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Lack of good data hampers fight against flood of cheap products   2010-08-06 - Tuoi tre

Vietnamese companies still pay a lot of money to import products that can be made domestically, pushing the trade deficit higher.  What’s the best way to do to prevent these products from flowing to Vietnam?

Lawyer Tran Huu Huynh, chief of the Legal Department at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), told Tuoi Tre newspaper that Vietnam can absolutely apply trade remedy measures to restrict imports.  Of course, they must respect the WTO rules on trade liberalization.


For example, Huynh said, Government agencies can require animal and vegetation quarantine, apply safeguards measures, and in special cases use anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs to protect local production against unhealthy competition from imported products.


Tuoi tre:  We’ve been seeing farm produce such as garlic, carrots, mushrooms and tomatos entering Vietnam in huge quantities.  Does that mean Vietnam still does not have any effective measure to deter such imports?


Tran Huu Huynh: To tame the “whirlwind” of foreign farm produce imports Vietnam can use two measures: building technical barriers and using the tools on animal and vegetation quarantine.


To do that, it is necessary to find out the volume of imports, which then allows to analyse the prices, calculate the volume of imports at different periods and assess the impacts of the imports on the same kinds of products made domestically. Then we will be able to install technical barriers.


For example, we can require that products be labeled and their origin clearly indicated.  We can require that genetically modified foods be so labeled, enabling consumers to decide whether to buy the products.


Animal and vegetation quarantine requirements are also effective measures. We not only need to examine if meat imports have diseases, but also need to check for antibiotic residues in the products.  It is essential to keep strict control over the quality of food, because food directly affects people’s health. Quarantine agencies must examine imports right at the border gates or seaports


I think that the State should spend money to implement the examination methods immediately, for the benefit of the whole community.


Tuoi tre: You have mentioned trade remedy measures. Can we apply trade remedy measures just because an imported product is cheap?


Tran Huu Huynh: When a kilo of Chinese garlic or carrots is offered for 4000 dong, it is clear that these imports are formidable competition for Vietnamese products. We can question why this imported produce is so cheap, and we can investigate if the producers are being subsidized by their governments.


For this, domestic producers need to take initiative in collecting information and evidence, such as the import prices, the prices at which products are sold in their place of origin, the prices of our domestic products. These figures need to be sent to the Competition Administration, so that they are at hand when needed.


Tuoi tre: Farmers associations and small businessmen complain that it is very difficult to collect the information they need to prove their losses.  Should the State agencies assist them?


Tran Huu Huynh: Domestic producers ought do this for their own benefit.  It’s true, however, that much of the information which can be used in lawsuits is already on the desks of Government agencies.


It is very difficult to pry information about prices and the import volumes from the Customs Department.  Nor can enterprises access the information about production, consumption, inventory levels or the number of workers becoming redundant as the result of the “invasion” of import products. The information really is very useful to prove that losses occur.  However, management agencies do not release the information.


To address that problem, I have many times proposed a law that requires the Government to provide information to enterprises in case they need the information to protect themselves.

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