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Vietnam: Market Profile

Graph: Vitenam factsheet
Graph: Vitenam factsheet

1. Overview

Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world into a lower middle-income country. Vietnam now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in East Asia region. Vietnam’s economic performance in 2017 has been resilient, reflecting robust export-oriented manufacturing, strong domestic demand and gradual rebound of agriculture. Vietnam’s 2011-2020 Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) - a 10 year strategy - highlights the need for structural reforms, environmental sustainability, social equity and emerging issues of macroeconomic stability. The Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP) for 2016-2020, approved in April 2016, looks to accelerate reforms.

Source: World Bank, Fitch Solutions

2. Major Economic/Political Events and Upcoming Elections

September 2016
India announced half a billion dollars worth of credit for Vietnam for defence spending.

July 2018
Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction (DHIC) started the construction of a 1.33GW thermal power project in Vietnam. The project, known as Nghi Son 2, involves construction of two 665MW thermal power generation plants in Thanh Hóa. Nghi Son 2 Power awarded a USD1.6bn contract to DHIC for the project in 2014. DHIC started the work following the receipt of an advanced payment of USD170 million. Construction is likely to be completed by July 2022.

August 2018
Thai firm SCG has signed loan agreements, worth more than USD3.2 billion, with six financial institutions for the Long Son Petrochemicals complex in Vietnam. The project, which will require an investment of around USD5.4 billion, will be located in Bà Ria-Vung Tàu Province. The complex will produce 1.6 million tonnes of high-density polyethylene, linear low density polyethylene and polypropylene a year. The loan agreements have been signed with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Mizuho Bank, Bangkok Bank Public Company, Krungthai Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, and the Export-Import Bank of Thailand. The loan has a tenor of around 14 years. Sumitomo is also acting as financial advisor for the project. Construction on the complex is scheduled to start later in Q318, with commercial operations expected to begin in H123, according to a press release from SCG.

Source: BBC country profile - Timeline, Fitch Solutions

3. Major Economic Indicators

Graph: Vitenam real GDP and inflation
Graph: Vitenam real GDP and inflation
Graph: Vitenam GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Vitenam GDP by sector (2017)
Graph: Vietnam unemployment rate
Graph: Vietnam unemployment rate
Graph: Vitenam current account balance
Graph: Vitenam current account balance

e = estimate, f = forecast
Source: IMF, World Bank, Fitch Solutions

4. External Trade

4.1 Merchandise Trade

Graph: Vitenam merchandise trade
Graph: Vitenam merchandise trade

Source: WTO
Data last reviewed: August 6 2018

Graph: Vitenam major export commodities (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major export commodities (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major export markets (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major export markets (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major import commodities (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major import commodities (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major import markets (2016)
Graph: Vitenam major import markets (2016)

Source: Trade Map, Fitch Solutions
Data last reviewed: August 15 2018

4.2 Trade in Services

Graph: Vitenam trade in services
Graph: Vitenam trade in services

Source: WTO
Data last reviewed: August 6 2018

5. Trade Policies

  • Vietnam has been a member of WTO since January 11, 2007.

  • Vietnam is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a signatory to the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which aims to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between member states. ASEAN has also negotiated free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand, China, India, South Korea and Japan.

  • The simple average most favoured nation (MFN) tariff has declined significantly, from 18.5% in 2007 to 9.8% in 2016, as Vietnam has been phasing-in its tariff concessions.

  • Vietnam has reserved the right of importation to state trading entities in the following product categories: cigars and cigarettes, crude oil, newspapers, journals and periodicals, and recorded media for sound or pictures (with certain exclusions).

  • Vietnam also prohibits importation of old equipment and technologies which are more than 10 years old. However, there are exceptions in some special cases.

  • Vietnam currently prohibits the importation of some products, including weaponry, ammunition, explosive materials, military technical equipment, firecrackers, second-hand consumer goods, types of publications, and cultural products in the category prohibited from dissemination and circulation in Vietnam, right-hand-drive motor vehicles, materials and transport facilities, chemicals, plan protection agents prohibited from use in Vietnam, scrap and waste, refrigerating equipment using C.F.C., products, raw material containing asbestos of the group of amphibole, chemicals on list of prohibited chemicals.

  • Foreign investors are exempt from import duties on goods imported for their own use and which cannot be procured locally, including: machinery, vehicles, components and spare parts for machinery and equipment, raw materials, inputs for manufacturing, and construction materials that cannot be produced domestically.

  • Valued added tax (VAT) of 10% applies to goods and services that are not specifically included in the list of goods and services subject to the 0% or 5% rates or the list of goods exempt from VAT. The 5% rate applies to the supply of essential goods and services (water supply, agricultural goods, medical goods and teaching aids).

Source: WTO - Trade Policy Review, Fitch Solutions

6. Trade Agreements

6.1 Trade Updates

In March 2018, Vietnam and South Korea signed an agreement aimed at boosting their bilateral trade to USD100 billion by 2020.

In April 2018, the Asian Development Bank’s Trade Finance Program and Orient Commercial Bank signed a USD10 million loan agreement to further support trade in Vietnam.

6.2 Multinational Trade Agreements


  1. Vietnam is a member of WTO (Effective date: January 11, 2007).

  2. ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (Effective date: January 1993) reduces tariff and non-tariff barriers between member states. The 10 members of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement are: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia.

  3. ASEAN-China (Effective date: January 2005 for goods and July 2007 for services) is a comprehensive economic cooperation between ASEAN member states and China. The goal of the agreement is not just eleminating tariffs, but it also seeks to address behind-the-border barriers that impede the flow of goods and services.

  4. ASEAN-Republic of Korea Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Effective date: July 2007) allows 90% of the products being traded between ASEAN and South Korea to enjoy duty-free treatment.

  5. ASEAN-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Effective date: January 2010) involves the liberalisation of tariffs on over 90% of products traded between the two regions, including the so-called “special products,” such as palm oil (crude and refined), coffee, black tea and pepper.

  6. ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (Effective date: January 2010) aims to eliminate tariffs on 99% of exports to key ASEAN markets by 2020.

  7. As part of the Chile-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (Effective date: March 2012), 73% of Chilean exports will be granted tariff-free access to Vietnam, while the remaining products will benefit from the free trade agreement in terms ranging from 3 to 15 years. Only 4% of products will be in exception lists. Meanwhile, 75% of Vietnamese exports will be granted a tariff- free access to Chile and the rest of the products will benefit from tax relief in a period ranging from 6 to 11 years.

  8. Japan-Vietnam Economic Partnership Agreement (Effective date: October 2009): The Agreement boosts cooperation between the two countries in many areas such as: goods, services, investment, business climate improvement, human resource transfer, technical transfer, etc. Under this agreement, 92% of goods exchanged between the two countries will enjoy tax exemption and reduction within 10 years from the date of validity of the agreement. Vietnam’s agricultural, garment, and aquatic products will gain tax exemptions when entering the Japanese market, and Japanese industrial products, including car components and electronic products, will gain tax exemptions or see a decrease to the corresponding import taxes.

  9. Vietnam-Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement (Effective date: October 2016) commits Vietnam to open the market for about 90% of total tariff lines within a 10-year tariff reduction schedule. Tariff elimination for products in the priority list of EAEU (which consists of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) at the entry into force (EIF) including agricultural commodities (such as beef, dairy products, wheat flour); after 3-5 years since EIF including processed meat and fish, electrical machinery, machinery used in agricultural; after 5 years since EIF including pork, chicken; after 10 years since EIF including alcohol beverages and cars. For some special products, tariff elimination will be not earlier than 2027 for petroleum, and not longer than 10 years for iron and steel. EAEU will eliminate the tariff rate for approximately 90% of all tariff lines. Groups of products for which the import tariff will be eliminated are agricultural-forestry-fishery products of Vietnam (majority of fishery items, some certain kinds of fresh and processed vegetable and fruits, processed meat and fish, cereals, rice (with the tariff quota is 10,000 tons)); and some industrial goods that Vietnam has an advantage in exporting (such as: textile (in quota) and raw textile materials, footwear (especially athletic shoes), machinery, electronic components, some pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, rubber products, and wood and furniture.

  10. ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement: Hong Kong has long been important for trade between China and ASEAN countries. At the end of 2015, ASEAN ranked sixth among Hong Kong’s destinations for outward FDI (with a stock of HKD218 billion) as well as sixth among sources of inbound direct investment (with a stock of HKD555 billion). This agreement will also be important to both the government and business communities for China’s Belt and Road initiative.

  11. Negotiations for an EU-Vietnam FTA were launched in June 2012 and concluded in 2015. The EU considers the FTAs with individual ASEAN countries as stepping stones towards an agreement in the regional framework, which remains the ultimate goal. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Vietnam - entered into force in October 2016 - offers a solid foundation to intensify relations between the two parties. Vietnam enjoys trade preferences with the EU under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences. EU exports to Vietnam are dominated by high tech products including electrical machinery and equipment, aircraft, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products. Vietnam's key export items to the EU include telephone sets, electronic products, footwear, textiles and clothing, coffee, rice, seafood, and furniture.

Signed But Not Ratified

  1. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), also known as TPP11 is a signed, but not-yet ratified, trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The eleven countries represent 13.4% of the global gross domestic product or USD13.5 trillion, making this one of the largest trade agreements after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The CPTPP incorporates most of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provisions by reference, but suspended 22 provisions the United States favoured that other countries opposed, and lowered the threshold for enactment so the participation of the United States is not required. The TPP was signed on February 4, 2016, but never entered into force as a result of the withdrawal of the United States. All original TPP signatories, except the United States, agreed in May 2017 to revive it and reached agreement in January 2018 to conclude the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The formal signing ceremony was held on March 8 2018 in Santiago, Chile. The agreement enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50% of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries), with three countries having ratified as of July 18, 2018.
Under Negotiation
  1. Vietnam and Israel are negotiating a free trade agreement. Israel is one of Vietnam’s important partners in the Middle East, with two-way trade reaching USD2.3 billion in 2015. Prospects for co-operation have been seen in fields such as investment, finance, services, science, technology and labour.

  2. Vietnam and the European Free Trade Association (consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) are negotiating a free trade agreement. The European Free Trade Association’s leading exports to Vietnam included fish, pharmaceutical products, and machinery and mechanical appliances, while electrical machinery, footwear and precious stones and metals were leading imports.

  3. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand). This will allow better market access for goods and services throughout Asia.
Source: WTO Regional Trade Agreements database, Fitch Solutions

7. Investment Policy

7.1 Foreign Direct Investment

Graph: Vitenam FDI stock
Graph: Vitenam FDI stock
Graph: Vitenam FDI flow
Graph: Vitenam FDI flow

Source: UNCTAD
Data last reviewed: August 6, 2018

7.2 Foreign Direct Investment Policy

  1. The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) oversees an Investment Promotion Department to facilitate all foreign investments, and most of the provinces and cities also have investment promotion agencies. The agencies provide information, explain regulations, and offer support to investors when requested.

  2. Foreign and domestic private entities can establish and own a business except in six prohibited business lines, such as illicit drug, wild life trafficking, etc., and 243 conditional sectors. Foreign investors must negotiate on a case-by-case basis with the government on market access in sectors that are not explicitly open through a trade or investment agreement. The government occasionally issues investment licenses with time limits to specifically targeted investors.

  3. Foreign owners are permitted to acquire full ownership of local companies except when mentioned otherwise in Vietnam’s international and bilateral commitments.

  4. There is a 25% cap on foreign investment in local banks from one foreign entity, and a 30% cap on overall foreign investment in local banks. The government can waive these caps on a case-by-case basis.

  5. Vietnam permits foreign participation in the telecommunications sector, with varying equity limitations depending on the sub-sector (there are five basic and eight value added sub-sectors). Foreign ownership in private networks is permitted up to 70%, while foreign ownership in facility-based basic services (e.g., public voice service where the supplier owns its transmission facilities) is generally capped at 49%.

Sources: WTO – Trade Policy Review, The International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Department of Commerce

7.3 Free Trade Zones And Investment Incentives

Free Trade Zone/Incentive ProgrammeMain Incentives Available
270 industrial zones and export processing zones across the country. Vietnam is divided into three key categories of economic zones (KEZs), each of which has its own economic development plan.Foreign investors are exempt from import duties on goods imported for their own use and which cannot be procured locally, including: machinery, vehicles, components and spare parts for machinery and equipment, raw materials, inputs for manufacturing, and construction materials that cannot be produced domestically. Remote and mountainous provinces are allowed to provide additional tax breaks and other incentives to prospective investors. In addition, projects in high tech, research and development, new materials, energy, clean energy, renewable energy, energy saving products, automobile, software, waste treatment and management, primary or vocational education; or projects located in difficult areas or economic and projects in industrial zones are entitled to investment incentives such as lower corporate income tax, exemption of import tariffs, or land rental.

Source: US Department of Commerce, Fitch Solutions

8. Taxation – 2018

Source: PwC Worldwide Tax Summaries

8.1 Important Updates to Taxation Information

8.2 Business Taxes

Type of TaxTax Rate and Base
Corporate Income TaxStandard corporate income tax rate is 20%. Preferential CIT rates of 10%, 15%, and 17% are available where certain criteria are met
The rate of corporate income tax applicable to activities of exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and other precious natural resourcesRanges from 32% to 50%, depending on the project
Capital Gains TaxGains derived from sales of shares or assignments of capital in enterprises are subject to tax at a rate of 20%
Branch Tax20% on profits
Value Added Tax10% on sales and services; 5% on water supply, agricultural goods, medical goods and teaching aids
Special Consumption Tax (SCT)Applies to the production or import of certain goods including cigarettes, cigars, spirits, beer, certain automobiles, assorted types of petrol, air conditioners and the provision of certain services including dance halls, massage parlors, casinos, golf clubs and lotteries. SCT rates range from 10% to 70%. Exported goods are not subject to SCT
Social Insurance and ContributionsThe total contribution rates (i.e. social, health and unemployment insurance) are 21.5% for employers and 10.5% for employees, based on gross salary
Foreign Contractor Tax1% to 10%, depending on type of business activity

Source: PwC Worldwide Tax Summaries
Data last reviewed: August 15, 2018

9. Foreign Worker Requirements

9.1 Localisation Requirements

Generally preference for all roles is given to Vietnamese nationals. In order to qualify for work permits, foreign workers must have a degree of specialised knowledge, or experience in management and technical roles that the domestic labour force cannot fill/carry out efficiently - as deemed apt by the department of Labour.

9.2 Obtaining Foreign worker permits for skilled workers

All foreign nationals seeking paid employment in Vietnam must be in possession of a valid work permit - the tenure of a work permit for a foreign worker is generally two years. In the first half of 2016, the Vietnamese government issued a decree ('Decree No. 11') guiding a number of articles of the Labour Code on foreigners working in Vietnam. The Decree proposes developments including changes to the conditions, paperwork and timeline for work permit applications and exemptions, allowing the import of skilled and unskilled labour with less red tape. Decree 11 also extends the time frame for lodging the re-issuance of work permits from 45 days prior to the expiry date, instead of the 15 days as per previous regulations.

Source: Government websites, Fitch Solutions

10. Risks

10.1 Sovereign Credit Ratings

Rating (Outlook)Rating Date
Moody'sBa1 (No Outlook)10/08/2018
Standard & Poor'sBB- (stable)19/08/2011
FitchBB (stable)14/05/2018

Source: Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings

10.2 Competitiveness and Efficiency Indicators

World Ranking
Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Paying Taxes Index
Logistics Performance Index
Corruption Perception Index
IMD World CompetitivenessN/AN/AN/A

Source: World Bank, Transparency International

10.3 Fitch Solutions Risk Indices

World ranking
Economic Risk Index
Short-Term Economic Risk Score65.667.968.3
Long-Term Economic Risk Score64.065.866.7
Political Risk Index
Short-Term Political Risk Score82.582.582.5
Long-Term Political Risk Score57.759.759.7
Operational Risk Index 
Operational Risk Score53.752.953.4

Source: Fitch Solutions

10.4 Fitch Solutions Summary

The year 2013 marked a major turning point for the Vietnamese economy. While structural factors underpinning Vietnam's potential for long-term growth (including favourable demographics, proximity to China, and low cost of labour relative to the region) remain largely unchanged, there are several developments that reinforce the country’s bright outlook. In addition to an open trade and investment policy environment, foresee a more stable economic environment in Vietnam, brought upon by a decisive shift in the government's focus towards policies aimed at maintaining price stability, and ongoing efforts to further address macroeconomic imbalances in the economy. Vietnam is in an ideal position for the development of the economy in general, and trade and tourism in particular. Nevertheless, Vietnam's short-term economic outlook is constrained by the country's chronic fiscal deficits.

Vietnam is today a significantly more educated and healthy society than twenty years ago, and these qualities are equitably distributed.  Vietnam is constrained by a fairly poor trade and investment risk subcomponent. That said, Vietnam offers businesses a number of other strategic advantages, which include a young and increasingly well-educated population that possesses high numeracy and literacy, modest level of security risk, and fairly adequate logistic infrastructure.

Source: Fitch Solutions

Graph: Vitenam short term economic risk index
Graph: Vitenam short term economic risk index
Graph: Vitenam long term economic risk index
Graph: Vitenam long term economic risk index

Higher Score = Lower Risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Economic, Political Risk Indices, Fitch Solutions Country Risk summaries

10.5 Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Operational RiskLabour Market RiskTrade and Investment RiskLogistics RiskCrime and Security Risk
Vietnam Score53.452.655.554.551.3
East and Southeast Asia average55.356.555.754.454.7
East and Southeast Asia position (out of 18)10119910
Asia average48.950.647.747.150.1
Asia position (out of 35)101391116
Global average49.749.85049.349.9
Global Position (out of 201)7880807391

100 = Lowest Risk; 0 = Highest Risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index

Graph: Vitenam vs global and regional averages
Graph: Vitenam vs global and regional averages
Operational Risk IndexLabour Market Risk IndexTrade and Investment Risk IndexLogistics Risk IndexCrime and Security Risk Index
Hong Kong81.371.2
South Korea70.663.567.578.173.1
Brunei Darussalam60.962.857.253.070.6
North Korea32.649.620.329.630.8
Regional Averages55.356.555.754.454.4
Emerging Markets Averages46.84847.545.846.0
Global Markets Averages49.749.85049.349.9

100 = Lowest Risk; 0 = Highest Risk
Source: Fitch Solutions Operational Risk Index
Data last reviewed: August 15, 2018

11. Hong Kong Connection

11.1 Hong Kong’s Trade with Vietnam

Graph: Major export commodities to Vitenam (2017)
Graph: Major export commodities to Vitenam (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Vitenam (2017)
Graph: Major import commodities from Vitenam (2017)
Graph: Merchandise exports to Vitenam
Graph: Merchandise exports to Vitenam
Graph: Merchandise imports from Vitenam
Graph: Merchandise imports from Vitenam

Exchange Rate HK$/US$, average
7.78 (2011)
7.76 (2012)
7.76 (2013)
7.75 (2014)
7.75 (2015)
7.76 (2016)
7.79 (2017)
Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, Fitch Solutions

Growth rate (%)
Number of Vietnamese residents visiting Hong Kong55,6526.4
Number of Vietnamese residing in Hong Kong11,100

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Population Division

Growth rate (%)
Number of Asia Pacific residents visiting Hong Kong54,482,538
Number of East Asia and South Asians residing in Hong Kong2,784,870N/A

Source: Hong Kong Tourism Board, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs - Population Division
Data last reviewed: August 6, 2018

11.2 Commercial Presence in Hong Kong

Growth rate (%)
Number of Vietnamese companies in Hong KongN/AN/A
- Regional headquarters
- Regional offices
- Local offices

Source: Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department

11.3 Treaties and Agreements between Hong Kong and Vietnam

Hong Kong has concluded Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAs) with Vietnam. This agreement was signed on December 16, 2008.

11.4 Chamber of Commerce (or Related Organisations) in Hong Kong

Hong Kong-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce
Inaugurated in November 2008, the Hong Kong-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce (HKVCC) is a non-government, non-profit limited organization that engages to promote the common interests of the Hong Kong and Vietnamese business communities.

Address: Unit 1608, 16/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road, Central, Hong Kong
Email: info@hkvcc.com
Tel: (852) 3188 6306

Source: www.hkvcc.com/

Vietnam Consulate in Hong Kong
Address: 15th Floor, Great Smart Tower, 230 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Email: tlsqhk@mofa.gov.vn
Tel: (852) 2821 0800

Source: Hong Kong Protocol Division of Government Secretariat

11.5 Visa Requirements for Hong Kong Residents

Visa upon arrival valid for 1 month.

Source: Visa on Demand

Content provided by Picture: Fitch Solutions – BMI Research