms are proven to be more adept at this, as local laws are complicated and require practical solutions to overcome them.

Another point to note is that selling state shares in equitized SOEs must be done through the HOSE or the HNX, although information on the target company and its valuation is not always transparent. Certain foreign investment funds are willing to take risks investing in equitized companies as such opportunities rarely exist. Many of them can later transfer to Japanese, Thai or Korean conglomerates, with assistance from top law firms that gain innovative lawyers through the Financial Times or deal firm of the year by IFLR, Chambers, or ALB Thomson Reuters. It is expected that  M&As in public or equitized SOEs will be on the rise as those law firms gain more experience on M&A restructuring and legal due diligence with large SOEs.

Apart from the Vietnam debt and equity market, offshore IPOs are on the rise, as the SSC now provides guidelines for investment and offshore listings.  Other areas that Vietnam needs to develop are in high yield products, securitization, debt structuring, and trusts.  Some good news is that, for the first time, the new Civil Code 2015 introduced the concept of “hưởng dụng” – usus fructus that are similar to trusts. Similarly, the Enterprise Law 2014 also reduces conditions to issue bonds or derivatives, making securisation more feasible.

  1. FOREIGN EXCHANGE CONTROL

Vietnam’s economic growth was 6.8 percent in 2015, based on two engines: export and a growth of middle income consumers among its young 90 million person population. Due to strong exports, the Vietnamese Dong currency has proven to be resilient despite the devaluation of the Chinese Reminbi. The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) also issued new regulations allowing enterprises to invest or lend abroad. However,  obtaining offshore investment registration certificates (OIRC) is still a challenge for Vietnamese entities. Recently, Saigon Coop lost its 1 billion EUR Big C bid because of delays in obtaining an OIRC, and the strict foreign exchange controls for offshore lending or using foreign exchange to fund onshore projects.  To overcome these regulations, local investors may either need to contact foreign or local lenders in order to deposit foreign currency abroad. More deregulations are expected to ease capital inflow and outflow.

  1. PRIVATE PROJECT FINANCE REPLACING STATE CAPITAL AND ODA FUNDING

The second trend in Vietnamese financial services law firms is the sophistication of project finance. Some top local law firms have been involved in highly regarded transactions such as: the funding of Haiphong International Container Terminal (HICT), the M&A of the Big Co supermarket system, the development of mega thermal power plants, offshore oil rigs for Petro Vietnam, or aircraft finance for VietJet Air to acquire 100 aircrafts from Airbus and now Boeing. In those projects, the security comes second to project feasibility, and the risk of non-completion is now recognized as a major issue facing lenders or bond investors. To address these risks, financial service lawyers must be skillful not only with the  Asia Pacific Lenders Master Agreement (APLMA) loan structure but also with  focusing commercial expertise on construction contracts, as well as delays and cost overruns to counter the non-completion risks present in project finance. In addition, lawyers need to assist clients to obtain extra incentives and support to guarantee cash flow from the project.

For state support projects, investors often request the government’s guarantee. Nowadays the Government often refuses to provide guarantees, after its anticipated debt caused by the guarantee under the Nghi Son Oil Refinery project.  Lawyers need to find other means to support clients such as through incentives and investment protections rather than through direct financial supports from the State.

Until recently, Vietnam still relies on state capital and ODA funding for its industrialization and infrastructure development. However, as the public debt is reaches 80% of the GDP, SOEs becoming inefficient, and the country’s growth rate still high, the Government is expected to equitize its public sector and focus on enhancing infrastructure for the private sector, including with foreign investors. Changes in the Civil Code, Civil Procedural Code, Enterprise Law, Investment Law, and the Decree on Private Public Partnership (PPP) are some major examples. This policy shift will no doubt create more room for large law firms to develop their financial service sectors to meet the ever demanding growth for their clients.

(VietnamLawInsight)

For further information/ insights, please contact:

Dr. Le Net, email: Net.Le@LNTpartners.com

Important Notes for Foreigners in Buying Residential Houses in Vietnam

Housing Law 2014 of Vietnam has created more favorable conditions for foreigners to own houses in Vietnam. However, buying a residential house in Vietnam is not actually an easy matter to foreigners given its legal complexity in real estate.   The following notes from Mr. Tran Thai Binh, a partner from LNT & Partners, may be useful to a foreign buyer who is thinking of possessing a residential house in Vietnam.

Firstly, the buyer must be qualified under the applicable laws. According to the Housing Law, the condition is now so relaxed that a foreigner who lawfully enters Vietnam can be eligible to own residential houses. As such, the buyer needs to prove that his entrance is permitted.

Secondly, it is advisable that the buyer should keep a track record for the money he brings to Vietnam for buying the house.  This would be better for the buyer in remitting the money back after selling the house later on.  For this purpose, he should open an account at a bank in Vietnam to which the money will be transferred and from which the payments for the house should be made. In case the money is his salary or income earned from working or doing business in Vietnam, he should keep document supporting for the money.

Thirdly, the buyer should get to know which property projects that he or she is permitted or not permitted to buy in order to avoid future risks.  Please note that foreign buyers are only permitted to buy houses from new housing development projects, not in existing residential quarters. This job is not difficult to foreign buyers if he or she consults with a reputable property agent such as Savills or Collier.

Fourthly, on contracting with the property developers, the foreign buyers should make sure that the property developers are qualified for signing housing sale and purchase agreements with the buyers.  In principle, the property developers are allowed to enter into housing sale and purchase agreements once (i) the housing project is properly approved; (ii) the foundation work of the house is completed, and (iii) the terms and conditions of the agreement for selling  a condo have been registered at Vietnam Competition Authority (under the Ministry of Trade and Industry).  An agreement may be void if failing to meet one of these conditions, and thus, the interests of the buyer may not be properly protected.

Fifthly, it should be noted with the implementation of a housing sale agreement with housing development projects since this may be not similar to the transaction practice in the buyer’s country.  For example, in Vietnam the housing developers usually do not give notice to the buyer of making the payments under the contract. It is the obligation of the buyer to follow the payment schedule as contracted. This ambiguity may lead to late payments by the buyers which may result in late payment penalty and/or early termination of contract by the seller (housing developer).  The buyers may get advice from lawyers to avoid these risks.

Sixthly, according to the Housing Law, foreigner housing owners have full rights as Vietnamese have over the house, such as the right to lease, donation or capital contribution, inheriting to others, etc. with their house. However, it should be noted that the foreign owner can exercise these rights only after he or she has obtained a “land use right certificate and/or property ownership” to the real estate. Therefore, in the respective contract, the obligation to apply for the certificate of ownership and/or the land use rights by the seller should be clearly stipulated. Also, when leasing the real estate, the foreigner owners must register the lease agreements with the local government (district-level administration committees), and properly declare his income tax for the earned rents. By complying these requirements, the foreign buyers’ incomes will be treated as legitimate income which can be remitted abroad. In addition, when renting or a house, it is also required that the owners must register temporary residence of the tenants with the relevant local authorities. Currently, it is still not clear how foreigners, as house-owners, carry out this registration procedure. Some foreigners are afraid that if they do not regularly live in Vietnam, how can this obligation be implemented? Actually, this difficult task may become easier if the foreign owners can engage a real estate management company to take care of these, and on behalf of the foreign owners, to perform the management and administrative procedures involved.

Seventhly, if the foreign owners no longer want to own the house, what can they do? Can they sell it to other foreigners or Vietnamese? Yes, they can according to the Housing Law.  However, currently there is no clear guidance from the State Bank of Vietnam that how the foreign owners can remit abroad the sale proceeds from selling the house.  However, my opinion is that if they can prove the money that they used to buy the house is of legal sources and relevant taxes have been fully paid, he or she is surely permitted to transfer their gains abroad.  Again, this should be consulted with a lawyer in real estate for getting through the procedure.

By Vietnam Law Insight

The article contributed by Mr. Tran Thai Binh, Head of Real Estate Practice Group of LNT & Partners with more than 15 years in real estate practice. Its contents do not constitute legal advice. For more information, please contact the  lawyers via email: binh.tran@LNTpartners.com. Thank you.

The Road to AEC & Mekong Region 2015 and Beyond: Key Legal, Tax & Business Aspects for Investment

Information updates on legal, tax issues & key commercial insights for investors/business operators to tap new investment opportunities in the AEC market including CLMV.  LNT & Partners is proud to inform you that Mr. Hong Bui, partner at LNT will speak at “The Road to AEC & Mekong Region 2015 and Beyond: Key Legal, Tax & Business Aspects for Investment” conference.

The year 2015 marks an important milestone for ASEAN on its journey towards deeper economic integration through the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). With the fast approaching deadline, businesses and those representing them in the ten ASEAN countries need be prepared for the free flow of goods and services as well as the unavoidable movement of labor and the challenges facing market integration. Organizations are also facing a whole lot of challenges in regulations and taxation to comply with new rules and taxation system.

Asia Business Connect  is organizing “The Road to AEC & Mekong Region 2015 and Beyond: Key Legal, Tax & Business Aspects for Investment” conference in Bangkok. The conference will provide first-hand information updates & key business/commercial insights for those investors/business operators planning to tap new investment opportunities (or those already operated in but need to acquire latest insights & business strategies) in the AEC market. In particular, investment aspects for expanding into the Mekong region (CLMV countries) will be addressed. Participants will exchange views and discuss important and timely with top notch authorities, legal & tax experts and high-profile business leaders from Thailand and in the region.

LNT & Partners is proud to inform you that Mr. Hong Bui, partner at LNT will speak at the conference. Mr. Bui is famous for his knowledge in M&A, foreign investment and Vietnam corporate matters. He has aided foreign investors in their commercial objectives in all aspects of investment in Vietnam, and is familiar with establishing businesses and contractual arrangements, asset or company acquisitions, private equity matters and business restructurings. His representation will feature the legal environment and investment opportunities in Vietnam:

WHAT ARE THE KEY CONTRACTS IN THE REGION FOR COMPANIES GROWING THEIR BUSINESS IN VIETNAM

  • Recent legal developments and Vietnam’s inbound incentives legislation
  • Negotiating key legal issues in cross-border
  • Major legal risks in implementation and management of cross-border

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Investment promotion and facilitation in the AEC: key challenges for Thailand to invest in the region
  • Land ownership and usage laws & restrictions impacting foreign businesses in CLMV
  • Special Key Take-Away that you cannot miss
    • Myanmar’s year in ASEAN – potential opportunities and risks consideration
    • Key consideration on ‘legal’ issues for investment in Philippines
    • What are the key contracts in the region for companies growing their business in Vietnam
  • Targeting and selecting the right business partners in CLMV: key issues to be considered and recommended actions

If you have any queries about this event, please call +66(0)2714 1616 (Automatic line), Hotline: +66(0)87 029 3939 or contact us online info@asiabusiness-connect.com.

Opportunities for foreign investment in Vietnam state-owned enterprises

by @JohnGrimley from Hong Kong

Dr Net Le, Partner at LNT & Partners in Vietnam and Head of the firm’s Arbitration and Financial Services Practices was among the panelists addressing the issue of state-owned enterprises amid the transformation of command economies at The Inter-Pacific Bar Association’s (IPBA) 25th Annual Meeting and Conference in Hong Kong.  After Dr Le’s presentation, I had an opportunity to interview him in-depth about what specific opportunities exist in Vietnam for foreign investors in state-owned enterprises  (SOE’s), and how those investors might safely navigate Vietnam’s legal, regulatory, political and financial landscape to make those investments successfully.

John Grimley:  “This is John Grimley and I’m editor and publisher of Asia Law Portal. I’m here in Hong Kong with Net Le, a partner in LNT partners in Vietnam, a law firm that’s focused on representing foreign investors in their activities in Vietnam. We’re here at the Inter-Pacific Bar Association annual conference and Net participated on a panel discussion about opportunities for foreign investors in acquisitions or investment positions in state-owned enterprises in Vietnam, which is a very interesting opportunity for foreign investors from all around the world, and I wanted to ask Net”:

“What is the current state of play in Vietnam with state-owned enterprisesWhat does the government want? What is it looking for? What is available to foreign investors? Net, what do you know?”

Net Le:  “Thanks John, it’s a pleasure to be interviewed by Asia Law Portal. As you know, Vietnam used to be a communist country and is now moving toward a free market economy.  In the past, the government thought that state-owned enterprise should play a major role in helping the economy to achieve its social-political purposes. But, nowadays the government is convinced that this is not the most efficient way of doing the work and it’s not very good at helping the government to achieve its’ social-political purpose. Therefore, they think of equitizing those companies.

They classify the state-owned enterprises into three categories. The first is company 91, which is the national corporation, like Petrol Vietnam, like Energy of Vietnam, like Vietnam Airlines, like Vietnam Railways, Vietnam Post and Telecom, etcetra. Those like the monopoly companies of Vietnam handling infrastructure works.  The second type of company is company 90, which is a state-owned enterprise that is established by the province. The third type of company is independent state-owned enterprise.

A vibrant example [of a company 90] is Vinamilk. That company is producing milk. They’re not the monopoly milk producer in Vietnam, but they are the best milk producer in Vietnam and they are blue-chip in the stock market. It’s the best player in the stock market and Vinamilk is held 40% by a government company called State Capitol Investment Company, or SCIC. Of the rest, 49% is held by foreign investors and in between them are some domestic investors. The government sees that Vinamilk has performed extremely well after equitization, or as you call it, privatization, in that its total assets have increased 60 times and it generates 30% of total profits of SCIC, even though SCIC is handling not only one company, it’s handling thousands of companies. Vinamilk alone is 30% of their total profit. They receive a lot of money which they would never receive if they ran Vinamilk by themselves. So, that is the example of why the government should have equitization. And that’s the difference between Vietnam and China. China does not talk about equitization or privatization and their state-owned enterprise getting bigger and bigger. Sometimes president Xi Jinping says that they are run out of control, and now president Xi would like to tackle the corruption and then enhance the management.  And, I think that is also one viable way to run state-owned enterprise, is to restructure the management.

But, in Vietnam restructuring the management is not that viable and not that easy. Therefore, the government would like to restructure by restructuring the ownership, so they will sell those companies to foreigners. And now they’re talking about selling blue-chip companies to foreigners. They’re saying that this year they’re going to sell 280 companies. Not selling 100%, but at least they will sell some percentage in it. Well, actually last year there was an equitization of Vietnam airlines and unfortunately only 1.2% of the total shares were released. Therefore the buyers were only Vietnamese. There were some foreign individuals but there were no foreign organizations or foreign funds. They’re not interested in it because perhaps they think that the piece of the pie is too small to buy in. So this year the government had to push it further and sell more of the stake of those companies, like Vietnam airlines.”

John Grimley:  “To date, what other countries have had companies that have participated in purchasing stakes in Vietnamese state-owned enterprises?”

Net Le:  “The companies that buy the most Vietnamese state-owned enterprises are the Japanese. There are two big deals in purchasing state-owned enterprises. Number one is Mizuho Bank purchasing 15% of Vietcom Bank at the price of 500 million US dollars at the stock price of 34,000 Dong per share and the other one is Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ – [which] purchased 20% of the shares of Vietnam Commercial and Industry Bank, which is Vientinbank, 20% at the price of over 750 million US dollars and at the price of 32,000 Dong per share. Apart from that, companies like Fraser & Neave, they hold approximately 15% of shares in Vinamilk. And interestingly enough, Fraser & Neave, a Singaporean company, they did have a milk company in Vietnam, but it didn’t make a profit, and then guess who bought it? Vienamilk bought it. They sold the company to Vienamilk, but then, they own Vienamilk shares, so they make more money.”

John Grimley:  “What sectors are available for potential stakes to be purchased?”

Net Le:  “There will be infrastructure sectors, like telecommunications for sure, electricity, transportation and many others. Even for oil and gas, Petrovietnam, they may sell quite a few downstream projects to foreigners. I am aware that they might think of selling shares in the oil refinery to one of the Russian investors. And, also the other infrastructure like the Hanoi airport, another local company like VietJetAir, a private airline, they want to buy Terminal One. And just after they announced the intention, Vietnam Airlines sent another letter saying they also want to buy Terminal One, so now it’s getting more competitive and exciting.”

John Grimley:  “What would you say to any foreign investor that might be interested in purchasing a stake in a Vietnamese state-owned enterprise? What is the advantage of purchasing such a small stake?”

Net Le:  “Of course purchasing small stakes doesn’t allow you to do a lot of things in a state-owned enterprise and maybe you might get frustrated because even if you hold a 20% or 15% of the shares of the company, you don’t hold the position of chairman. You may have two seats on the board and the way the bank is running may still be the same as before equitization. However, if you have a 1% stake, you can launch a derivative action if you find out the management of the company is not as it should be under OECD standard of good corporate governance.  You can ask for opening the books and to investigate what’s going on and what’s wrong with the management of the company. And, if you hold 10% share in the company, you can call for an AGM, an annual general meeting, the shareholder’s meeting. Or, you can request [other] such things.

If you mobilize a few people who hold 1% then you can make a challenge before the governance of the board and if anything is illegal or reduces your rights, you can invalidate the shareholders meeting minutes and the resolution. So, yes, some protection is there, like in other countries. And, also, if you don’t look at the rights in a strictly legal way, I think by getting to know the company and being the first mover into those companies, you can send a signal to your competitors that you’re already there and if there is a new share issue then you’ll probably have priority of first right of refusal, depending on how you negotiate with the state-owned enterprise.

And actually, the state-owned enterprise, when they sell their shares, they want to find a strategic partner. By saying strategic partner, I’m talking about shareholders that have specific technology and brand that can bring value to the Vietnamese company. They may hold 20% or more of the shares of those companies. By participating in those companies, you establish a channel of communication with the government and your probability to become a strategic partner is also increased. So, if you don’t look at it as a purely economic reason, there might be a political or long-term reason why you should buy the small stake in the company.”

John Grimley: “Some investors who may be interested in this opportunity, many of them are perhaps likely to be first time potential investors into the Vietnamese economy. How would you advise them to protect themselves against risk when entering the market?”

Net Le: “When entering the market, of course if you want to buy some shares in a company, like a decent amount, like 5% or 10%, you should do a due diligence and not merely a legal due diligence where you look at the corporate books of the company and check the legality and also the potential liability and risks in those contracts or assets of the company.

More importantly, you have to do the personal due diligence that by which I mean you have to know very well who is in charge of the company, who is the chairman, whether he can be a good leader who can lead the company to future of success. Whether he is motivated by his own interest or he or she is only in it for the interest of the shareholders. I’ll give you the example of Vinamilk – Vinamilk has a very good leader, Madam Lien. She was actually appointed by SCIC and she is a government person, but everybody trusts her. Even recently there were potential conflicts in the shareholder’s meeting in Vinamilk because SCIC wants to replace her and other shareholders don’t want that, especially foreign shareholders. SCIC invited each of the foreign shareholders to come in and have a meeting and convince to amend the charter to put in a clause saying that a member of the board will be automatically removed if the shareholder who appointed that member removes him or her. But they know exactly what it means. They want to, if that is implemented, then Madam Lien will be removed, because she is over 60 years old, and she, under Vietnamese law, has a compulsory retirement, so they don’t agree and it’s amazing all of them put together, 19%, 10%, 5%, all together they covered up 49%, so they can defeat it.

And with the audits, they defeated the 40% of the government shares. And of course the SCIC 40%, they cannot get approval and pass a resolution, but still they can ditto, so that is also a dangerous situation. So when you look at the company, when you purchase shares in the company, you have to look at the person in change, and whether he or she has a good motivation to build up for the company. That’s very important. Then, you have to look at the brand of that company, and see if they are transparent enough, do they use “big fours auditor”, the books look good, and they regularly report their information. That is a good sign that you could invest in those companies.”

John Grimley:  “As we look forward, of course any investor, is going to be interested in what are the prospects for the overall performance in the Vietnamese economy going forward. What is the current status of the Vietnamese economy, and what are the prospects for the future?”

Net Le:  “In the first quarter of this year, Vietnam’s economy grew by 6.8% or over 7%. It’s quite impressive, the same level of China. I read a report yesterday, that Vietnam has become the number 3 trading partner of South Korea, after the US and China. And of course, the reason is because of Samsung, because Samsung invested 10 billion dollars in Vietnam. That means they have to produce mobile phones to the world; they have to import a lot of chips, and display and panel from Korea to Vietnam. And right now they export every month over 10 billion US dollars, value of export. That means they invest, they counted for 17 – 20% of total export value of the whole country. So that’s the reason why Vietnam became the number 3 trading partner of Korea.”

John Grimley: “What is the Vietnamese government position on investment? Are they very desirous of having foreign investment in the country?”

Net Le: “Yes. I think if you compare it with other countries.  Whereas for example in Thailand you may have compulsory ownership of local people up to 49% or 51%. In Vietnam, many sectors are open 100% to foreigners. There are some restrictions for bank and finance, where you can hold up to 30%, but in the future that rule may be relaxed. For a public company, I mean the company that has at least 100 shareholders, the room is 49%, but that room is soon to be relaxed as well.

So, the Vietnam government now realized that FDI (foreign direct investment), accounts for 75% of GDP, and for sure they are more efficient than state-owned enterprise.  They pay tax, if they still have tax holiday, then they still employ a lot of people and if they localize their products, that means their products can be exported for the whole world. So when you are talking about localization, Samsung mobile phones are not just about localization of mobile phones for Vietnamese people: That is the Vietnamization of mobile phones for the whole world. So that is a total different story, and the government knows about that, and the government would like to learn from China, and step in the way of China to become a manufacturer of the world.

So for manufacturing I think Vietnam would likely follow the steps of China to become a manufacturing base of the world. For manufacturing, of course you need electricity, you need water, you need steel, you need anything related to manufacturing, so that created the opportunities for foreigners to come and to buy shares in state-owned enterprises, and of course when Vietnamese workers have money, the first thing they  think is a house and the second they think is a car. So that is also another possibility — to build roads, infrastructure, and anything for those people.”

John Grimley:  “Tell me about LNT Partners and how the firm got its start and how the firm might be able to help foreign investors seeking stake in SOE in Vietnam.”

Net Le:  “LNT partners last year won the deal firm of the year by Asia Legal Business Thomson Reuters.  We are also highly recommended by International Financial Law Review 1000, by Chambers and Partners and Legal 500. We are a well-established law firm with the head office in Ho Chi Minh City and the branch office in Hanoi. We have 8 partners and soon to have 9 partners. We have 40 fee earners, so that is a good size of a local law firms. We have 5 practice groups and we represent the government in the East-West Highway project, and in the Thu Tiem Tunnel, also international arbitration.

We represent the investors in the Suai Raw Stretching project; we work with the construction company, and the design company in the metro line number 2.  We represent Petro Vietnam in the refinery extension project of Dung Quất Refinery, also another thermal power plant of Petro Vietnam. We also work with a division of Petro Vietnam in project finance of an FPSO floating production and storage oil tanker in Singapore [for placement] offshore in Vietnam. [We also] advise Petro Vietnam on drilling overseas for developing oil rigs.

We are experienced in representing both government, SOE’s and foreign investors who would like to participate in purchasing those companies. We could establish an effective communication channel to those SOEs and build a trust relationship in order to facilitate the purchasing of the shares of the state-owned enterprises.  We are constantly writing articles and participating in law advisor, law amendment, in legal drafting committee, towards the end that Vietnam will be recognized as a market economy — toward the end that we highly equitize the presence of foreign investors [in Vietnamese] enterprise.

We also don’t hesitate to represent the foreign investors against the government, at the administrative court. And we win over the tax authority in a lot of cases, for the clients, because we believe that the economy should be run by the private sector and not the public sector. They are more efficient in doing that and of course they should pay tax to a fair amount, what is in the law, and the government should also collect tax and they should impose effective rules to prevent monopoly and also against transfer pricing. But that also means that the government has to go hand in hand with the investors, and not play a dominant role to the investors.  That is what we truly believe.”

John Grimley:  “For any prospective investors who are listening, how can they reach you for more information?”

Net Le:  “We have a blog: VietnamLawinsight.com and we welcome investors to visit that website. We also have a website:  LNTPartners.com.  Come visit us.  Our office is in Bitexco Financial Tower, Level 21 in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, and the branch office in Hanoi. So we look forward to meeting foreign investors and try to assist them to achieve their objectives in Vietnam. We hope to contribute a small part to the success in Vietnam.”

John Grimley:  “I want to say thank you very much for joining us, Net, from the IPBA annual conference in Hong Kong. I’m John Grimley for Asia Law Portal. Thank you very much.”

Net Le:  “Thank you very much, my pleasure.”

2cda4ceFor more information: Vietnam Law Insight is located at: VietnamLawInsight.com and LNT & Partners website is located at: LNTPartners.com

@JohnGrimley is Editor & Publisher of Asia Law Portal

New Legal Framework to Streamline Licensing and Set up of Commercial Banks

The Content of the new Framework

On June 30th, 2015 the Government issued Circular No. 08/2015/TT-NHNN (Circular 08) in lieu of Circular No. 40/2011/TT-NHNN (Circular 40) for the issuance of licenses and the organization and operation of commercial banks, foreign bank’s branches, representative offices of foreign credit institutions, other foreign organizations that have banking activities (Commercial Banks)  in Vietnam.

This Circular 08 has formulated a full and basic legal framework on procedures for, and dossiers on amendments, supplementation regarding operation contents of Commercial Banks. Furthermore, the formality of proposal dossiers for operational licensing and new establishment license template of Commercial Banks are also regulated in such a new circular.

Besides the new licensing issuance procedure in Circular 40, Circular 08 is expected to add three more new licensing procedures for Commercial Banks, including license replacement issuance, supplementation issuance of operation content to present license and supplementation issuance of operation content associated with license replacement issuance. With respect to the principle of building licensing dossiers, the non-notarized counterpart of documents are duly accepted, provided that those are obtained along with original copy for reference; while the referring person shall sign for confirmation and shall be responsible for the documents’ accuracy. The new establishment license template has the operation content part specifically noting that all banking functions which Commercial Banks are entitled to conduct are in accordance with Law on Credit Institutions and others activities approved by the State Bank.

Business implications

With respect to changes in the State Bank’s licensing activities applied to Commercial Banks in Vietnam, the impact on business will specifically be in banking sector. Accordingly, all approval for changes in registration for the operation of credit institution shall be noted in the Operation License by license replacement issuance. In the event of an amendment or supplementation in the operational content without need for a replacement license, Commercial Banks shall still conduct the proposal procedure on supplementing operation content via the approval instruments of the State Bank. Approval for non-notarized documents in the application dossier shall benefit from a more prompt and efficiently implemented licensing procedure. The more detailed and obvious the licensing procedures is, the more conveniently credit institutions can implement their business.

Our Recommendation

In light of this, we would recommend that commercial banks, branches and representative offices of foreign banks should update their Operation License by implementing the license replacement issuance procedure. The above-mentioned action shall result in owning a kind of detailed and unique valid instrument as a basis of banking operation. With efforts to comply with such new provisions, Commercial Banks shall benefit from good, efficient performance that will positively develop their business.

The Circular No. 08/2015/TT-NHNN will come into effect on August 13th, 2015.

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

BBGV Breakfast Seminar: Law on Investment 2015 in Action

Event details

The BBGV is hosting a Breakfast Seminar about: Law on Investment 2015 in Action.

LNT & Partners proudly supports and speaks at this event.

Please join Mr Tuan, Deputy Director of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Planning and Investment and Dr Net from LNT & Partners as they provide information on the new provision in the investment law; how it can affect your business structure and discuss whether the new provisions provide an improved investment climate for foreign owned companies.

Date and Time: Friday 14th August 2015, from 7:30AM to 9:00AM

Venue: Cat Ba Room, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, HCMC

The new Law on Investment became effective in July 2015, purported to make landscape reform to Vietnam business environment for foreign investors. How this new law will affect the business in practice and benefit your business? How would current projects already invested in Vietnam co-op with the new law? What would be the procedure for foreign investors to establish or acquire a company in Vietnam? How about the HS Code requirement in the Investment Registration Certificate?

These Questions will be answered by Mr Quach Ngoc Tuan, Deputy Director of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and Dr Le Net, partner at LNT & Partners.

Entrance Fees: – BBGV Members: VND 500,000 – Non-members: VND 600,000

RSVP to Nga at nga.nguyen@bbgv.org or call 08 3829 8430

Reservations not cancelled within 48 hours of the event will be charged as will no-shows and invoiced.

About the Speakers

Mr Quach Ngoc Tuan

Mr Quach Ngoc Tuan is the Deputy Director of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).  He was the key person in the drafting committee of the Law on Investment, as well as the Decree implementing the new Law on Investment. Before joining MPI, Mr Tuan worked at the People’s Court of Ninh Binh Province.

Dr Le Net

Dr Net 1

Le Net is a partner at LNT & Partners, in charge of infrastructure, international arbitration and financial services. He has more 18 years of experience, and was a leading counsel in ICC arbitrations and awarded Lawyer of the Year in 2012 by the Ministry of Justice’s Law Journal.  Net was behind many complex cross-border infrastructure, M&A, banking and finance transactions.  Net is also an arbitrator of Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, and a member of Vietnam Bar Federation’s National Council.

Net co-founded LNT & Partners, one of the major leading Vietnam law firms, being the only Vietnam law firm ranked in FT 25 Innovative Lawyers 2015 by Financial Times, and Vietnam Deal Firm of the Year in 2014 by ALB Thomson Reuters.

Final LNT breakfast seminar

South Korea – Vietnam: Bilateral Free Trade Agreement

South Korea and Vietnam have recently engaged in developing their political and economic ties; the zenith of which was reached with the signing of a bilateral Free Trade Agreement  (“FTA”) between the two countries on May 5th, 2015 in Hanoi.  The FTA is expected to bring exponential surges in the bilateral trade between the two countries, in which the Vietnamese government has agreed to remove tariffs on 89.9% of products imported from South Korea over a period of 15 years. Likewise, South Korea is planning to revoke tariffs on 95.4% of all products imported from Vietnam. The two partners are currently ratifying the agreement before it is due to take effect late this year.

The both countries anticipate further growth in the volume of bilateral trade, which has reached a record high of US$30 billion in 2014. Additionally, with the agreement in place, Vietnam foresees substantial inward investment growth from South Korea which stood at approximately US$5.8 billion in November 2014.

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 Legal Framework for Vietnam’s Nascent Derivative Securities Market

The Law

On 5 May 2015, the Government issued Decree No. 42/2015/ND-CP on derivative securities and the derivative securities market, which is considered as the very first legal framework for the derivative securities market of Vietnam to come into operation in 2016.

This Decree recognizes futures contracts, options and forward contracts of which objects are underlying assets being securities and/or other assets used as the basis for fixing the value of the derivative securities as derivative securities. There will also be other kinds of derivative securities as recognized in accordance with guidelines of the Ministry of Finance. These newly recognized derivative securities may be traded on the derivative securities market as provided by the laws.

In principle, any organization or individual may invest in derivative securities on the derivatives market, except for certain organizations, such as securities companies, fund management companies, credit institutions and State-owned companies, which must satisfy certain requirements before investing in the market.

Furthermore, for the purpose of conducting derivative securities trading and/or providing derivative securities clearance and payment services, an organization will need to obtain a certificate of satisfaction of conditions for the respective activities issued by the State Securities Commission. To obtain this certificate, in general and subject to activities registered to be conducted, the organization must satisfy a number of conditions, such as financial conditions, i.e. minimum charter capital; conditions on business results, ratios of available capital, professional rules and/or relevant requirements to be provided by the Ministry of Finance; and other conditions as provided.

What does this mean for businesses?

Through there has been a legal framework for securities trading in Vietnam since the introduction of the Law on Securities (70/2006-QH11), Decree 42/2015/ND-CP allows for more diversified securities products in the Stock Exchange, thus boosting liquidity in the securities market which will be great news for businesses that are increasingly using the Stock Market as a capital channel. Accordingly, Decree 42/2015/ND-CP is expected to support the securities market of Vietnam, increase competitiveness and help to narrow the gap between securities market of Vietnam and of other countries all over the world.

Decree 42 will take effect on 1 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

Midterm Vietnam Business Forum 2015

On June 9, the Vietnam Business Forum Consortium, in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the World Bank Group, held the Midterm Vietnam Business Forum 2015 in Hanoi with theme “Enhancing Enterprise Competitiveness for Global Integration” and the presence of Prime Minister H.E. Mr. NGUYEN TAN DUNG. This Forum was a valued opportunity for a structured dialogue between the Vietnamese Government, local and foreign businesses and the donor community to improve the business environment in Vietnam.

Beside sponsoring for the forum, LNT & Partners attended and raised insightful comments on the new Law on Investment and Law on Enterprise. The forum started with the Review of Business Climate by Chamber of Commerce from Vietnam, Korean, European, and American. On this midterm gathering, they focused on 3 main issues followed:

  1. The Issues of implementation of new Laws on Investments, Enterprises, Housing, Real Estate Business and Immigration on Trade, Tourism and Investment;
  2. Needs for positive growth on Banking and Capital Markets; and
  3. Infrastructure – Requirements for PPP implementations, port strengthening and power generation needs in Master Plan VII.

Please click the link to download the relevant documents from VBF:

Midterm VBF 2015 – VBF Co-Chair Speech

Midterm VBF 2015 – Short Report – ENG

Midterm VBF 2015 – Full Report – ENG

 Reported by: Vietnam Law Insight

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

5th ASEAN Competition Conference: “Advancing Competition Policy and Law Post-2015”

5th ASEAN COMPETITION CONFERENCE:
“Advancing Competition Policy and Law Post-2015: Progress, Opportunities and Challenges”

The 5th ASEAN Competition Conference will be held from 4-5 June 2015 at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers (Ballrooms 1-2, 3rd floor) located at No. 88 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

The year 2015 marks an important milestone for ASEAN on its journey towards deeper economic integration through the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). ASEAN Member States (AMS) have increased their efforts to put into place key measures to enhance the trade and investment climate while strengthening the legal frameworks for competition, consumer protection and intellectual property rights. In line with the commitments under the AEC Blueprint, seven AMS have enacted competition laws; six have already set up a dedicated competition agency, with the remaining countries expected to follow suit by 2016. Efforts are on-going to develop a regional cooperation framework that will – in the long run – allow for greater cooperation in the handling of cross-border competition cases.

The imminent realisation of the AEC 2015 calls for a closer look at the scope and state of ASEAN integration, as well as its implications for businesses and consumers. The challenges are multi-fold: How can economic potentials presented by the larger market of the AEC be unlocked? The private sector and civil society are aware of ASEAN but more work is required to enhance their understanding so that they can take advantage of the new opportunities. How can ASEAN meet the expectations and promises associated with an AEC in 2015? What are the perspectives – and potential challenges – for competition policy in this context?

As ASEAN works out its comprehensive post-2015 vision, it will be important to be mindful and realistic about communicating what the AEC 2015 means and entails. The formal establishment of the AEC 2015, with its single market and production base, will ultimately put the compliance of Member States with regional commitments to the test: effective integration does not only rely on intensified regional cooperation, but also requires continued regulatory reforms and institutional development in the Member States. This is particularly relevant when it comes to promoting fair competition in ASEAN.

The ASEAN Competition Conference (ACC) series is the flagship annual event spearheaded by the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition (AEGC). It was first convened in 2011 in Bali, Indonesia, and has since become an important platform for reaching out to a broader public and inform about recent developments as well as share best practices in Competition Policy and Law (CPL) in ASEAN.

Competitive Neutrality – Maintaining a Level Playing Field between Public and Private Business

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Tuan Nguyen from LNT & Partners is giving a speech on “Competitive Neutrality – Maintaining a Level Playing Field between Public and Private Business” session at the conference. This session will shed light on the concept of competitive neutrality which is gaining ground in international discussions and essentially entails that the same set of rules applies to public and private businesses. With the objective of safeguarding efficiency, this serves to ensure that business activities by the government do not have competitive advantage over private businesses, simply by virtue of government ownership or control. However, in practice, many competition agencies across the world are faced with considerable challenges, for example when it comes to a lack of transparency in public procurement. The session will address some of the main issues surrounding competition policy vis-à-vis state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or what is sometimes called “government-linked monopolies”. It will share selected national good practices promoting competitive neutrality, among others from the work of OECD and UNCTAD’s Research Partnership Platform.

For more information and register for the conference, please go the event website: http://acc5.info/

About the speaker: Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan

Dr. Anh Tuan Nguyen leads the firm’s Competition and Bio-Pharmaceutical specialty group. This specialty group has broad practical experience in antitrust and unfair competition matters, including compliance training and the review of contractual arrangements, corporate restructuring, advertising and market entry strategies, along with specific experience in dispute settlement relating to competition claims. Multinational companies in the pharmaceutical, FMCG and consumer goods industries regularly seek Dr. Nguyen’s expert advice in matters concerning importation, distribution, sales and competition. Dr Nguyen is recognized by the legal community as one of the few qualified competition law experts in Vietnam who has an in-depth understanding of international antitrust regulations and their application under the Vietnamese Competition Law. In 2014, his specialty group received recognition from Finance Monthly as Antitrust/Competition Law Firm of the Year. He is one of firm’s co-founders.

For more information and register for the conference, please go the event website: http://acc5.info/

If you have any question regarding to the Conference, please do not hesitate to contact 1. Ms. Tran Thi Minh Phuong Mobile: +94 9127 38 230 Email: phuongttm@moit.gov.vn 2. Ms. Vu Thi Thanh Mai Mobile: +94 9361 085 33 Email: maivth@moit.gov.vn

New Regulation on Automobile Transportation Activities

Circular 10/2015/TT-BGTVT dated 15 April 2015 regulating on the responsibilities and handling of violations relating to automobile transportation activities. (Click here for the full Circular in Vietnamese)

Circular 10/2015/TT-BGTVT dated 15 April 2015 on stipulating the responsibilities and penalties with regard to the abovementioned; (“Circular 10”) is in replacement of Circular 55/2013/TT-BGTVT dated 26 December 2013 (“Circular 55”) on the same matter and will take effect on 01 June 2015.

In addition to the 4 main applicable subjects stipulated under Circular 55 including directorate applicable to the roads of Vietnam which are transport services of provinces and centrally-affiliated cities; transport business unit by vehicles, business units of bus station, freight car stations and rest stops, it appears that the commodity owners, longshoreman and establishments providing journey monitoring services are also governed under the jurisdiction of Circular 10.  Some certain noticeable points of Circular 10 are mentioned as follows:

Obligations of organizations engaging in the passenger transport business

By providing the specific responsibilities of organizations engaging in the passenger transport business, this Circular 10 is expected to help established businesses understand clearly how they must comply according to their responding scope of services. Of note, Circular 10 provides and explains the responsibilities of organizations providing equipment for journey monitoring which includes the requirement on the development of data explorer software under QCVN 31:2014/BGTVT.

With respect to establishments that are engaging in the passenger transport business under contracts or transport for tourists, it is required that such organisations are responsible for (i) signing one transport contract for each correlative journey; (ii) registering for and notifying the municipal Department of Transport of terms and provisions of transport contracts in case of using automobiles with the capacity of more than 10 (ten) passengers for transportation. Furthermore, the duties of organisations having business activities in bus stations, freight automobile stations, and rest stops are also stipulated in detail in Article 10, and favour the rights and interests of passengers.

Various types of penalties for different violations

With the principle suggesting that the penalties under Circular 10 only apply when organisations and individuals violate the responsibilities of the organisation, the management of businesses in road transport by cars, and road transportation supporting services, would not be remedied from the warning notice of the first violation or violate for the second time within 1 year, it seems that Circular 10 creates the condition in which the organizations and individuals can deal with, and remedy,  their breaches by themselves first before having the provided penalties applied to them under the laws.

Determining the types of penalties that may be applied for the breached organizations and individuals under Circular 10 is very clear. More specifically, the highest punishment applied to the breaching organisations that are providing equipment for journey monitoring is revocation of organisations’ licenses for satisfying requirements for monitoring journey equipment on a permanent basis. The lawmakers also supplement this with further punishments for transport business establishments. In particular, apart from suspending their transport operation routes for up to 03 months, such establishments would be suspended from conducting any business for up to 03 months in case of violation of provisions stipulated in Article 22.5 of Circular 10.

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

The New Law on Organization of People’s Court

Effective from 1 June 2015, the new Law on Organization of People’s Court (LOPC) was adopted by Vietnam‘s National Assembly on November 24, 2014. By the time the law becomes effective, its implementing Decrees and/or Circulars will also be ready.

This law aims to provide a detailed explanation for the functions, duties and powers of the people’s court. This review highlights the important changes in the hierarchical structure, duties and power of the Supreme people’s court.

1. Modification in structure of people’s court

In the past, there have been three levels of people’s court: the people’s court of rural and urban districts; capital city courts and the people’s court of the provinces and centrally run cities; and the supreme people’s court. Under the new LOPC, the structure of people’s court is divided into four adjudicating levels (LOPC: Art. 3):

  • The Supreme people’s court;
  • Superior people’s court;
  • Court of provinces and centrally-run cities; and
  • Court of rural districts, urban districts, town, provincial, cities and the equivalent.

The new LOPC has introduced a superior people’s court into the structure, which further leads to reforms to the duties and powers of other people’s court.

2. Modification in powers and duties of the Supreme people’s court and the Superior people’s court

Under the new LOPC, the Supreme people’s court consists only of the Judicial council (from 13 to 17 members including the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justices and other judges), assisting apparatus and training institutions. By removing the specialized and appellate court from the structure of people’s court, it is clear that the Supreme people’s court will reduce its powers over appellate trials.

There are four significant powers that have been entrusted to the Supreme people’s court (Art 20 of the new LOPC):

  • To supervise the adjudicating work of other courts;.
  • To make overall assessment of the adjudicating practices of the other courts, ensuring the uniform application of law is enforced in the conduct of trials;
  • To manage people’s courts organizationally and ensure independence of the courts from one another; and
  • To submit to the National Assembly laws and resolutions; to submit to the National Assembly Standing Committee ordinances and resolutions in accordance with the law.

Reflecting on the allocated powers of the Supreme people’s court, the cassation and reopening trial decisions of its Judicial council are of the greatest significance and importance, and come into enforcement immediately.

Furthermore, as for the appearance of the new Superior people’s court, its duties will be as follows:

  • To conduct appellate trials of cases in which the first-instance judgments, or decisions of people’s courts of provinces or centrally run cities within their territorial jurisdiction which have not yet taken legal effect, are appealed or protested against in accordance with the procedural law.
  • To conduct the trial according to cassation or reopening procedure of cases in which judgments or decisions of people’s courts of provinces, centrally run cities, rural districts, urban districts, towns, provincial cities, or the equivalent authority within their territorial jurisdiction which have taken legal effect are protested against in accordance with the procedural law.

The Court of provinces and centrally-run cities no longer have the right to conduct a trial according to cassation or reopening of a case anymore, as those duties have now been allocated to the Superior people’s court. The remaining court does not change its duties.

  • Plan to apply the new LOPC

To implement the new LOPC, the National Assembly Standing Committee (NASC) issued Resolution No.81/2014/QH13 (Resolution No.81) on implementation of LOPC on November 24, 2014. Resolution No. 81 provided further clarification for adopting the new adjudicating levels as regulated in Resolution No.81.

Until the effective date of the new LOPC, the Chief Justice of the Supreme people’s court shall prepare the organization structure, personnel and other necessary conditions for the new adjudicating levels (Art 1.1 of Resolution No.81). The Judicial council of the Supreme people’s court has to transfer its duties and power to that which is newly established, in accordance with the new LOPC (Art 2.1 of Resolution No.81).

In the Meeting on May 14, 2015, NASC decided to establish three (03) main Supreme people’s courts (in Ha Noi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City) based on the current appellate courts of the Supreme people’s court. This will ensure the adaptability related to the structural organization, facilities and personnel of the new Supreme people’s court established under the new LOPC.

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