Experts lament Vietnam firms' failure to use legal protection against unfair competitors

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Vietnamese companies have failed to make use of anti-dumping legislation to protect themselves in their home market though it has been in place for a decade now, experts said.

Dinh Thi My Loan, chairwoman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's consultation council for international trade defense, said at a conference in Hanoi last week that Vietnamese businesses only use the legal system when petitions are filed against them.

"We have a gun but do not know how to use it yet," she said at the conference titled "Awakening the forgotten tool anti-dumping lawsuits."

Data from the VCCI shows that Vietnam's five major imports from neighboring countries -- electronics, machines, fuel, iron and steel, and plastics -- are subject to many lawsuits around the world.

"So it is highly likely that these products are being sold cheap in Vietnam at the expense of local businesses," Loan said.

She also pointed out that the World Trade Organization's top 10 defendants in anti-dumping lawsuits include China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, Japan, and Indonesia, all major exporters to Vietnam.

They could be playing unfairly with Vietnam, but the country's businesses have failed to protect themselves, she said.

Hanoi-based stainless steel producer Inox Hoa Binh and South Korea's Posco VST in May filed an anti-dumping lawsuit against imports from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The companies, which have an 80 percent share of the local stainless steel market, demanded a 20-40 percent anti-dumping tax on the imports which cost up to 25 percent less than local products.

Officials said the lawsuit is the first of its kind filed in Vietnam.

Nguyen Thi Dung, a steel industry executive, said Vietnamese firms have no knowledge of business laws and only learn about them when embroiled in a lawsuit.

She also blamed authorities for making it hard for businesses to obtain information.

Dinh Huy Tam, general secretary of the Vietnam Steel Association, agreed, saying that to file a lawsuit businesses require import and export figures, which are available with the customs department but not accessible.

Vietnamese products are also targeted in a petition filed by a group of steel pipe makers in the US seeking anti-dumping duties on imports for the oil and gas industry from India, South Korea, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Loan said as chief advisor to a trade promotion agency she had trouble obtaining numbers during the more than 60 anti-dumping lawsuits that she helped Vietnamese companies fight.

"In some cases we had to use figures from the plaintiff's sides and were lucky the numbers supported us.

"I suggest that statistics be made available to businesses as well as related agencies."

Le Sy Giang of the Vietnam Competition Authority, said anti-dumping lawsuits are just one weapon, adding businesses can also put up commercial and technical barriers, which should be the first defense against foreigners abusing the market.

The Vietnamese steel industry is set to apply some technical barriers next year to stop low-quality imports from China.

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