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Establishment of an appropriate framework to strengthen the status of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry with the International Chamber of Commerce of Paris
As one of the consequences of the 1997' Asian financial crisis, the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (GoV) has emphasized macroeconomic stability and the country shifted toward a market-oriented economy and, in particular, exportation. While national authorities continue to hold rein over major sectors such as banking, industry and foreign trade, a Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) was signed with the United States in 2000. It allows Vietnam to strengthen a manufacturing-based and export-oriented economy with the objective of attracting foreign investment. Subsequently, the Ten-Year Economic Plan adopted in 2001 enhanced the role of the private sector but, in 2005, national economy fell due to, according international economists (such as the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report) the "negative perceptions of the effectiveness of government institutions", uncertain protection of property rights, a non efficient system for the regulation of markets and import export.

During the second half of the decade, economic relations with South Asian Nations, the United States and the European Union have consistently improved, although barriers to trade remain within the purview of bilateral discussions. In addition, in view of the Chinese rapid economic ascendancy, trade relations are of utmost importance. Furthermore, in 2003, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Vietnam is a member, decided to establish by 2015 the "ASEAN Community" based on three pillars: (i) regional security, (ii) socio-cultural development, and (iii) integrated economy under the form of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). AEC's objectives are to reinforce regional trade capacities and to reorient a regional economy which was described by McKinsey & Company, in their review made at the request of the ASEAN ministers, as "falling behind its rivals [while] turning it into a true single market would... help restore its economic luster".

Reflecting the above, AEC's mission is "to develop a single market and production base that is stable, prosperous, highly competitive and economically integrated with effective facilitation for trade and investment in which there is free flow of goods, services investment… and freer flow of capital."

One of the challenges for GoV is thus to adapt and/or restructure the trade national framework which should be integrated at the regional level and be able to compete with neighboring economies. In this respect, it has been noted that, while legally recognized by other ASEAN's members, Vietnam has not formally established its membership with the International Chamber of Commerce of Paris (ICC). At the domestic level, a newly enacted law provides that GoV will require the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (CCCI) comments and inputs whenever a draft legislation with economical and trade aspects is to be adopted. However, in terms of global trade, the country's position remains week in particular vis-à-vis other ASEAN members.

In view of, on the one hand, the traditional importance of the state sector in Vietnam and, in the other hand, the recent restructuring of the national trade and industry private sector, as well as the opening of regional and global markets, VCCI's capacities (field of competence and structures for representation) should be strengthened.

The challenges is to integrate national trade with the objective to compete with neighboring economies. In parallel with promotion and protection of innovation at the domestic level and in addition to the formal representation of trade and industrial interests to public authorities, it is highly recommended that VCCI be strongly integrated within the appropriate world trade institutions. In particular, Vietnam's formal membership with the International Chamber of Commerce will allow for the pro-active integration of the country in the world business, promoting trade and investment, opening new international or regional markets for goods and services, ensuring proper free flow of capital. In particular, the above membership may allow for better championing its economy, covering a broad spectrum from business advocacy to arbitration and dispute resolution in line with the ICC's internationally recognized rules as it is the case in 84 of the world's nations where private sector members have established formal ICC structures.

Such structures, called National Committees, assemble to constitute the World Council, the ICC's supreme governing body. Through its various National Committees, the ICC has direct access to Governments all over the world and the ICC Paris-based international secretariat feeds business views into intergovernmental organizations on issues that directly affect business operations. It should be noted that, while most of the South East and Pacific economies have constituted their National Committee, it is not the case in Vietnam. However, as the ICC internal rules provide that in countries where there is no National Committee, companies and organizations such as chambers of commerce and professional associations can become direct members, the VCCI relies only on a far too week liaison status with the ICC.

Consequently and of top specific interest for Vietnam, the ICC would support GoV's efforts to implement the Marrakech Agreement's rules, provides global business recommendations to the World Trade Organization and represents world business when GoV takes up such issues as intellectual property rights, transport policy, trade law or the environment.

To that effect, the ICC has adopted various trade rules (Rules of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; ICC's Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits applied by banks; ICC Incoterms which are standard international trade definitions); is developing "model contracts" for companies that cannot afford structures legal departments; and, with the aim to provide practical services to business, has established the International Court of Arbitration and the World Chambers Federation.

The ICC International Court of Arbitration (ICA) is the world's leading body for resolving international commercial disputes by arbitration which exist in many forms: (i) Amicable dispute resolution; (ii) Dispute boards designed to help resolve disagreements arising during the course of a contract; (iii) Expertise to find the right expert to make an independent assessment.

The World Chambers Federation (WCF) was established to be the advocate of the ICC Chamber of commerce Members worldwide. It represents the interests of all local, national, regional, bilateral and transnational chambers of commerce and industry, strengthens links between chambers, enabling them to improve performance as well as discover new products and services to offer their members. In Vietnam where no National Committee has been established, the VCCI has applied directly to the ICC via the WCF.

With a view to better integrate Vietnam productive and trade sectors in the global economy and to provide national authorities with more pertinent information when taking decisions, the VCCI should be strengthened to, i.a., provide experienced and sound advice to entrepreneurs, in particular with a view to strengthen their presence on the international trade, and be fully integrated among the ICC's network including the ICA and the WCF.

As a result of the above, the VCCI will better provide experienced services to the trade and industry community and in particular advise on concluding trade and/or production agreements with non national companies, and pursuing legal proceedings required in case of dispute with providers, distributors, trade agents… in line with ICC's dispute settlement procedures.
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