Processing activities by an foreign invested enterprises (FIE) in Vietnam

It is not clear under Vietnamese law if an FIE needs to obtain a Trading Licence (Giấy phép kinh doanh) to provide commercial processing services (gia công thương mại) to other companies. Under Decree 23/2007 on goods purchase and sale activities and other related activities of FIEs, commercial processing is regarded as an activity relating to sale and purchase of goods. Accordingly, technically, if an FIE wishes to involve in commercial processing, such FIE should obtain a Trading Licence.

On the other hand, after Decree 23/2007, Ministry of Trade issued Circular 4/2007 under which, an FIE can process goods if (i) the processing activity is consistent with the objectives set out in the Investment Certificate of this FIE; (ii) the processed goods are not banned or suspended from import and export or if the processed goods are subject to import and export licence, the FIE can enter into the processing contract only when the import and export licence is obtained; and (iii) FIE has completed its capital construction investment and has commenced production and business activities. It appears that a Trading Licence is not required under Circular 4/2007.

Two regulations regarding processing activities of an FIE may cause certain confusion. Although Decree 23/2007 is a higher legislation, in practice, it appears that Circular 4/2007 still applies and FIEs do not obtain Trading Licence for their processing activities.

This post is contributed by Le Minh Thuy, a trainee lawyer at Venture North Law.