Bloomberg, November 20, 2019
HANOI, VIETNAM – Vietnam is intensifying efforts to crack down on Chinese exporters trying to route products through the Southeast Asian nation to bypass higher US tariffs, a customs official said.
Vietnam has become one of the top destinations for suppliers looking to avoid US duties on Chinese products amid the trade dispute, making the country vulnerable to goods fraudulently labeled as “Made in Vietnam,” Au Anh Tuan, head of customs control and supervision in the General Department of Vietnam Customs, said in an interview in Hanoi.
“We’ve seen trade-fraud activities increase strongly since the trade war started,” he said. “We’ve increased cooperation with US authorities to fight against that. We’re taking drastic steps, including compiling a list of 25 items to watch.”
Vietnam’s trade surplus with the US reached nearly US$40 billion last year. The gap hit almost US$41 billion in the first nine months of this year, up 29 percent year-on-year, US Census Bureau data showed.
Vietnamese customs officials are focusing on “highly suspicious” sectors — such as electronics components and wooden furniture —- that have seen annual exports surge more than 15 percent, Vietnamese Deputy Director-General of Customs Mai Xuan Thanh said.
Hundreds of domestic and foreign firms are under “special scrutiny for suspect exports,” he said.
US authorities have informed their Vietnamese counterparts about big increases of any items from Vietnam that concurrently saw big drops in Chinese shipments to the US, Tuan said.
Through last month, Vietnamese customs had uncovered about 14 significant cases this year of exports with fake labels.
Beginning on Dec. 27, Vietnam will suspend transshipment and temporary imports of plywood products headed to the US, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said earlier this month.
The National Steering Committee for Anti-Smuggling and Trade Fraud ordered provinces along the country’s borders to step up inspections of goods being imported.
Vietnamese customs last month said it discovered and seized about US$4.3 billion of Chinese aluminum falsely labeled “Made in Vietnam” that was meant to be shipped overseas, mostly to the US.
“We’ve been putting a lot more resources toward preventing fraudulently labeled exports and illegal transshipments,” Tuan said. “This is really hard work given the ongoing trade war.”
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