In Vietnam, foreign and Vietnamese organizations and individuals carry out the petroleum operations based on a petroleum contract signed with Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN) or other agreements signed with PVN or the Government of Vietnam in accordance with the Law on Petroleum 1993.
A petroleum contract can be a production sharing contract (PSC), joint venture agreement or other forms if approved by the Prime Minister. Unless otherwise approved by the Prime Minister, a PSC must comply with the model petroleum product sharing contract promulgated by the Government under Decree 33/2013.
PVN is entitled to participate in petroleum operations as an investor while concurrently has rights and power to manage contractors’ activities and, in some cases, is authorized to act on behalf of the Government in relationship with other investors under PSCs. This results in a material conflict of interests for PVN in acting as an investor under the PSC and as a regulator at the same time. Vietnamese law does not have a clear provision to control the conflict of interests where PVN participates in capital investment with other investors in petroleum operations and concurrently exercise rights and powers which should belongs to a State agency in relationship with such contractors under a PSC.
That said, in theory, the Competition Law 2015 may provide some restrictions on PVN’s authorities under the Law on Petroleum 1993. For example, when exercising the power conferred to it under the Law on Petroleum 1993,
· if PVN is regarded as a State agency then the Law on Competition prohibits “State agency” to force enterprises, organizations, and individuals to purchase services or goods from enterprises as specified/selected by such State agency/State management agency; and
· if PVN is regarded as an enterprise then PVN could be deemed to have significant market power (sức mạnh thị trường đáng kể) and is prohibited from abusing such power.
This post is contributed by Ha Thi Dung, a partner at Venture North Law.