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29Jul/140

VN asked to stabilize exchange rate to minimize risks of public/private projects

Last update 13:40 | 29/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam is considering new policies on foreign exchange management in order to help minimize exchange rate fluctuation risks for PPP (private public partnership) project developers.

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Hiroshi Wantanabe, general director of JBIC, the Japan international cooperation bank, said at a meeting on July 16 with the Ministry of Planning and Investment that Vietnam should apply measures to stabilize the exchange rate to attract foreign investment for infrastructure projects implemented under the mode of PPP.

He said while the Vietnam’s foreign exchange reserve has increased to $35 billion, the risks in the exchange rate fluctuations and the restrictions in foreign currency conversion remain big barriers that keep private investors away from infrastructure projects.

In principle, investors will consider the exchange rate fluctuation risks when calculating the prices of the products. However, with PPP mechanism, the risks should be allocated to the parties which can handle the problems in a best way. Therefore, he said, Vietnam needs to consider applying reasonable mechanisms to be sure that the foreign exchange risks can be minimized.

Wantanabe from JBIC also said that foreign investors want the State Bank of Vietnam to ensure the stability and the predictability of the exchange rates.

If policies change regularly without predictions in advance, investors find it difficult to calculate expected profits and figure out the measures to apply when necessary.

The current strict regulations on foreign currency conversion have also caused foreign private investors to hesitate to implement projects in Vietnam.

When developing thermal power projects in Vietnam, investors have to borrow money in foreign currencies and pay debts in the same currencies. However, under the current regulations, they can only receive VND when selling electricity to Electricity of Vietnam.

This means that investors will have to convert VND into foreign currencies to transfer profits abroad and pay bank debts. Meanwhile, they face many difficulties in converting dong into other currencies due to current strict regulations.

This is the reason why foreign institutions have been insisting that the government of Vietnam guarantee currency conversion, since international financial institutions cannot take this work as well as Vietnamese agencies.

Le Van Tang, Head of the Bidding Management Agency, said the responsibility of the government of Vietnam related to foreign investors’ currency conversion is being considered by competent agencies and will be legalized in a decree on PPP project management.

However, Tang said Vietnam will have to think carefully about ensuring exchange rate stabilization.

“We have referred to international laws and consulted with experts and found that no one can ensure the exchange rate would not fluctuate after 40 years, and that it is the job of investors to consider risks before making investment decisions,” Tang said.

An expert who asked to remain anonymous also commented that no government in the world can commit to keep the exchange rate unchanged for many years.

He said it would be better for investors to count on the exchange rate risks when calculating the contracts’ value.

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29Jul/140

Consumption of goods, services up

July, 29 2014 09:31:38

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Customers purchase goods at Co.op Mart Dinh Tien Hoang in HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu

HA NOI (VNS) — The General Statistics Office (GSO) yesterday reported that the total retail sale of goods and services in the first seven months achieved a year-on-year increase of 11.4 per cent to US$78.8 billion.
Excluding inflation, the growth was 6.15 per cent since early this year against the growth rate at 5.1 per cent in the first quarter, 5.5 per cent in the first four months and 6 per cent in the first five months. It was 5.7 per cent in the first half of the year.

During the first seven months of this year, the total retail sale of goods accounted for 75 per cent of the total to reach $59.15 billion, 10.1 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Sales of accommodation and restaurant services had a year-on-year increase of 12.8 per cent to $9.62 billion and other services gained $9.22 billion, 18.3 per cent higher than same period last year.

GSO economic expert Vu Manh Ha said, however, that the real purchasing power still grew slowly, as the consumer price index increased only 1.62 per cent during the first seven months – the lowest level since 2006.

The growth rate of retail sales of goods and services each month showed a downward trend during the first seven months, the office said. The rate increased 2.3 per cent in February against January, 2 per cent in March against February and 1.4 per cent in April against May. It rose 0.7 per cent in July against June.

However, the domestic retail market shows great potential in the future, according to property consulting and service provider CBRE Viet Nam.

Looking ahead, the retail market could expect more activities and new entrants in Viet Nam in general and Ha Noi in particular.

According to a recent report by CBRE, Viet Nam ranked second among ten top markets for Asian retailers in 2014. Another survey conducted by CBRE also showed that Ha Noi and HCM City are among top 10 cities in Asia Pacific where retailers intend to open stores in 2014.

On the legal side, Viet Nam will completely open the market to foreign retailers by January 2015 under WTO obligations. In addition, under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement, Viet Nam has reduced import duties from ASEAN to zero on 10,000 tariff lines.

While this support is expected to serve as a good foundation for more international retailers and goods to enter Viet Nam, local retailers may struggle with competition from foreign retailers with modern, tried and tested international concepts. — VNS

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29Jul/140

Foreign investors pour $13 billion into VN markets

Last update 20:00 | 29/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam's stock market has attracted US$13 billion from foreign investors, both individual and institutional, according to an official.

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Viet Nam's stock market has attracted US$13 billion from foreign investors, both individual and institutional, according to an official.— Photo baodautu

Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung, speaking at last Saturday's ceremony celebrating the 14th anniversary of the HCM Stock Exchange (HOSE), the first securities exchange in Viet Nam, noted that the large foreign investment was a positive development, reflecting the increasing growth in the stock market.

Beginning operations in late July 2000, the exchange had only two listed companies and no participation from foreign investors.

Indeed, in 2003, foreign investors' daily trading value stood at VND41 million ($2,000), while this figure has since risen to VND250.6 billion ($10.2 million).

Currently, 700 companies are listed at HOSE and the exchange in Ha Noi. Also, almost 150 companies have registered to trade on the UPCom.

"The market capitalization of all listed shares is $52 billion, around 32 per cent of the GDP, and bonds are 17 per cent," said the minister. He added that the share trading value in the first six months went up 58 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Currently, HOSE represents some 70 per cent of the total market trading value.

"As the first stock exchange in the country, HOSE has been increasingly improving itself in terms of trading and supervision systems, information releases, product development and upgrading its infrastructure and operation management," said Vu Bang, Chairman of the State Securities Commission.

HOSE also inaugurated its new building, the Exchange Tower, the same day. This new HOSE headquarters is located in a grade A modern building, offering more than 26,000 sq.m. of office space to enable the development of its Data Center.

Together with the older building, HOSE now occupies more than 32,000 sq.m.During the ceremony, 50 listed firms from almost 700 entries from the Annual Report Awards 2014 were honoured with best annual reports, including 38 from HOSE and 12 from HNX. Vinamilk, Bao Viet Holdings, DHG Pharma and Sai Gon Securities Inc. were among the top honourees.

Meanwhile, first prize for the Sustainability Reporting Awards went to Bao Viet Holding, and second prize to Vinamilk. Three consolation prizes were granted to DHG Pharma, Sacombank and Imexpharm.

HOSE, in coordination with Dau Tu Chung Khoan (Securities Investment), a publication of Viet Nam Investment Review and Ha Noi Stock Exchange, have organised this annual contest since 2008.

FDI sinks despite new projects

Total registered capital of foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the first seven months this year decreased by 20 per cent year-on-year to US$9.53 billion, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment's Foreign Investment Agency (FIA).

However, total disbursements from FDI firms were estimated at $6.8 billion, increasing 2.3 per cent against the corresponding period last year. FDI businesses generated an export turnover of $55.83 billion and incurred around $46.04 in imports, resulting in a trade surplus of $9.78 billion.

In the reviewed period, as many as 889 new FDI projects were licensed with total registered capital of $6.85 billion, representing 0.9 per cent year-on-year decrease. About 300 projects increased their investment by $2.67 billion, reducing 46 per cent in comparison with the same period last year.

The processing and manufacturing industries took the lead in attracting FDI with 448 newly-licensed projects with new registered and additional capital of $6.66 billion that accounted for 70 per cent of the total FDI. They were followed by the real estate sector with $1.13 billion, accounting for 12 per cent of the total and the construction sector with $547.58 million.

At present, 46 countries and territories have been investing in Viet Nam. South Korea took first place in terms of total registered investment of around $3.13 billion, accounting for 33 per cent of the country's total FDI inflow. Hong Kong ranked second, followed by Japan and Singapore.

The northern Bac Ninh Province led the country in FDI with $1.33 billion, accounting for 14 per cent of the country's total inflow. HCM City was second with total registered and additional capital of $1.07 billion, followed by Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Hai Phong and Ha Noi.

Some big FDI projects that were granted licences in July included South Korean investor's Samsung Display Company in Bac Ninh Province with $1 billion, Thang Long Cement Factory funded by an Indonesian investor in north-eastern Quang Ninh Province with $325.75 million and Dai An Viet Nam – Canada International Hospital Company in northern Hai Duong Province with $225 million.

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25Jul/140

US asked to recognise Vietnam’s market economy

Last update 11:13 | 25/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – Hanoi Party Committee Secretary Pham Quang Nghi has asked the US to further open its market for Vietnamese products, restrict trade barriers, encourage US investment in Vietnam, and recognise the country’s market economy status.

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The Vietnamese delegation held a working session with NDI and IRI leaders

He also proposed that the US increase assistance to Vietnam in dealing with war aftermath, including dioxin remediation, support for dioxin victims, bomb and mine clearance, and search for personnel missing in action (MIA).

Nghi made proposals during his current visit to the US, starting July 21, where he met a number of politicians including Thomas Shannon, Counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Adviser for President Barack Obama; Patrick Leahy, President pro tempore of the US Senate and Senator John McCain.

He also met with Kenneth Wollack, President of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Mark Green, President of the International Republican Institute (IRI).

Nghi briefed his hosts on Vietnam’s open foreign policy and affirmed that Vietnam wants to further boost cooperation with the US within the framework of the comprehensive partnership established in July 2013.

He reiterated the two countries’ determination to break with the past and look to the future, and said both sides need to take specific measures to develop bilateral relations in an effective and substantial manner, primarily in economics, trade and investment.

He stressed the need to increase the exchange of delegation, especially in 2015 to mark 20 years of Vietnam-US normalisation.

Nghi also said Vietnam welcomes the US’s efforts to strengthen cooperation with Asia and the Pacific, for the sake of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.

He appreciated congress people’s contributions to Vietnam-US relations in recent times, including dialogue mechanisms between the two countries’ legislatures and cooperation between their localities.

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Pham Quang Nghi (L) and Patrick Leahy, President pro tempore of the US Senate

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Pham Quang Nghi worked with Department of State officials

Leaders of the US Department of State said the US values Vietnam’s role in addressing regional and international issues, as well as issues in US-Vietnam relations.

They said the US attaches great importance to Asia-Pacific in its overall strategy, and vowed to accelerate negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to end the process this year. They pledged to provide technical assistance for Vietnam to improve its capacity and flexibility in meeting TPP commitments.

US Senators spoke highly of Vietnam’s leading role in resolving regional issues and said the US Congress supports the government in promoting relations with Vietnam.

US officials expressed their concern over recent tensions in the East Sea after China placed its oil platform Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

They said the US has its interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, including freedom, safety and security of navigation in the East Sea. They appreciated Vietnam’s recent efforts to prevent confrontations and disputes in the region.

Nghi is scheduled to leave Washington DC on July 23 (local time) for New York, continuing his working visit to the US.

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25Jul/140

Vietnam treasures WB’s financial assistance

Last update 11:29 | 25/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam always appreciates the World Bank’s official development assistance (ODA) and is determined to effectively implement measures to speed up its capital disbursement.

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Vice Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made the statement on July 23 at a reception for WB country director for Vietnam Victoria Kwakwa in Hanoi.

Ngan spoke highly of WB’s valuable assistance for Vietnam’s development, especially in infrastructure development, poverty reduction, implementation of millennium development goals (MDGs), international integration, technology transfer and advanced management skills.

She urged the WB to continue to provide policy consultancy and international experience in economic restructuring, international integration and capital resources accessibility.

Vietnam hopes the WB will help enhance NA agencies’ management and law-making capacity, as well as training in finance, economics and foreign languages, Ngan said.

For her part, Kwakwa praised Vietnam’s economic development, and macroeconomic stabilisation efforts which she said will be lessons for other countries to learn.

She appreciated the legislature’s recent approval of several bills and resolutions, especially a resolution on accelerating sustainable poverty reduction by 2020.

Acknowledging Vietnam’s efforts in effectively using preferential aid in recent years, Kwakwa stated that the WB will maintain ODA for Vietnam in the 2014-2017 period.

The WB will actively coordinate with relevant Vietnamese ministries and agencies to implement healthcare, education and poverty reduction projects in order to raise the living conditions for ethnic minority people, she said,.

Both sides will work closely to speed up capital disbursement in Vietnam, she told the NA Vice Chairwoman.

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25Jul/140

Trade surplus tops $1.46b in first half of this year

Last update 11:34 | 24/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – The country had a trade surplus of US$1.46 billion by July 15, according to statistics from the General Department of Customs.

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In the first half of July, the export value was $5.82 per cent, down 11.2 per cent against the second half of June. Garment and textile was the only export staple whose revenue exceeded $1 billion in the period.— Photo vinacorp

The department reported that the country's export and import turnover in the period reached $152.03 billion, up 12.9 per cent year on year. Of the total, export accounted for $76.75 billion, up 14.7 per cent.

In the first half of July, the export value was $5.82 per cent, down 11.2 per cent against the second half of June. Garment and textile was the only export staple whose revenue exceeded $1 billion in the period.

The import revenue in the first half of July was also down 6.9 per cent to reach $6.02 billion. Machines, equipment and materials were the items with the highest import value.

Foreign-invested firms remained the biggest contributor to the country's export with a value of $3.54 billion in the first half of July, raising the total export in the period between January and July 15 to $47.15 billion. The firms spent $3.44 billion and $42.28 billion on imports in the first half of July and in the January-to-July period, respectively.

Based on the export results till date, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) forecast that the country's export value this year would reach roughly $146 billion, up 10.6 per cent compared with the previous year. The import value, meanwhile, would reach $145.5 billion, up 10.2 per cent. So Viet Nam would have a trade surplus of roughly $500 million this year.

However, the ministry noted that it would not be easy to achieve these results because the economy still faces numerous difficulties. The competition between countries which export to large markets such as the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea is becoming increasingly fierce. The export of agricultural and forest products and seafood continues to face difficulties in terms of price and market.

To achieve the annual export targets, deputy director of the MoIT's Export and Import Department Phan Thi Dieu Ha said that the ministry had issued some instructions and proposed measures to boost exports, especially the export of agricultural products and seafood.

Recently, the MoIT and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development met to discuss market-related issues to help businesses boost exports. They agreed that it was necessary to maintain a close relationship between agricultural production, the processing industry and value chains in order to create high-quality agricultural products.

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21Jul/140

Exchange rate hike pays modest gains

Updated

July, 21 2014 09:52:08

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Wooden goods are produced at Kaiser Furniture Co in Binh Duong Province. The appreciation of the US dollar by the SBV in June has been positively felt by businesses, although the benefits remain modest, experts say. — VNA/VNS Photo Quach Lam

HA NOI (VNS) — Businesses say the appreciation of the US dollar by the State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) in June has positively affected their businesses, although the benefits remain modest.

On June 19, the central bank increased the dong-dollar interbank exchange rate by one per cent, after keeping it intact for one year, with one dollar currently equivalent to 21,246 dong, instead of 21,036.

SBV Monetary Policy Department director Nguyen Thi Hong said the move was meant to support the nation's export profile and economic growth during the remainder of the year, as the demands of the economy were low and business performances remained difficult.

"The banking sector is sharing its difficulties with us," said Bac Viet Steel Company director Tran Anh Vuong. "The recent adjustment in the exchange rate followed a road map and was transparent, and it is supporting enterprises very well."

But Vuong said the impact that the change had on production and export was insignificant, except for such factors as wages and electricity prices, many other inputs were also affected by the dollar price. These factors accounted for 30 per cent of all inputs at his firm, so profits were limited.

Further, CMC Joint Stock Company director Nguyen Quang Huy agreed that the move was good for enterprises in the current context, although the impacts were small.

Nguyen Thi Lan, director of animal feed company Anh Dung Investment, said importers did not expect the exchange rate increase, though they had found themselves paying rising port service charges, as well as production costs, and had to recalculate their product prices.

Meanwhile, economist Tran Du Lich said the adjustment was not a change in the SBV's exchange rate policy, as had been predicted. Rather, it followed the market supply and demand and was consistent with price developments in Viet Nam in past years.

In recent days, when dong-dollar exchange rates tended to fall on the free market, the SBV raised dollar buying prices sharply at the regular exchange. This showed its consistent policy to maintain dollar prices and support exports, market observers said.

Further, banking expert Nguyen Tri Hieu said the appreciation of the dollar was necessary, though the one-per-cent adjustment will not have any significant impact on the economy. This indicated the central bank's caution in implementing operational policies within the context that the economy still faced many challenges. — VNS

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21Jul/140

Exxon Mobil triggers new US investment wave

Last update 09:30 | 21/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge – The world’s largest oil and gas group Exxonmobil based in the US has moved ahead with its $20 billion gas power project in the provinces of Quang Ngai and Quang Nam, a sign of a new investment wave from the US.

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According to Pham Nhu So, Deputy Chair of the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee, Exxonmobil, after carrying field research, has expressed a wish to develop a project to bring gas ashore and build a gas-run 4,000-5,000 MW power plant, capitalized at $20 billion in total.

Exxon Mobil is considering two solutions, either bringing gas from Blue Whale oil field to the Bau Ca Cai area, near the Dung Quat Oil Refinery and building a power plant in Quang Ngai province, or bringing gas to the Tam Hiep fishing port area and building a power plant in Quang Nam province, near the Dung Quat Economic Zone.

Nguyen Hoai Giang, President of the Binh Son Petrochemical Refinery Company, commented that the latter solution proves to be better, because Exxon Mobil will be able to take full advantage of infrastructure facilities like a deep water port and favorable transport system.

Under the Vietnam’s gas industry development program by 2015-2025, a gas pipeline system would be built which would bring gas from the oil fields of the blocks No 117, 118 and 119 ashore (the expected designed capacity is 2-4 billion cubic meters per annum).

The government is also considering building a gas processing plant with the capacity of 1-4 billion cubic meters per annum in the area which is expected to become operational by 2018.

Former Chair of Quang Ngai Province Cao Khoa, the investor needs 200 hectares of land for the project, of which 100 hectares will be used in the first phase when a 1,500 MW power plant is built.

Local authorities have promised to provide “cleared land”, ready for the project development to the investor.

New foreign direct investment from the US

An official from the Quang Ngai provincial authorities said they are considering offering special investment incentives to Exxonmobil, if it makes investment in the province, affirming that Quang Ngai can satisfy all the investor’s requirements on land and infrastructure.

Do Nhat Hoang, Director of the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA), noted that he can see a new investment wave from the US.

He said Vietnamese agencies and local authorities have received many groups of US investors, namely Globe Venture Inc and Pacific Development LLC, so far this year, who came to learn about the opportunities to develop infrastructure projects, including a highway in An Giang province and the Van Don Economic Zone in Quang Ninh province.

Hoang of FIA said that in the first two months of the year alone, US investors registered investment capital of up to $1.3 billion, huge capital which helped it jump from the seventh to the first position on the list of the largest foreign investors in Vietnam.

Of the five US invested projects in Vietnam this year, the biggest one is the 5-star complex of hotel and entertainment park in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, capitalized at $1.29 billion, registered by Good Choice Group.

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21Jul/140

Containers backed up at Vietnam’s largest port

Last update 12:00 | 21/07/2014

VietNamNet Bridge - More than 80% of cargo containers in HCM City must go through Cat Lai port, but the port has been overloaded for several weeks.

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Cat Lai is the largest port in Vietnam, one of the 34 largest in the world, where over 80% of import-export goods in the HCMC area go through.

Many import and export enterprises in HCM City have complained about congestion at the port, which has caused long waits for customs clearance of goods.

Mr. Hai, an employee of an import and export company based in District 3, said his company had only three containers but it took them three days for customs clearance.

Previously, the time was only one or two days.

"The new electronic customs clearance procedures at the port run very slowly and clients have to wait for a very long time to get through," he said.

Mr. Do Xuan Phu, Director of the Lien Minh Transportation Company, said congestion not only occurs in Cat Lai port but also at the Phu My Bridge.

"We have to wait a few days in the port to receive the goods but when we get the goods we are stuck at Phu My Bridge. We have to pay additional costs," he said.

An official of the Minh Phu Seafood JSC said the congestion has affected the time of goods deliveries. He said that previously the delivery time was only half a day and now it takes two to three days.

According to the Saigon Newport Corporation, which runs Cat Lai port, there are many reasons for the current situation. The first is the increase of import-export activities. The second is from April 1, the authorities have tightened control over the load of trucks, meaning that transport firms have to increase the number of vehicles to carry the same volume of goods. This requires time to purchase enough vehicles so goods are stuck at ports.

At the same time, from June 9, the customs agency began using the new e-clearance program and this has made the situation more stressful.

According to statistics, since the new program was implemented, the number of containers released from the port has declined from 250-300 containers per day, while the number of containers entering the port has increased by 300-350 containers per day.

In addition, congestion at several foreign ports such as Tanjung Pelepas (Malaysia), Manila (Philippines), Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore that has lasted from late April along with adverse weather (rainy and stormy season) have resulted in delays of many ships, which has also affected the activities of Cat Lai port.

Cat Lai Port says it will initiate urgent measures to solve the situation. The port authorities have also asked HCM City to open the Phu Huu port in order to reduce the load for Cat Lai port and create favorable conditions for the Saigon Newport Corporation to put the Tan Cang (New Port) - Hiep Phuoc Port into operation.

This unit also proposed to inspect the goods and containers randomly, which was the method used before the new customs clearance procedures was applied.

Along with these solutions, from July 15, Cat Lai port began to increase many types of fees, and stopped receiving some kind of containers. According to the Saigon Newport Company, "the increase of fees is to encourage customers to take goods early, to avoid the current congestion".

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17Jul/140

Shoe, leather expos open in HCM City

July, 17 2014 09:51:00

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A stall exhibiting products made from crocodile skin. — VNS photo Xuan Huong

HCM CITY (VNS) — The 16th International Shoes and Leather Exhibition opened yesterday in HCM City, offering industry professionals the opportunity to have exchanges with their peers and look for business opportunities.
It is on simultaneously with two other exhibitions, the 17th International Footwear and Leather Products Exhibition and Viet Nam International Exhibition on Garment Manufacturing Equipment and Fabric.

They have attracted more than 150 local and international companies from 18 countries and territories – including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, India, mainland China, and Taiwan – an increase of 20 per cent compared to last year, Tran Vi Co, manager of Top Repute Co., Ltd, one of the organisers, said.

On display are a wide range of materials and accessories for the footwear and garment industries, chemicals, machines, and technologies used in tanning and manufacture of footwear and garments.

Nguyen Duc Thuan, chairman of the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso), said the event seeks to "promote the development of raw materials and components for the leather and footwear and garment industries."

It is also aimed at soliciting local and foreign investment in the supporting industries to help increase local content in shoe and garment production, thus meeting the requirements set by trade agreements like the TPP that the country is negotiating, he said.— VNS

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