Revamping Viet Nam’s Commercial Law Gets Urgent

Nov 4, 2003

Ha Noi - Viet Nam needs to amend its 1997 Commercial Law urgently to allow the country to keep pace with rapid economic growth and international integration, said Minister of Trade, Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen at a meeting today.

The workshop, held by the Ministry of Trade and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), aimed to gather comments and suggestions from lawyers, government officials, judges, professors and business leaders regarding proposals to amend the Commercial Law. The meeting benefited from the expertise of international experts from the American Bar Association/UNDP International Legal Resource Centre and the STAR Viet Nam USAID project.

The enactment of the Commercial Law in 1997 marked a milestone in the country’s economic and legal reform agenda. The law gave unprecedented legal support to private merchants to form commercial contracts, providing a comprehensive legal framework governing business relations. The law covered issues ranging from trade in services to promotional activities, the choice of law in foreign related contracts to the time limit for bringing a lawsuit in a contract dispute.

However, the 6 years old law now lags behind the rapidly evolving requirements of Viet Nam’s dynamic integration process and fast growing economy. Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen highlighted the need for Viet Nam to amend this important law to bring it in line with Viet Nam’s membership to APEC and AFTA, the US Bilateral Trade Agreement and its bid to join the WTO by 2005.

UNDP Resident Representative Jordan Ryan said: “The scope and coverage of the next commercial law are critical issues to secure Viet Nam’s success. To be useful the next commercial law should serve as a tool to facilitate both international trade and domestic business and local commercial transactions in Viet Nam.” Ryan noted the link between a good legal framework and poverty reduction, adding, “Jobs, trade and an effective private sector are essential to keep people out of poverty.” Ryan also noted that the new commercial law should provide the common standards governing and directing all commercial transactions, ranging from the sale of goods to the services of insurance, investment, and construction.

Many participants pointed out that a major obstacle to the effectiveness of the Commercial Law has been its complex relationship to other laws, in particular the Ordinance on Economic Contracts and the Civil Code. Experts noted that the effectiveness of the Commercial Law depends in large part on other elements of the legal system that are still incomplete, limiting its effectiveness. One example was the Civil Procedure Code that lacks adequate and clear remedies for breach of contract and procedures for enforcing them.

Experts also discussed the scope of the current law and asked for its expansion. Some said it should include services, commercial aspects of intellectual property rights, transportation, real estate and construction contracts, and foreign investment. Participants felt areas such as this could also benefit from a unified system of commercial law. Many experts joined in a common analysis that the current uncertainty in contractual relations creates unnecessary risks for businesses and affects their competitiveness. Such uncertainty must be addressed, if Viet Nam is to create an open, vibrant and balanced playing field for all involved in commercial activity in this country.

Contact informationNguyen Viet Lan, phone 942 1495 (EXT: 186); Fax ; 942 2267

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