Copycat products remain unbeatable
Copycat products are still a headache for local manufacturers, while authorities have yet to figure out any effective solution to curb the issue, a conference heard last week.
Voicing their opinions at a conference on the fight against fake products and trade fraud, many businesses said that whenever certain products enjoy strong sales and high consumption, they are immediately duplicated, with the copycat sporting more eye-catching packaging and designs, and sometimes even labeled with anti-counterfeit stamps.
Nguyen Huu Vinh, head of administration and personnel at LG Vina Cosmetic Co Ltd, the company which owns brand names such as Essance, Ohui, and Whoo, was quoted by Saigon Times Online as saying that fake products had damaged not only the company’s sales but also its reputation.
Vinh said LG Vina had recently managed to achieve only 70 to 75 percent of its full-year sales targets thanks to competition from the fake products.
He said the company’s Essance cosmetic products are now allegedly faked in China, rather than in Ho Chi Minh City or neighboring provinces, and smuggled into Vietnam.
“We came to this conclusion after realizing that the copycat packaging is made in such a sophisticated manner that it looks even fancier than the authentic one,” he said.
Nguyen Ba Cuong Truc, sales mananger at Nghia Nippers Co, said some stores have put both the fake and the authentic products on sale to deceive consumers.
Truc added that although the company had conducted regular checks on stores and dealers suspected of selling fake products, and imposed hefty fines on the violators, it is unlikely that copycats will stop circulating.
“Some retailers are willing to put the fake products on the same shelf as the authentic ones, since selling copycats can double their profits,” Truc said.
He said that as the battle against fake products could be an endless fight, Nghia Nippers Co has opted to focus on raising consumers’ awareness about the copycats, instead of hunting for stores selling them.
Chau Huy Quang, a lawyer from the LCT law firm, told Saigon Times Online that even the anti-counterfeit stamps can also be faked.
“This is a serious problem, and it has discouraged businesses from continuing the fight to curb the production of copycat products,” Quang said.
Meanwhile Tran Hai Duc, another lawyer said some manufacturers have even started faking their own products in order to increase profits.
While businesses have to suffer damages from the piracy, authorities have also failed to find an adequate solution to the issue. Officials claim that this is because of an incomplete legal frame work, unclear regulations, and a shortage of staff members to conduct raids.
Do Huu Quang, deputy head of the Market Management Agency, said piracy remains rife throughout the country despite tightened checks and crackdowns from the authorities.
The relevant agencies cannot impose fines on violators due to the incomplete legal framework, which is full of inconsistent regulations, Quang said.
Nguyen Thanh Nhan, deputy head of the Binh Duong Province Market Management Agency, said the authorities had not cooperated well with businesses in fighting against copycat products.
As a result of this lack of cooperation, businesses are now retaliating.
Nhan gave the example of gas suppliers, who used to meet with market management officials just three to four hours after finding out that their gas cylinders were being duplicated. Now, such suppliers refuse to meet with officials even when they are invited a week in advance.
Meanwhile Quang, the lawyer at LCT, said the legal framework regarding anti-counterfeit products in Vietnam is actually quite well-constructed, with five to six agencies authorized to be responsible for fighting copycat products.
“So the shortcoming does not lie in the law itself, but in how [the law] is implemented,” Quang stated.
Quang said the authorities only took action when they receive complaints from businesses, rather than conducting raids on their own initiative.
“[The authorities] must take more action,” he urged.
“It is hard to believe that authorities have reportedly detected only 22 violations of intellectual property cases in the last five years.”
HCM City to host 9th international trade fair
Nearly 400 domestic and foreign enterprises will showcase a wide range of products and services at the 9th Vietnam International Trade Fair in HCM City, held from 30 November to 3 December at the Sai Gon Exhibition & Convention Centre in District 7.
Algeria, Belarus, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Malaysia and the Czech Republic are among the international exhibitors.
The exhibition will display industrial and agricultural machinery, construction machinery and materials, agricultural products, handicrafts, wooden interior decoration products, household items, textiles and garments and electronics products. It will also present various services offered by finance, banking and tourism sectors.
VN businesses to penetrate Nigerian market
Vietnam seeks to develop its relationship with Nigeria in economics, trade, industry and investment, a Vietnamese trade official said, considering the country as a large, potential market in Africa and an economic gateway to neighbouring countries in western and central Africa.
Addressing the Vietnam-Nigeria Business Forum in Hanoi on Nov. 28, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Le Duong Quang said the ministry has chosen Nigeria – a key African market of almost 160 million people – to create opportunities for Vietnam ’s exports.
Two-way trade between Vietnam and Nigeria in 2010 exceeded 155 million USD, up 56 percent over 2009. By the end of October this year, two-way trade exceeded 121 million USD.
Vietnam exports mainly garment products, computers and electronic spare parts, automobile components, seafood, chemicals, rice, machines and equipment to Nigeria .
According to the Vietnamese trade office in Nigeria , the African country has a great demand for rice and seafood, and it imports 1.5-1.7 million tonnes of rice each year.
Nigerian Minister of State for Trade and Investment Samuel Ioraer Ortom said his country is the biggest seafood consumer in Western Africa , using around 1.4 million tonnes a year.
According to Tunde Ajisomo, Head of the Diplomatic Delegation of the Nigerian Embassy in Vietnam , the two governments signed the Trade Agreement 2011 with the aim of facilitating business activities between the two countries.
Hundreds of Nigerian traders arrive in Vietnam each year to seek new partners, while some of them have established representative offices in Ho Chi Minh City . The Nigerian firms see Vietnam as a good replacement for Chinese partners.
A number of Vietnamese enterprises have sought investment opportunities in Nigeria . On July 5, 2011 FPT Joint Stock Company of Vietnam signed a cooperative agreement with the 21 st Century Technologies of Nigeria, to promote cooperation in telecoms, education and computer equipment production.
Deputy Minister Le Duong Quang suggested the two governments create favourable legal frameworks for enterprises from both nations, adding that the two countries should strengthen the exchange of visits at all levels and organise workshops and business forums in the near future.
Samuel Ioraer Ortom said the Nigerian government introduced economic reforms to gain high growth, maintain macroeconomic stability and strictly manage tax, in order to create a favourable environment for foreign investors.
At the event, Nigerian businesses showed interest in Vietnam ’s export products. They signed a number of business deals for bulbs, batteries, pharmaceutical and farm products, animal feed and plastics.
Local businesses can succeed in China: insiders
Insiders say despite risks such as rampant piracy, Vietnamese businesses can succeed in the Chinese market as long as they have smart long-run strategies.
To local businesses selling in China, piracy remains the biggest challenge. Copycat products often become rife only a few months after Vietnamese goods have been introduced to Chinese consumers, seriously affecting sales of authentic ones.
Some products are counterfeited even before they officially enter the market.
Le Van Tri, deputy CEO of Southern Rubber Industry JSC, or Casumina, said that although his company had never developed any distribution system in China, Chinese manufacturers had made fake Casumina tires to export to other countries.
Tri said though Chinese producers had developed a rubber tire manufacturing industry which made 20 percent of the world’s tire production, they were still making fake products to increase sales.
High tariffs are another reason Casumina doesn’t export directly to China. Its tires are mostly traded in the Vietnamese-Chinese border to avoid tariffs.
Nghia Nippers Co, a nipper manufacturer which has long been operating in China, said Chinese partners and distributors had stole its brand name not long after it entered the market.
According to the company, Chinese producers have even registered their copycat products for intellectual property protection in China.
The company said it had filed lawsuits to get back the brand name but was turned down by Chinese authorities who said there was “no proof that the brand name belongs to Nghia Nippers.”
Tri of Casumina said Vietnamese businesses were totally capable of increasing their market shares in China if they had well-planned development strategies, paid adequate attention to brand names and marketing, and had good knowledge about Chinese consumers’ mindset.
A representative of Binh Tan Consumer Goods Manufacturing Co, or Bita’s, said Vietnamese products could win Chinese consumers’ trust thanks to their durability and stable quality.
CEO Do Long said in order to succeed in China, Vietnamese businesses had to determine which market segment they wanted to enter and prove that their products had better quality than their counterparts.
Pham Ngoc Anh, sales manager of the Indochinese market of Nghia Nippers, said Vietnamese goods had already enjoyed good reputation for quality among Chinese consumers.
Anh said one of the best ways to enter the Chinese market was to participate in international trade fairs and exhibitions.
“Most Vietnamese businesses hesitate to attend such fairs, though they are where manufacturers, distributors, and exporters can meet each other to establish trade cooperation,” he said.
Vietnam, Cambodia boost cross border trade
The 5th Vietnam-Cambodia Border Trade Development Cooperation Conference was held in Kongpong Cham province, Cambodia, on November 28.
The conference, co-organised by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce drew the participation of 250 officials and businesspeople from Vietnamese and Cambodian border provinces.
According to their reports, two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia increased from US$372 million in 2001 to nearly US$2 billion in 2010. The figure is expected to surpass US$2 billion this year and US$3 billion in 2015.
Participants in the conference said that border trade activities between the two sides have benefited from their expanded markets, simplified administrative procedures, improved infrastructure and effective smuggling prevention.
They stressed the need to build a cross-border trade legal framework between the two countries, further improve transport infrastructure and border gates, develop payment, transport, post and telecom services, and strengthen coordination in smuggling prevention.
They agreed on the 2010-2020 plan for development of the Vietnam-Cambodia border market network, consider a project to build pilot Vietnam-Cambodia border markets in 2012, and improve regulations on management of Vietnam-Cambodia markets.
Vietnam and Cambodia will boost the implementation of “one-stop” examinations at international border gates between the two countries, border trade activities and exchange of market information.
During the conference, a Vietnam-Cambodia private business forum was also organised.
Tra fish exports to hit US$1.6 billion
Export earnings of Tra fish are expected to reach US$1.6 billion this year despite difficulties in the two remaining months, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP).
VASEP says Tra fish exporters maintained a two-digit growth rate in the past 10 months, earning US$1.48 billion, a year-on-year increase of 29.2 percent.
Europe remains Vietnam’s largest Tra fish consumer, making up 30 percent of total exports.
The US also imported US$261 million worth of this kind of fish in January-October 2011, representing an increase of 100 percent.
However, Tra fish exports to Europe are declining as this lucrative market has a high demand for fillets sized between 120-170g/piece and 170-220g/piece which are scarce in the Mekong Delta.
VNPT seeks partners in Myanmar
The Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) has participated in the 2011 Vietnamese Goods Fair in Myanmar.
The Group displayed mobile phones, telephones, fax machines, private automatic branch exchange (PABX) systems and other industrial products at the fair.
Many local businesses expressed interest in becoming partners with VNPT, and some have reached deals with the Vietnamese businesses to establish a distribution network in Myanmar, said the Group.
FPT Group joins World Economic Forum
Vietnam’s FPT Group has become one of the 1,000 global companies listed as Foundation Members of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
FPT Group has been chosen as the largest private business in Vietnam for a number of years, according to the Vietnam Report (VNR500) Ranking Board. It has set a target to enter the Forbes Magazine Top 500 during the 2020-2024 period.
Three Vietnamese businesses are currently recognized as WEF Foundation Members, namely FPT, Vietnam National Oil and Gas (PetroVietnam) and VinaCapital.
Petrol prices remain unchanged
The Ministry of Finance has asked petrol businesses not to hike retail prices of petrol and oil amidst global fluctuations.
The ministry made the decision after having received requests from several petrol import businesses that had asked for an increase in retail prices.
In a document released on November 28, the ministry described the global oil prices as complex, saying while crude oil prices have recently fallen sharply, refined petrol prices remain high, putting more pressure on domestic importers.
In an effort to stabilise the macro economy and control inflation, the ministry asked domestic petrol businesses not to adjust retail prices and allowed them to use the Price Stabilisation Fund to offset price differences.
Currently, a litre of petrol A92 costs VND20,800, and a litre of kerosene oil is priced at VND20,200.
Vietnam Airlines offering discount on e-payment of tickets
Vietnam Airlines will be offering a discount to customers making e-payments for tickets on routes to the ASEAN countries, Northeast Asian countries and to countries in Europe.
Vietnam Airlines will be offering a discount to customers making e-payments from November 25-27. (Photo: KK)
Passengers can book fares and pay online via the airline website from November 25-27. Online payment of air tickets resulted after a collaboration that includes nine banks, Vietnam Airlines Corporation and the credit card company, Smart-Link.
In addition, customers can avail of the lowest fare rate of VND1.23 million for a return ticket to Bangkok (Thailand), Yangon (Myanmar) and Singapore.
Card holders of Vietinbank, Techcombank, Eximbank and VIB who hold highest e-payment record on the website: http://www.vietnamairlines.com from November 1 to December 31, 2011 will receive a special gift of two return tickets on any flight to an ASEAN country.
Online symposium on ICT held in Paris, HCM City
An online symposium on renovation and creativity in information technology and communications (ICT) in Vietnam was held in Paris and Ho Chi Minh City on Nov. 26.
The symposium, the fourth of its kind, focused discussion on investment in and renovation of ICT programmes, software development and mobile application in Vietnam.
Addressing the symposium in Paris, minister counsellor of the Vietnamese Embassy Duong Duc Dung gave a deep analysis of IT human resource development plan in Vietnam until 2020 and introduced a number of ICT products in the 2011-2015 period in order to call on Vietnamese intellectuals in France to make contribution to the field.
Prof. Duong Nguyen Vu from the Ho Chi Minh National University’s John von Newmann Institute suggested a number of projects and fields to which Vietnamese intellectuals in France and Europe can contribute.
Property market remains dull despite credit easing
The central bank’s recent move to partially loosen credit for the property sector has not worked as well as expected, sparking concern the market would worsen next year.
The central bank governor, Nguyen Van Binh, told Vietnam news agency in an interview that strict controls on lending would go into next year to help stabilize the macro economy. However, lender banks will consider borrowers in non-productive sectors such as property, securities and consumption, but with prudence.
The realty market plays an important role in driving the nation’s social and economic development, but it should be strictly supervised to prevent a bubble burst. Binh said.
Property developers have had a lukewarm response to the slightly relaxed credit policy towards the real estate sector since the overall policy for next year is still biased against easy credit.
Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the HCMC Real Estate Association (Horea), described the central bank move as a mild realty market confidence booster, saying it would not help the market turn around.
In reality, the measured credit loosening has left almost no impact on the market. Borrowers have not been able to take out loans at high interest rates while no projects could be finished by January 1 as requested by the central bank.
Businesses in the sector pointed out that if projects have just one month to go, they must be in the final stages of handing over homes to buyers at the moment, meaning that they no longer need to borrow.
Chau said the requirement that only salaried people can gain access to home loans effectively prevented owners of family-run businesses from such loans though they might have more stable incomes than the salaried.
Nguyen Van Duc, deputy director of Dat Lanh Real Estate Co., attributed the sluggish market to credit tightening and poor liquidity in the market. “Banks may give out small loans but the ailing realty market cannot resurrect overnight due to dampened buyer demand,” Duc said.
Moreover, Duc noted, companies were also to blame as they had supplied the market with homes that were more expensive than what buyers could afford.
He proposed extending the credit loosening till end-2012, helping the companies that have finished 60%-70% of their projects or lending to projects with a home selling price of below VDN1 billion per unit.
Chau of Horea proposed the central bank adopt a policy permitting the first-time buyer to access easy bank loans and work out a road map to bring lending rates down.
The tough market conditions have led realty prices to dip, offering an opportunity for more people to own a home and financially capable property developers to capitalize on this.
EU, Vietnam discuss timber legality definition
The European Union (EU) and Vietnam have discussed the structure, main content and details on the timber legality definition as the EU’s new law fully applied as of March 2013 stipulates obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market.
The EU and Vietnam started formal negotiations for a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) in 2010. The second round of negotiations on VPA took place last Friday in Hanoi.
The aim of this agreement is to ensure the legality of timber and timber products entering the EU market, and at the same time it could help maintain and expand the export of timber and timber products of Vietnamese enterprises which will be subject to changing EU market requirements from March 2013.
In addition to the structure, main content and details on the timber legality definition, both sides discussed the main points and principles on the product list to be included in the agreement and the tracking and monitoring system to ensure the legality of timber and timber products.
In 2003 the EU adopted its Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) to address the problem of illegal logging and related trade. On 20 October 2010, the European Parliament and European Commission issued the Regulation 995/2010 that stipulates the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market.
At the core of the Action Plan are Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-exporting countries that wish to eliminate illegal timber from their trade with the EU. The idea of these bilateral agreements is to allow for the identification of legal timber from the countries concerned through the issuing of FLEGT licenses and to only allow such timber into the EU when accompanied by a FLEGT license.
These agreements will mean that all the products covered by the agreement can be considered to have been legally harvested, processed and traded.
The EU has so far concluded FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements with five African countries, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Liberia and Republic of Congo, and one Asian country, Indonesia.
It is negotiating with a number of other countries, including Malaysia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. Presently, Vietnam is a major supplier of wood furniture worldwide and the EU is the second largest market for Vietnamese timber products.
Tay Ninh calls for investment in 12 tourism projects
The southern province of Tay Ninh introduced 12 tourism projects in need of investments at a tourism promotion conference last week.
An Thinh Investment and Construction Joint Stock Co. at the conference was licensed to invest in Ma Thien Lanh Resort on 96 hectares in Ma Thien Lanh Valley, surrounded by Ba Den, Phung and Heo mountains.
The province’s chairwoman Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy said key projects would be boosted such as the historical relic base of the southern command, Ba Den Mountain, Moc Bai border gate, Dau Tieng Lake and relics in Trang Bang District.
These projects will enable the province to develop a route that connects tourist sites in the southeast region to international tourism routes, including roads to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
Vietnam’s southeast region welcomed some 3.6 million international tourists and 18 million domestic tourists last year, with US$1.5 billion in revenue, 28% of the country’s total tourism revenue, according to the tourism ministry.
Dak To Planco gets first FSC wood certification
Dak To Planco, a unit of the state-owned Dak To Forest Company in Kontum Province, has received the first Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Controlled Wood Certificate for Natural Forest Management in Vietnam.
The FSC certification is recognized as an international standard for sustainable forest management. As a marketing tool, it supports entrance into major international markets and the demand for premium prices.
The implementation of FSC standards contributes to the economic viability of sustainable forest management apart from social and environmental requirements.
The certification is seen as a first step towards reaching a full FSC Forest Management certification. “The Dak To Planco Enterprise took a number of actions during the run-up to the FSC Audit, which was conducted in order to decide on the certification,” said Nguyen Thanh Chung, manager of the enterprise.
The controlled wood audit was conducted by the GFA Certification, one of the certification bodies accredited by FSC for worldwide FSC certification services, in October 2011.
Dak To Planco is one of the five pilot companies assisted by the Vietnamese-German Forestry Programme, implemented by GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, to achieve sustainable forest management.
City prepares supplies ahead of Tet
There is an abundant supply of goods for the upcoming Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, according to Le Ngoc Dao, deputy director of HCM City’s Department of Industry and Trade (DoIT).
Companies, supermarkets, trade centres and wholesale markets have stocked enough goods for the season.
“We are keeping a close eye on the production plan of most HCM City businesses as well as their goods preparation, especially businesses that take part in the city’s price stabilisation programme,” she added.
In the last week, most distribution systems, retailers, and businesses in HCM City were actively stockpiling for the upcoming holiday season.
Co.opMart supermarket, for example, has reserved 24,000 tonnes of essential goods including foodstuff, processed goods, and vegetables, worth VND2.8 trillion (US$134.6 million).
For the rest of the year, Co.opMart will organise more than 100 mobile selling trips and open five supermarkets and four Co.opFood stores to serve consumers.
Other supermarket systems such as BigC, Citimart and Vinatex Mart have also increased goods in storage by 20-30 per cent compared to the same period last year.
In addition, the city’s DoIT as well as companies taking part in the price stabilisation programme will organise 100-200 mobile selling trips to export processing zones, industrial parks and suburban districts.
HCM City has more than 2,500 points-of-sale in the price stabilisation programme, an increase of 360 points compared to the same period last year.
From now until Lunar New Year, the DoIT will also work with inspection teams in 24 districts to monitor prices and management at traditional markets in HCM City.
They will impose strict penalties on fake goods, low-quality goods and goods that do not meet food-hygiene and safety standards.
Dao Sy Long, deputy head of District 1’s Tan Dinh Market Management Board, said the market management board had strengthened control of the market and directed traders to list and register their prices. Besides price management, the board said it was also focusing on checking the origin of products.
Exports of plastics up 35% on firming global demand
The export of plastic products is forecast to help the country gain an annual turnover of US$1.35 billion, up 35 per cent over last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Exports will be directed at mainly the EU, Japanese, Chinese and other Asian markets.
On the European market, demand for Vietnamese plastic products, especially pipes, has remained high. The ministry estimated that the bloc would spend roughly $275 million on local plastic this year, up 36.5 per cent over last year.
Turnover of plastic exports to Japan is also expected to hit $255 million this year.
The ministry said that worldwide demand for plastic products was rising sharply, especially on the South East Asian market, estimated to reach $100 billion yearly. To seize this opportunity, the domestic plastic industry must improve to compete against products from China and India. Due to a dependence on imported materials, a shortage of capital and backward technology, the prices of Vietnamese plastic products are often 10-15 per cent higher than that of India and China.
Former director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, Le Dang Doanh, recommended that domestic plastic producers join hands with foreigner partners in producing high quality and competitive products alongside further exploiting rural areas of foreign markets.
On the Japanese market, the largest importer of Vietnamese plastic products for the past few years, exports have remained modest due to a lack of experience, information and strict regulations on quality.
Local producers should reinforce links with trade and international organisations in the Japanese market to gain support in consultation, information, product requirements and administrative procedures.
Sugar processor aggressively diversifies
While some shareholders of Lam Son Sugar Co (LSS) are expressing concerns about the company’s seemingly unfocused investments in such areas as real estate, tourism and rubber plantations, Lam Son Sugar president Le Van Tam is telling investors that these sectors offer great profit opportunities that are not to be missed.
Real estate holdings also had a strong linkage with sugar production, Tam said in a meeting last week.
“Acquiring land use rights from farmers will assure a stable supply of raw materials,” Tam said, saying the company had targeted spending VND500-600 billion (US$23.5-28 million) to acquire holdings of 10-12,500ha between now and 2015. “If we don’t actively invest in this area, our source of sugar cane will inevitably be affected.”
Lam Son Sugar has also proposed to the Thanh Hoa provincial People Committee that sugar cane be cultivated on an additional 4,000 to 5,000ha of the province’s lowlands to facilitate transport and reduce costs. In return, Lam Son Sugar would reafforest 4,000ha in the province, choosing rubber trees as a substitution.
Thanh Hoa Province also offered high potential for tourism development, Tam said. Lam Son Sugar currently owns a 45-per-cent stake in a travel agency in the city of Thanh Hoa.
Under its strategy through 2020, Lam Son Sugar would evolve into a diversified group operating in agriculture, industry, services, tourism and real estate, which sugar, biofuels, power generation and tourism as the pillars.
The company plans to invest around VND10.8 trillion ($507 million) in its expansion plans through 2015, raising funds through the issuance of convertible bonds, bank financing and joint ventures. Its roadmap for growth includes plans to increase charter capital to VND650 billion ($30.5 million) by next year and VND2 trillion ($93.9 million) by 2015.
Tam pledged to shareholders that the company would ensure the effectiveness of investments and would pay annual dividends of 25 per cent.
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