Trade Barriers in Vietnam

An Expert's View about Customs in Vietnam

Last updated: 4 Mar 2011

Vietnam has made significant progress in eliminating non-tariff barriers (NTBs) under the United States- Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA). The United States negotiated the removal of additional NTBs through Vietnam’s accession to the WTO. As a result, Vietnam has eliminated and has committed to not reintroducing any quantitative restrictions on imports or other non-tariff measures, such as quotas, bans, permits, prior authorization requirements, licensing requirements, or other restrictions having the same effect, which would not be consistent with the WTO Agreement.


Import prohibitions: Vietnam currently prohibits the commercial importation of the following products: arms and ammunition; explosives (not including industrial explosives); military equipment and facilities; narcotics; certain toxic chemicals; "depraved and reactionary" cultural products; firecrackers; certain children's toys; second-hand consumer goods; right-hand drive motor vehicles; used spare parts for vehicles; asbestos materials under the amphibole group; specialized encryption devices and software not destined for mass market consumption; polluting waste and scrap; and refrigerating equipment using chlorofluorocarbons.


Quantitative restrictions and non-automatic licensing: Salt, tobacco, eggs, and sugar are under a tariff-rate quota regime, according to the 2006 Commercial Law. Separate regulations apply to exports of rice, imports of petroleum and fuel, and imports of cigarettes and cigars. Special authority regulation: The importation of certain categories of goods is limited to state-trading enterprises (see Trading Rights below), and others are subject to automatic or non-automatic import licensing. Since August 2008, Vietnam has subjected a number of imports to an automatic licensing process that can sometimes causes bureaucratic delays to importation. The list includes the following items: 1) Essential oils and resinoids; perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations; 2) Plastics and articles thereof; 3) Ceramic products; 4) Glass and glassware; 5) Articles of iron or steel; 6) Aluminum and articles thereof; 7) Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, and parts thereof; 8) Electrical machinery and equipment, sound recorders, television image and sound recorders, and parts and accessories of such articles; 9) Passenger transportation means, their parts and accessories; and 10) Furniture. Foreign exchange system: Foreign investors can purchase foreign currency at authorized banks to finance current and capital transactions as well as other permitted transactions. Residents and non-residents can open and maintain foreign exchange accounts, and foreign investors are allowed to transfer abroad profits and other legal income.


Vietnam does not require documenting the discharge of tax obligations when purchasing, remitting or carrying foreign currency overseas in the fulfillment of currency transactions. Foreign investors and foreign invested businesses are required to use Vietnamese currency (Dong) in most regular business activities and portfolio investments, except where specifically authorized, such as in tourism-related businesses like hotels and airlines.


Customs: Vietnam implemented the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement through the 2006 Customs Law, and through related implementing regulations. The Customs Law makes the use of transaction value applicable to all imports and provides for a full application of the computed value and deductive methods. Subsequent regulations have been issued relating to customs procedures and inspection, post-clearance audits, and valuation of imported goods. These changes have significantly improved customs valuation in Vietnam.


The application of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement principles has not been uniform, and importers complain about the low level of automation of Vietnam’s customs system. The United States will continue to work with Vietnam to monitor implementation of the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement as part of the ongoing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) dialogue. Taxes: Vietnam applies a value-added tax on goods and services in a number of categories listed in the Law on Value Added Tax, and related implementing regulations. Certain goods in Vietnam are also subject to an excise tax, levied in accordance with the Law on Excise Tax, which was revised in late 2008 to eliminate the discriminatory application of excise taxes. Consistent with Vietnam’s WTO accession commitments, the revisions harmonize excise taxes effective January 1, 2010, to a single ad valorem rate for all beer, regardless of packaging, and for all distilled spirits over 20 percent alcohol by volume.


Automatic licensing: The GVN introduced an automatic import licensing system in August 2008, which was renewed in January 2009. The list includes selective 8-digit items of 10 chapters, mostly aimed at consumer goods. Licenses must be issued within five days and are indefinite. Trading rights: Import rights are granted for all products except for a limited number reserved for state trading enterprises and those subject to a phase-in period for importation by foreign firms. Vietnam has reserved the right of importation for state trading entities for the following categories: cigars and cigarettes; crude oil; newspapers, journals and periodicals; and recorded media for sound or pictures (with certain exclusions). Starting in January 2009, foreign firms and individuals are now allowed to import pharmaceuticals; motion picture films; unused postage, printed cards and calendars; certain printed matter; machinery for typesetting and print machinery (excluding ink-jet printers); and certain transmission apparatus for radio-telephony (excluding mobile phones and consumer cameras). Foreign individuals and enterprises will be given the right to export rice no later than January 1, 2011. The United States will closely monitor implementation of these commitments.



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Posted: 16 August 2010, last updated 4 March 2011

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