Customs Update: April 3, 2020

Customs Update | April 3, 2020
Authors: Thao Nguyen, Michaela Wong
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Covid-19’s impact on export and import controls

ASEAN countries have been imposing export controls on medicines and medical devices due to the COVID-19 outbreak and critical shortage of the products. The export restrictions mostly cover the export of medical devices such as surgical masks, facemasks, gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE). While export controls do not necessarily mean that exports are totally banned, they make export permits a requirement. Consequently, transactions may be delayed and potentially denied or canceled.

In Thailand, the government has banned all exports of surgical facemasks to ensure an adequate supply to meet domestic demand while the COVID-19 virus threat persists. The measure is effective for one year starting from February 5, 2020. There are only two exemptions to the ban: (1) Individuals traveling abroad can take up to 30 facemasks with them, and if they suffer from a medical ailment for which wearing a mask is recommended, they can take up to 50, but they must first show a medical certificate affirming their condition; (2) Neighboring countries in need can directly contact the Foreign Ministry and request a shipment and it will be taken under consideration.

In Malaysia, the export of facemasks needs to be accompanied by a letter of approval issued by the Controller of Supplies, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affair, according to the Customs (Prohibition of Exports) (Amendment)(No.2) Order 2020 that came into force on March 20, 2020.

In Vietnam, the Decision 868/QD-BYT of Ministry of Health dated March 11, 2020 applies the export licensing regime for medical masks in the stage of COVID-19 disease prevention and only allows export for the purpose of international aid and assistance of the Government of Vietnam. The regulations mandates a maximum of 25% of output for export and 75% of output for domestic disease prevention and control.

On the other hand, a number of governments have also adopted temporary import support by either lowering or waiving of direct and indirect duties and taxes on certain categories of critical medical supplies.

In the Philippines, imported medical supplies and equipment needed to address the COVID-19 outbreak are now tax and duty free under the Customs Administrative Order No.07-2020 released on March 30, 2020. The order is in keeping with Section 4(o) of the newly signed Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. The section grants President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers for a limited time to address heath crisis. It stipulates that importation of critical or needed medical equipment or supplies shall be exempt from import duties, taxes and other fees.

In Thailand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced fast-track registration within one day to allow entrepreneurs to manufacture or import protective facemasks and help meet continually rising demand. This fast-track scheme also applies to other medical devices such as PPE, thermometers, test kits as well as medicines, disinfectants and alcohol gels products.

Global Supply of Rice Threatened by Domestic Demand, Drought

On March 27, the Vietnam government announced its plans to stockpile rice and suspend new rice export contracts until the end of the month, with an exception for rice exports to the Philippines. The export ban is intended to secure food safety amid growing fears over impacts to the global food supply due to the COVID-19 virus. Despite the announcement being made just last week, Vietnam is already considering lifting the ban this week and imposing a quota in its place.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has pleaded for reconsideration of the suspension, with critics arguing that the move would reduce prices and hurt domestic rice farmers, as well as taint Vietnam’s global reputation as a reliable rice supplier. Vietnam is the third-largest global rice exporter, and the ban will have significant impact on the international rice supply. The impacts of Vietnam’s export suspension are heightened by potential further disruptions to the global rice trade with India under a three-week lockdown and rising domestic demand for rice in Thailand.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc instructed the Ministry of Finance to store 190,000 tons of white rice by June 15 to ensure the country has a sufficient supply to withstand the virus outbreak. In addition to a rise in demand for rice for the purposes of stockpiling, global rice prices have also surged to a six-year record high due to a drought in Thailand and Vietnam causing drops in production levels.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Rice prices hit 6-year high as Thailand and Vietnam face drought

ASEAN
Urgency for Asean to realise the vision of the AEC and trade more with itself is greater than ever: EU-ABC
Wildlife cybercrime on the rise in ASEAN

Brunei
Brunei maintains trade connectivity; minister lauds RB
Hasbi: Lorries plying Brunei route required to fill in online forms to pass
All port charges on medical cargoes waived
Brunei Halal food enters Japanese market

Indonesia
Indonesia nickel miners urge end to export ban to cushion coronavirus impact
Deregulation puts sustainable timber trade at risk
North Sumatra port debuts in global container business
Indonesian palm oil exports to China drop by half in January: GAPKI
Indonesia to relax restrictions to speed up imports, exports amid virus threat
Government to ease import procedures as manufacturers look beyond China for sources of raw materials
India allots import licenses for 1.1 million tons of refined palmolein from Indonesia

Laos
Ministry imposes new charges on goods transiting through Laos

Malaysia
Extended MCO: Singpost continues to offer accommodation to Malaysian workers
Container congestion at 3 major ports is over, says Ka Siong
Pungent durian stack up in Malaysia as coronavirus freezes China demand

Philippines
Philippines plans 300,000 tons rice import amid lockdown
Manila ports choked by unclaimed cargo, shutdown looms
Virus cuts BOC’s take from imports in February
BOC eyes P25-B rice tariff take in 2020 | Bernadette D. Nicolas
Money laundering eyed as travelers bring in forex
BoC sees ‘huge’ drop in cargo volume in Feb.

Singapore
Singapore taking steps to ensure adequate food supply
Singapore, 6 other countries committed to maintaining open supply chains: Joint statement
Singapore exports surprise with growth amid COVID-19 outbreak
Singapore lifts 9-year ban on food products from Fukushima following nuclear plant accident

Thailand
FDA clears path for more facemask makers, importers
Commerce Ministry sees possibility for 2020 export growth
Thailand imposes total ban on face mask exports
Exim predicts no growth in exports

Vietnam
Vietnam stockpiles rice for coronavirus crisis as food security fears grow
Procedures for Issuance of an Export Permit for Medical Masks During the Prevention and Control of Covid-19 Epidemic Period
MoIT extends safeguard measures for steel products
MoIT extends safeguard measure application on imposed fertiliser
State budget collection tops $9.3 billion in two months
Vietnam To Overhaul Its Visa, Immigration Laws This Summer
Steel ordinance to aid overseas groups
PM urges tax sector to continue with reforms
VFS Global launches the first online portal for Vietnam eVisa on Arrival
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Rice prices hit 6-year high as Thailand and Vietnam face drought Nikkei Asian Review 30th Mar 2020
International prices of rice have surged as droughts keep production low in key exporters Thailand and Vietnam, while panic buying amid the coronavirus pandemic is also tightening supply. The benchmark export price of Thai-grown rice reached about $550 a ton in late March, the highest since August 2013, according to the country's trade commission. Vietnamese rice also exceeded $400 a ton, a level not seen since December 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in February projected 2020 global rice trade of 45.3 million tons, down 700,000 tons from its January forecast. The world produced roughly half a billion tons of rice a year, but mostly for domestic consumption. Trade volume is less than for flour, making rice prices susceptible to wild swings in international supply and demand.

ASEAN

Urgency for Asean to realise the vision of the AEC and trade more with itself is greater than ever: EU-ABC The Business Times 26th Mar 2020
Without the removal of NTBs, and advances on other trade facilitative measures, intra-Asean trade will continue to lag and Asean will risk being no more than the sum of its parts warns the EU-ABC in its latest white paper. Underneath its rosy headline figures, Asean’s foreign direct investment (FDI) numbers suggest cause for concern, as the region continues to miss its own targets for regional economic integration and intra-Asean trade continues to lag warns the EU-Asean Business Council in its latest report.

Wildlife cybercrime on the rise in ASEAN The ASEAN Post 25th Feb 2020
With social media already playing a major role in human trafficking, arms trading and drug smuggling, it is perhaps no surprise that the illegal wildlife trade is the latest cross-border crime to go online. Long known as a hub for wildlife trafficking, Southeast Asia’s unsavoury reputation has been enhanced by social media – with numerous cases of buyers and sellers conducting deals while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. The region’s high mobile penetration rate offers buyers easy access to black market traders and vice versa, and the lack of effective monitoring combined with the popularity of social media platforms means wildlife cybercrime is a growing concern.

Brunei

Brunei maintains trade connectivity; minister lauds RB Borneo Bulletin 29th Mar 2020
Brunei Darussalam is actively collaborating with other nations to ensure that trade flow is open during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We have agreed with Singapore in ensuring that trade connectivity is always open. Although there are countries that have imposed lockdown, the trading route is still open,” Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said at a press conference on March 28. “Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) still has to fly to bring back food stuff to the country and medical supplies including from Hong Kong and so on. Our national airline guarantees the supplies. The government is also finding alternatives to ensure food security.”

Hasbi: Lorries plying Brunei route required to fill in online forms to pass Borneo Post Online 24th Mar 2020
Lorries transporting essential goods are still allowed to pass through Brunei, provided that they fill in application forms online via the country’s immigration website, said Malaysian Deputy Minister of Transport Hasbi Habibollah. Hasbi explained that these transportation lorries need to fill in the forms after Brunei’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) announced yesterday that it wouldseal off all air, sea and lan entry points into the country effective today as a drastic measure to curb the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19). Hasbi who is also Limbang MP, added that those who have inquiries could contact Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (LPKP) Sarawak and Malaysian Immigration department for further information. As for emergency cases, Hasbi said Brunei is still allowing ambulance transporting patients from Limbang and Lawas to pass through their borders. Meanwhile, Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Ismail said the decision undertaken by the Brunei was an initiative to prevent further spread of Covid-19.

All port charges on medical cargoes waived Borneo Bulletin 23rd Mar 2020
The Muara Port Company Sdn Bhd (MPC) announced that all port charges will be waived for the importation of cargoes carrying medical supplies and equipment for the Ministry of Health (MoH) in its combat of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country yesterday. MPC Chief Executive Officer Zeng Caili, in a press statement, said the move is aimed at easing the importation of these cargoes as part of the company’s support to the government’s efforts in curbing the coronavirus spread. The company said information on eligibility and processes can be obtained by calling its hotline at 2770139 during office hours. MPC is a joint venture company between Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and Beibu Gulf Holding (Hong Kong) Co Ltd. Formed on February 15, 2017, the company took over the Muara Convention Terminal on July 18, 2018, and is handling the opera tions and management of Muara Port.

Brunei Halal food enters Japanese market Borneo Bulletin 1st Mar 2020
Brunei-made Halal Japanese food products is making its way to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games following the opening ceremony of BMC Food Industries Sdn Bhd on February 29. Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong was the guest of honor at the event at Radisson Hotel. BMC Food Industries, which is under TGT Group of Companies, collaborated with four Japanese companies to come up with three Chibo products, eight Kanda products, five Ginrei products, and one Harry’s product. The collaboration came from years of discussion, product-testing between the Japanese companies and BMC with the continuous efforts of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) which played a pivotal role in bringing the parties together. The BMC Food Industries factory in Mentiri can produce up to 40,000 products per month. The first shipment to Japan is expected to be out soon. The factory started its operation at the end of last year.

Indonesia

Indonesia nickel miners urge end to export ban to cushion coronavirus impact U.S. 2nd Apr 2020
Indonesia should allow exports of nickel ore to help offset the impact of the fall in exports of processed nickel caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Indonesian nickel miners’ association (APNI) said in a document seen by Reuters. Indonesia, once the world’s biggest nickel ore exporter, started banning exports of nickel ore in January as part of efforts to boost expansion of its domestic smelting industry. But as the coronavirus slowed production and exports of processed nickel, the APNI said a reversal of Indonesia’s nickel ore export ban could help the country to reduce the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

Deregulation puts sustainable timber trade at risk The Jakarta Post 31st Mar 2020
A recent regulation by the Trade Ministry relaxing export requirements for timber products has drawn criticism from environmental groups, which said it would restimulate illegal logging and in turn damage the environment. Issued in late February, the Trade Ministry's regulation on exports of forestry products scrapped the requirement for Indonesian timber companies to secure V-legal documents that certify the wood comes from legal sources before exporting their products. V-legal licensing had represented an important tool of the timber legality verification system (SVLK) managed by the Environment and Forestry Ministry, which has helped improve Indonesia's reputation in the global sustainable timber trade.

North Sumatra port debuts in global container business The Jakarta Post 30th Mar 2020
Kuala Tanjung Port in North Sumatra made its debut in the global container market, with its first shipment on Saturday, as Indonesia bids to tap into the lucrative Strait of Malacca shipping trade dominated by Singapore and Malaysia. The container shipped to Port Klang in Malaysia on Saturday was the first of weekly shipments, according to PT Prima Multi Terminal, which manages the Kuala Tanjung Multipurpose Terminal (KTMT). The regular shipment will send containers from companies operating near Kuala Tanjung, including organic chemical producer PT Unilever Oleochemical Indonesia -a subsidiary of consumer goods giant PT Unilever Indonesia- and consumer goods company PT Multimas Nabati Asahan -part of agribusiness giant Wilmar Group.

Indonesian palm oil exports to China drop by half in January: GAPKI The Jakarta Post 30th Mar 2020
Indonesia’s palm oil exports to China have plummeted by half in volume amid global uncertainties, an industry source has said. The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) said in a statement on Tuesday that China's export volume fell by 381,000 tons or 57 percent. This contributed to the sharp drop in the country’s total palm oil exports, which declined by 35.6 percent to 2.39 million tons in January from 3.72 million tons in December 2019. "The drastic export decline in January could be because importing countries were still holding on to their stock while waiting for the Indonesia government to implement a 30 percent blended biodiesel [B30] program," the association said in the statement.

Indonesia to relax restrictions to speed up imports, exports amid virus threat The Jakarta Post 13th Mar 2020
The government has prepared a non-fiscal stimulus package that aims to ease current restrictions and accelerate export-import activities, targeting business sectors battered by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said both fiscal and non-fiscal stimuli were rolled out by the government to keep the real sector moving amid the novel coronavirus spread that disrupted business activity and global supply chains. “These stimuli took aim at fueling the real sector to work and maintaining people's purchasing power," Airlangga told a news conference in Jakarta on Friday.

Government to ease import procedures as manufacturers look beyond China for sources of raw materials The Jakarta Post 3rd Mar 2020
The government plans to ease licensing procedures for importing raw materials as the country’s manufacturing industry begins to feel the impact of the disruption to the supply chain from China caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

India allots import licenses for 1.1 million tons of refined palmolein from Indonesia The Jakarta Post 20th Feb 2020
India has issued import licenses for 1.1 million tons of refined palmolein from Indonesia, government and trade sources told Reuters, a move that has surprised the industry as only last month New Delhi restricted imports of the commodity.

Laos

Ministry imposes new charges on goods transiting through Laos Vientiane Times 4th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Finance will impose a new charge on so-called transit goods next month as the government seeks ways to benefit from Laos’ transformation from landlocked to a land bridge. The Lao National Gazette website last week published the amended Ministerial Decision on Transit Goods Charges, making this government regulation effective in the middle of next month. Under this amended ministerial decision, goods which businesses import for export purposes will be subject to the new rates.

Malaysia

Extended MCO: Singpost continues to offer accommodation to Malaysian workers The Malaysian Reserve 30th Mar 2020
With Malaysia extending its Movement Control Order (MCO) until April 14, Singapore Post Ltd (SingPost) will continue to offer support, including appropriate accommodation arrangements, to all affected employees, including Malaysians. Goh noted that the postal service provider is “working with the authorities to ensure the safe passage of these employees, while complying with the quarantine requirements laid out by both countries.” It was reported on March 18 that SingPost has arranged for more than 400 of its Malaysian staff to stay in three different hotels here since the enforcement of the MCO on March 18 to curb COVID-19.About 20 per cent of its Malaysian staff have declined to stay in Singapore, instead they opted first to use their annual leave and then go on no-pay leave, said the report.The Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee has agreed that Malaysians with Singapore work permits can continue to work in the republic with health screening and accommodation arrangements made for them.

Container congestion at 3 major ports is over, says Ka Siong Free Malaysia Today 28th Mar 2020
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong this evening said that the container congestion at three major ports in the country were “rapidly cleared” since March 27. The near-total congestion at Port Klang would be reduced to an expected 40% tomorrow. In Penang, 1,871 containers have been cleared out of a total of 3,000 whereas 1,700 out of 7,500 containers in Johor Port have been moved out, he said. Tanjung Pelepas port has also been given the green light to move their containers out to allow continuing export and import activities.

Pungent durian stack up in Malaysia as coronavirus freezes China demand U.S. 21st Feb 2020
A shortage of labor and electrical power outlets in backed-up Chinese ports as a result of the coronavirus outbreak is disrupting shipments of frozen durian from Malaysia to its biggest market for the pungent fruit. Normally bustling roadside durian stalls in Malaysia have also fallen quiet as the number of Chinese tourists, many of whom have developed a passion for the spiky fruit, has dropped off sharply since the outbreak began. Malaysia, the world’s second largest durian exporter after Thailand, shipped 160.6 million ringgit ($38.61 million) worth of the fruit to China in 2018, according to government data. China normally accounts for about 79% of Malaysia’s frozen durian exports, but trade has ground to a halt in recent weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. One top exporter said it expected to lose up to 15 million ringgit ($3.58 million) in the next quarter if normal shipments did not resume soon. Durian stall operators in Petaling Jaya, near the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, said the number of tourists had plummeted by about 80%, with prices down by about 20% as a result.

Philippines

Philippines plans 300,000 tons rice import amid lockdown The Star Online 30th Mar 2020
The Philippines plans to import 300,000 metric tons of rice through state deals to boost supply amid the month-long lockdown due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday (March 30). The government will allot 31 billion pesos (US$608mil) for food sufficiency efforts, allow food companies to increase workers and let farming and fishing continue during the Luzon-wide quarantine, Nograles said in a video bulletin posted on Facebook. The Philippines will ask other members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) to refrain from imposing trade restrictions, Nograles said.

Manila ports choked by unclaimed cargo, shutdown looms Business World 2nd Apr 2020
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said that cargo congestion at the Manila ports due to failure to withdraw cargoes may cause the terminals to shut down. PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said in a statement that the shutdown of Manila port terminals is possible if cargo owners and consignees do not heed the agency’s request to immediately remove their ready-for-delivery and overstaying cargoes. On Friday, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) appealed to its consignees to withdraw their refrigerated containers immediately.

Virus cuts BOC’s take from imports in February BusinessMirror 4th Mar 2020
THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) lost some P2.7 billion in tariff collection in February, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused imports from China alone to drop by an annualized rate of 34.67 percent in terms of volume. The latest data from the BOC showed that revenues from shipments from China fell by 27.41 percent to P7.17 billion in February, from last year’s P9.88 billion. Volume was also lower at 936.25 million kilograms, from last year’s 1.43 billion kg. The decline in revenues from China’s shipments to the Philippines pulled down the BOC’s total collection from imports last month. The bureau collected a total of P41.67 billion, 2.58 percent lower than the 2019 record of P42.77 billion. Overall import volume, according to BOC data, also slid by 6.67 percent to 8.15 billion kg, from last year’s 8.73 billion kg.

BOC eyes P25-B rice tariff take in 2020 | Bernadette D. Nicolas BusinessMirror 2nd Mar 2020
THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) is eyeing a 20-percent increase in its total rice tariff collection to reach at least P25 billion this year amid the downside risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak. Data from the BOC obtained by the BusinessMirror showed the grand total 2019 rice tariff collection before and after implementation of the rice trade liberalization law (RTL) reached P21.6 billion from traders who imported a record-high 3.13 million metric tons (MMT) of rice, making the Philippines the world’s top rice importer, exceeding China’s 2.4 MMT.

Money laundering eyed as travelers bring in forex Business World 2nd Mar 2020
The Bureau of Customs (BoC) said it has seen more air travelers importing foreign currency beginning in the third quarter of 2019, with most of the cases involving Chinese nationals. The bureau has stepped up its monitoring of passengers bringing in foreign currency beyond the $10,000 limit. Separately, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) said it is planning to propose to the Office of the President an executive order (EO) that will create a national task force to address possible money laundering through couriers posing as travelers. Passengers carrying foreign currencies above the declaration limit included those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, but Chinese made up the majority.

BoC sees ‘huge’ drop in cargo volume in Feb. Business World 18th Feb 2020
The Bureau of Customs (BoC) is seeing 50% year-on-year drop in trade volume in the first half of February, as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak disrupted global supply chains. The first 15 days of February, as compared to the first 15 days of February last year, is a little over a half only of the TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), containers coming in. Sought for comment, BoC Assistant Commissioner and Spokesperson Vincent Philip C. Maronilla told BusinessWorld that the 50% decrease in volume is considered “huge” for the agency’s collections, as it saw declines in cargo from China, the center of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Singapore

Singapore taking steps to ensure adequate food supply The Straits Times 2nd Apr 2020
The ongoing outbreak of Covid-19 may have highlighted Singapore's vulnerability to global supply shocks, but the Republic has, over the years, taken steps to ensure that its supply of food is not compromised. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday reassured Singaporeans that the nation's food supply was adequate, pointing to various measures that the country has undertaken over the years. It has, for example, collaborated with nations around the world to diversify the sources from which Singapore imports its food, maintained a national stockpile, and is continuously looking to technology and research to boost the productivity of local farms, he told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to a local fish farm owned by Apollo Aquaculture Group.

Singapore, 6 other countries committed to maintaining open supply chains: Joint statement Channel News Asia 25th Mar 2020
Singapore and six other countries on Wednesday (Mar 25) issued a joint ministerial statement highlighting their commitment to maintaining open supply chains amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The joint statement, which was issued by ministers from Singapore, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Myanmar and New Zealand, recognised the "mutual interest" between countries in ensuring trade lines remain open to facilitate the flow of goods and essential supplies. It follows a similar statement by Singapore and New Zealand last week which similarly stressed both countries' commitment to maintaining open supply chains.

Singapore exports surprise with growth amid COVID-19 outbreak Nikkei Asian Review 17th Mar 2020
Singapore's economy delivered a positive surprise amid the COVID-19 gloom as non-oil exports grew rather than shrank in February, powered by a rise in shipments to the European Union, Japan and the U.S. However, exports to China and Hong Kong plunged, underlining the shakiness of the city-state's key markets. Economists were quick to describe February's improvement as one-off. They noted that conditions have worsened since in the EU and the U.S. with the authorities in many countries and cities opting to restrict activity or even close borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. "The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in neighboring countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, is triggering more drastic government measures and will dampen regional trade," Maybank Kim Eng, the stockbroking arm of Malaysia's largest bank, said in a report. According to data released by trade agency Enterprise Singapore, non-oil domestic exports rose 3.0% year-on-year in February, handily beating the consensus for a drop of 7.8% in a Refinitiv poll. The gain reversed the previous month's 3.3% on-year contraction, which was partly due to the Chinese New Year falling in January instead of February.

Singapore lifts 9-year ban on food products from Fukushima following nuclear plant accident The Straits Times 23rd Feb 2020
Supermarket shelves in Singapore are once again stocked with food products from Fukushima, Japan, after a nine-year hiatus following the nuclear plant meltdown in the prefecture after the devastating tsunami and earthquake of 2011. The ban on the import of all food items, from peaches to sake to fish, from the prefecture was lifted last month, marking the end of a series of import controls on produce from across Japan, including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Shizuoka over the past decade. Singapore Food Agency's (SFA) lifting of the ban will allow seafood and forest-gathered products - such as wild berries and wild mushrooms - from the city of Fukushima, as well as all food products from areas within the Fukushima prefecture, to be imported into Singapore. Fukushima is highly dependent on agricultural exports.

Thailand

FDA clears path for more facemask makers, importers The Nation Thailand 2nd Apr 2020
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced fast-track registration to allow entrepreneurs to manufacture or import protective facemasks and help meet continually rising demand. FDA deputy secretary-general Dr Surachoke Tangwiwat said several entrepreneurs are interested in importing masks while the Covid-19 situation persists. “The FDA requires entrepreneurs who wish to import or produce facemasks to obtain its permission first,” he said. “Prospective importers can complete this fast-track registration within one day if the proper documents about the manufacturer and the product are submitted, such as labelling, design details and intended purpose.”

Commerce Ministry sees possibility for 2020 export growth Bangkok Post 31st Mar 2020
Despite exports falling in February and the stampede of negative factors that have ensued, the Commerce Ministry still sees room for Thai export growth this year. Pimchanok Vonkorpon, director-general of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office, said Thailand is competent in the food and agricultural industries as well as essential goods, while electronic shipments can recover, which account for 14% of total exports. The weakening baht and massive government interventions around the world for both monetary and fiscal policies can reduce the economic impact of the outbreak and stabilise global trade, she said.

Thailand imposes total ban on face mask exports The Star Online 21st Feb 2020
The government has banned all exports of surgical facemasks to ensure an adequate supply to meet domestic demand while the Covid-19 virus threat persists, the Central Committee for Prices of Goods and Services announced on Friday (Feb 21). Whichai Phochanakij, director-general of the Department of Internal Trade and the committee’s secretary, said exports had previously been limited to under 500 units per shipment without permission from the department. But some businesses exploited a loophole that allowed them to export multiple shipments of under 500 units every day, Whichai said.

Exim predicts no growth in exports Bangkok Post 18th Feb 2020
State-owned Export-Import Bank (Exim) of Thailand cut its export forecast for this year to a range of no growth to a 2% contraction, assuming the coronavirus epidemic and the trade war will ravage the country's outbound shipments. This year will mark a global rebalancing to mitigate risks on multiple fronts that are affecting economies around the world, said Exim Thailand president Pisit Serewiwattana. The trade war in particular will pressure international trade this year, said Mr Pisit. There is global trade volatility as a result of ample liquidity and rapidly changing interest rates and commodity prices, he said. Oil prices, which are low as a result of excess supply, have brought the prices of several goods that move in a similar direction to stay at low levels, said Mr Pisit. Natural disasters and epidemics could hinder economic activities, especially trade and investment, which are interconnected globally, while persistent conflicts among several countries have dampened business operations, purchasing power and the global economy, he said. Exim Thailand previously predicted Thailand's exports would grow 2% in 2020.

Vietnam

Vietnam stockpiles rice for coronavirus crisis as food security fears grow South China Morning Post 28th Mar 2020
Vietnam said on Friday that it plans to stockpile rice and suspend new rice export contracts through the end of the month to ensure it can feed its 97 million population through the coronavirus crisis. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice, behind India and Thailand. In an update on its website, the Finance Ministry said Vietnam’s state reserves department planned to have 190,000 metric tonnes of rice in storage by June 15.

Procedures for Issuance of an Export Permit for Medical Masks During the Prevention and Control of Covid-19 Epidemic Period ANT Lawyers 18th Mar 2020
On March 11, 2020, Decision 868/QD-BYT of the Ministry of Health stipulates the issuance of export permits for medical masks in the period of preventing and controlling Covid-19.

MoIT extends safeguard measures for steel products vietnamnews.vn 23rd Mar 2020
The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) has extended safeguard measures for steel billet and steel bars imported to Việt Nam until March 21, 2023, said the Trade Remedies Authority of Việt Nam. According to Decision 918/QĐ-BCT issued on Friday, the safeguard duty is 15.3 per cent for steel billet and 9.4 per cent for steel bars during the period from March 22, 2020 to March 21, 2021. The tariff will be reduced to 13.3 per cent and 7.9 per cent for steel billet and steel bars, respectively, for the following year. And they will continue falling to 11.3 per and 6.4 per cent in the period from March 22, 2022 to March 21, 2023.

MoIT extends safeguard measure application on imposed fertiliser VietnamPlus 9th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has decided to extend the safeguard measure on imported monoammonium phosphate (MAP) and diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilisers. The duration for applying this safeguard duty is two years, starting from March 7 this year. The safeguard duty stands at about 1.05 million VND (46 USD) per tonne in a one-year time starting from March 7, and will drop to 1.03 million from March 7 next year.

State budget collection tops $9.3 billion in two months vietnamnews.vn 3rd Mar 2020
Total State budget collection was estimated at VNĐ214.2 trillion (US$9.31 billion) in the first two months of this year, or 14.2 per cent of the yearly estimate, reported the General Statistics Office on February 29. Of the figure, VNĐ179.8 trillion was domestic revenue, VNĐ8.6 trillion came from crude oil, and VNĐ25.9 trillion from exports-imports.

Vietnam To Overhaul Its Visa, Immigration Laws This Summer International Business Times 3rd Mar 2020
The Vietnamese government plans to radically overhaul its immigration and visa policies in order to attract more tourists and prevent the entry of criminals and illegal immigrants. “Starting July 1, visitors entering Vietnam will be granted a temporary residence stamp upon arrival with the duration of stay matching their visas,” said Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Van Minh of the Department of Immigration. This measure will ease the burden of foreigners who hold visas that are valid for more than 12 months. Under current laws, such visitors are required to apply for a permit extension even though their visas remain valid. However, travelers on a tourist visa will have to provide more paperwork if they wish to stay longer than 30 days.

Steel ordinance to aid overseas groups Vietnam Investment Review - VIR 28th Feb 2020
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has lifted previously applied anti-dumping measures for colour-coated iron products with a total trade volume of 82,000 tonnes, thereby favouring large, mostly foreign, electronic manufacturers. Last year, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) imposed anti-dumping measures relating to flat-rolled alloy or non-alloy steel products, varnish painted, scanned or coated with plastics or other covers originating from China and South Korea. Under the latest decision, the MoIT removed these safeguard measures from imports of colour-coated iron, affecting 18 manufacturers. Among those, Haiphong Steel Flower Electrical & Machinery Co., Ltd., LG Electronics, and Panasonic could profit the most.

PM urges tax sector to continue with reforms vietnamnews.vn 27th Feb 2020
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on Wednesday praised the tax sector for reshuffling working apparatus, and urged it to continue with reforms to better serve taxpayers. He was speaking at a conference to announce the completion of the sector’s plan to streamline the tax offices, merging 711 offices into 415, ten months ahead of deadline. PM Phúc said despite the reduction, the tax sector still surpassed the assigned collection target by 9.3 per cent to gain a total tax revenue of VNĐ1.27 quadrillion (US$55.21 billion) in 2019. At the same time, the tax collection of all 63 provinces and cities exceeded the plans for the first time. He attributed the success to the sector’s reforms in streamlining legal regulations and applying technology.

VFS Global launches the first online portal for Vietnam eVisa on Arrival Travel Trends Today 25th Feb 2020
VFS Global is pleased to announce the launch of the first official and exclusive electronic Visa on Arrival (eVOA) digital solution for the convenience and comfort of travellers to Vietnam. The advanced and digitally integrated solution developed by VFS Global (as an exclusive service provider to the Embassy of Vietnam in India) will offer eVOA applicants a digital wallet/locker (which ensures high levels of data protection). This includes scanned copies of their passport, live facial biometric capture and finally, the receipt of their eVOA approval letters once approved. Customers can also make online payments using the portal.