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Unformatted text preview: Journal of Economics and Development Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013, pp. 91 - 116 ISSN 1859 0020 FDI and Growth in Vietnam: A Critical Survey Tran Thi Anh Dao Rouen University, France Institute of Research for Development Email: [email protected] Dinh Thi Thanh Binh Foreign Trade University, Hanoi, Vietnam Email: [email protected] Abstract More than ever, countries at all levels of development seek to leverage FDI for development and adopt measures aimed at improving their investment climate. Despite the exhaustive literature on the topic however, results on growth effects of FDI still remain controversial. Notwithstanding the absence of any robust conclusions on the direction of causality between FDI and growth, most developing countries continue however to pursue policies aimed at encouraging more FDI inflows. This paper provides an overview of economic reforms related to foreign investment in Vietnam as well as the main trends and patterns of FDI inflows. It discusses the literature on FDI, summarizes the main studies which have analyzed the impacts in Vietnam and suggests some research directions. Keywords: Foreign Direct Investment, exports, growth, causal relationship, Vietnam. Journal of Economics and Development 91 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 1. Introduction ty of the production process, has made the entrance of Transnational Corporations (TNCs) in manufacturing and services the key vehicle of international integration. On the other hand, trade and FDI have given a specific dimension to the rapidly growing East Asian countries by contributing to the acceleration of industrial growth and structural change along their development process. Such a successful experience has reinforced policy prescriptions of the international organizations in favor of trade liberalization and the opening of domestic markets to foreign capital. From the point of view of developing countries, globalization has thus been perceived as a process whereby access to markets of the North and inflows of FDI are considered essential to successful integration into the world economy. From the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has become increasingly important in the developing world, replacing from 1994 onwards official resource flows (Official Development Aid and loans from multilateral organizations) as the main source of external finance (Figure 1). In 2010, the share of FDI inflows reached 51% of total capital flows to developing countries, while their inward stock of FDI amounted to about one third of their Gross Domestic Product1 (GDP) compared to just 10% in 1980 (UNCTAD, 2011). For many observers, this worldwide trend is the most visible dimension of globalisation (Addison et al., 2006). On the one hand, the strong international mobility of both goods, services and intangible assets, together with greater flexibility and divisibili- Figure 1: Composition of net capital flows to developing countries, 1980-2010 (in billions of dollars) 500 400 300 200 100 0 -100 Direct investment, net Private portfolio flows, net 2009 2010 2008 2007 2006 2005 2003 Other private financial flows, net 2004 2002 2000 2001 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1993 1994 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1984 1985 1983 1982 1980 1981 -200 Official flows, net Source: extracted from UNCTAD (2011), p. 30 Journal of Economics and Development 92 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 point of view of transition countries, attracting FDI would accelerate a far-reaching transformation from an inward-looking planned economy to one that is globalized and marketbased. my, it is hoped that the country will be embarked on a path of development similar to its Asian neighbours. A large number of theoretical and empirical studies have been devoted to the relationship between FDI and growth. However, their results have been far from conclusive, enabling the FDI-growth nexus to become one of the most controversial debates among researchers. Despite the exhaustive literature on the topic, the growth effects of FDI remain ambiguous, while the direction of causality from FDI to economic growth does not find empirical evidence. Nonetheless, this raises two concerns. Firstly, the methodological issues inherent to the causal relationship between FDI and growth are crucial from a policy perspective (Chawdhury and Mavrotas, 2006; Hansen and Rand, 2006). Under the assumption that FDI causes growth, such conclusion may justify the substantial efforts and incentives devoted by governments to attracting FDI. In the case of a reverse causation however, this casts some doubts on the validity of policy guidelines which emphasize the importance of FDI attraction and trade openness on overall economic growth. Secondly, the process of global economic integration followed by financial and trade liberalization has exacerbated balance of payments deterioration and high current account deficits in most of the developing countries. More than ever, the developing world (including the ‘emerging’ economies) has experienced balance of payments crises and more than anywhere else, it is in the Low- and LMI countries that the balance of payments constitutes a structural problem (Bagnai et al., 2012). Within the space of three decades, from the country’s reunification in 1975 to its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007, Vietnam has gone through deep systemic changes regarding production, investment, distribution, and trade in goods and services. The Doi Moi (‘Renovation’ in Vietnamese) inaugurated by 1986 enabled Vietnam to shift from one of the poorest countries in the world (with per capita GDP of US$98 in 1990) to a Lower-Middle-Income (LMI) country (with per capita income of US$1,130 in 2010) in less than 20 years. The domestic economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.3% from 1990 through 2010, outpacing other countries in the Asian region (World Bank, 2011). The ratio of population in absolute poverty has fallen from 58% in 1990 to 10.6% in 2010, while most indicators of welfare have improved. Lastly, structural change has involved the shift of workers from low productivity agriculture to labor intensive manufacturing: in 2010, the share of agriculture in GDP was only 20.6% while industry and construction reached 41.1%. Foreign capital attraction and participation to international trade is perceived to be central to the prospects for Vietnam’s long-run growth. They are expected to have an important role to play in the implementation of Vietnam’s Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) 2011-2020. With a pro-active integration into the regional and world econoJournal of Economics and Development 93 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 marked the first step towards renovation (the so-called Doi Moi) of the domestic economy. For the first time, the law established a regime under which FDI could enter Vietnam. However, despite the substantial efforts devoted by the government to improve the investment climate, the inflows of FDI were under expectations and the actual implementation of projects had fallen short of the plans (Kokko et al., 2003). This disappointing result was greatly attributable to the US embargo on trade and investment that hit Vietnam until 1994. Additionally, one might question the reliability of FDI data before the early 1990s2. Concern in this regard has become particularly acute in Vietnam: with rapid growth and massive capital inflows, the country has experienced growing macroeconomic turbulence in recent years. Net positive capital inflows have led to demand pressures and subsequent changes in relative prices. The government addressed these macroeconomic imbalances by relying almost exclusively on tight monetary policy. From our point of view however, substantial current account deficits and the rising capital inflows to finance them played a significant part in disturbing macroeconomic stability. Based on these stylized facts and the available literature, our paper reviews the role and impacts of FDI both at the macro- and micro-economic levels. In response to this context, Vietnam strengthened its international integration by entering discussions about bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements (Nguyen and Tran, 2010). In 1992, Vietnam signed a trade agreement with the European Union (EU). It was followed by a bilateral agreement including investment-related provisions that entered into force by 1996. In 1995, the country joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and committed itself to fulfilling by 2001 the agreements under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) which removes trade barriers throughout the region. In complement, an ASEAN Investment Area (AIA) agreement was signed in 1998 aimed at attracting FDI through better access to an enlarged regional market. Vietnam applied also for WTO membership in 1995 and became member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) by 1998. In preparation to WTO negotiations, the United States and Vietnam normalized economic relations by signing a Bilateral Trade Agreement (US-VN BTA) in The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 provides an overview of economic reforms related to foreign investment in Vietnam. Section 3 presents the main trends and patterns of FDI inflows and Section 4 discusses the literature on FDI as well as the impacts in Vietnam. Section 5 concludes and suggests some research directions. 2. Economic reforms and FDI in Vietnam Within a process of both transition and development, Vietnam has embarked in major changes since the initiation of economic reforms in the mid-1980s. At the specific FDI concerns, the opening up of Vietnam to foreign investment began in 1987. Since then, the regulatory regimes governing FDI have been progressively liberalized. The cornerstone of this trend was 2000, culminating with the country’s accession to WTO in 2007. The first Law on Foreign Investment in Vietnam was dated 29 December 1987 and Journal of Economics and Development 94 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 December 2000. By providing to the country all benefits from Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status in trade and investment, the 1990s decade was focused on improving market access and national trade capacity through mainly bilateral agreements. By contrast, Vietnam’s economic integration in 2000-2010 relied more heavily on Free Trade Agreements (FTA) under the objective of more comprehensive development cooperation with other countries. 1987 FDI Law, a foreign enterprise could open Vietnamese and foreign currency bank accounts at the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, or at the branch of a foreign bank established in Vietnam. This would need approval from the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV). In the 1992 Law, these enterprises were able to open bank accounts at any bank operating in Vietnam, and could open loan capital accounts at overseas banks with approval from the SBV. Parallel to international economic integration, the government pursued domestic reforms to improve the investment climate. Further efforts were devoted to restructuring the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), the banking and financial system, and tax administration. Several amendments were made to the first Law on Foreign Investment in 1992, 1996, 2000, and it was replaced in 2006 by a Unified Investment Law that integrates both domestic and foreign investment. These changes and amendments aim to remove obstacles against the operation of foreign investors in Vietnam. They are expected to provide more tax incentives, to simplify investment licensing procedures, and to promote transfer of technology. In 1996, the FDI law was modified to allow for new forms of investment including BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer), BTO (BuildTransfer-Operate) and BT (Build-Transfer) contracts. The modification also gave more rights and incentives to investors, such as the right to assign the contributed capital to other parties. Moreover, before 1996, pre-licensing evaluation procedures applied to all foreign investment projects. During the evaluation process, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) of Vietnam could request any necessary documents apart from those stipulated by law. The time it took to acquire an investment was supposed to be three months from the date of receiving a completed application dossier. However, in reality this usually took much longer, possibly even years. The FDI law amendment in 1996 has reduced procedures for registration. Most importantly, another important amendment of the FDI law has decentralized some policy responsibilities to provinces and has given them some autonomy in issuing investment licenses for foreign investment projects up to specified sizes. Such administrative decentralization has created opportunities for entrepreneurial-minded local The FDI law amendment in 1992 granted foreign investors with more rights and incentives, allowing FDI in construction of infrastructure facilities, giving the same tax treatment between wholly-owned foreign firms and Joint Ventures (JVs), and providing foreign firms with longer operation duration. This amendment has encouraged foreign firms to set up wholly-owned affiliates when entering the Vietnamese market. Moreover, under the Journal of Economics and Development 95 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 authorities to push forward economic reform, and foster the development of both local businesses and foreign investment. However, it has also implied that provincial authorities may vary in how they use their newly gained responsibilities to develop innovative ways of dealing with foreign investors (Nguyen et al., 2006). Accordingly, the implementation of laws and decrees at local levels may not meet the intentions of the legislators. This may be slow and inconsistent, leading to divergent amounts between registered and implemented capital. occurred in 2005. In preparation to fulfil WTO obligations, a new Unified Law on Enterprises was approved on 29 November 2005, followed by a Unified Law on Investment that came into force on 1 July 2006. These amendments cancel all previous laws and regulations that discriminated foreign firms in relation to domestic firms and aim to treat them equally according to the WTO principle of national treatment (which consists in giving others the same treatment as one’s own nationals). Most importantly, they insist upon the attraction of FDI as a key strategy to promote growth and development in the country. As a result, various forms of FDI entry are formally allowed, including Mergers and Acquisitions (MAs), and not just greenfield projects (Menon, 2009). In 2000, the Law was modified again to acknowledge the right of foreign investors to split, merge and acquire companies and branches. In special cases approved by the SBV, a foreign enterprise can mortgage assets attached to the land and use the value of the land-use rights for borrowing loans from credit institutions operating in Vietnam. This has allowed former JVs to be converted into 100% foreign ownership. Prior to 2000, Foreign Invested Enterprises (FIEs) were not considered independent entities. By this date however, the Vietnamese government recognized the importance of the private sector (both local and foreign) as the main engine for economic growth and job creation. Efforts were made to improve the regulatory environment of the sector and to eliminate existing discriminations against private owned enterprises. This was expressed by a new Enterprise Law in 2000, which permits greater participation of the private sector with formal acknowledgement by the Fifth Plenum of the Ninth Party Congress in March 2002. Besides amendments of the FDI law, the government has also passed several other laws in order to create a good business environment for foreign investment. Remarkable are the amendments of the Land Law and the Domestic Investment Promotion Law issued in 1998 that encourage provinces with little available land to construct industrial zones and publish information about available land. By doing this, the government has increased land supply and foreign investors may have easier access to land, therefore making it unnecessary to seek JVs as a means to access land-use rights (Meyer and Nguyen, 2005). The Competition Law or the Bankruptcy Law were approved by the National Assembly in 2004, and contributed to clarify the status of private enterprises in Vietnam. To increase attractiveness of industrial zones, the government has issued some tax incentives applied for firms locating in these places. The standard profit Another turning point for FDI policy Journal of Economics and Development 96 Vol. 15, No.3, December 2013 oriented investment climate has had dramatic implications for trade and investment flows. tax rate is 28% and preferred rates range from 10% to 20% if the investment is located in priority areas or satisfies certain investment promotion criteria. In 1991, the government issued the first regulation on export processing zones (EPZs). An EPZ specializes in the production of export goods and in the provision of services for the production of export goods and export activities. Enterprises operating in EPZs enjoy a profit tax rate at 10% and 15% in respect of production and service enterprises. Industrial zones (IZs) have been established since 1994. An IZ is a concentrated zone specializing in the production of industrial goods and services for industrial goods production. Enterprises operating in IZs enjoy profit tax rates at 15%, 10%, and 20% respectively for production, exporting and service enterprises. A high-technology (HT) zone concentrates HT industrial enterprises and units providing HT development services, including scientific technological research and development, training and other related services. Enterprises operating in HT zones have to pay 10% of profit tax rate after an eight-year tax holiday from the first year in which the enterprises are profitable. 3. The main characteristics of FDI in Vietnam Among the ASEAN member states, Vietnam experienced a dramatic increase in FDI inflows in the second half of the 1990s (both in terms of the number of projects and the amounts), attesting to the successful implementation of trade and investment reforms (Figure 2). Consistent with other countries in the Southeast Asian region, registered FDI decreased during the financial crisis of 199798, but they rebounded quickly in 2001 as countries in the region recovered from the crisis and the US-VN BTA was signed. The trend of FDI inflows has grown uninterruptedly since then and has increased dramatically when Vietnam became a formal member of the WTO. After twenty years of issuing the first Law on Foreign Investment, FDI flowing to Vietnam in 2008 achieved the highest record with US$71.7 billion of registered capital, US$11.5 billion of implemented capital and 1171 new investment projects. Registered FDI in the period 2000-2010 was four times more than that in the previous decade. By the end of 2012, the country accumulated US$246 billion of total registered capital (primarily greenfield investment) from 15904 FDI projects, though the total implemented capital amounted to only US$100.6 billion3. Vietnam formally completed WTO accession in late 2006, culminating a long process of efforts to integrate the national economy into global markets. A decree added to the Law on Investment in 2007 further clarified and liberalized the FDI inflows through MAs. In many aspects, all these achievements to fulfil WTO obligations have contributed to make the investment regime more in line with international standards and more favourable to foreign investors. This long way toward marketJournal of Economics and Development As predicted by the “Flying Geese Paradigm” which draws waves of industrialization experiences in the region in relation to the dynamics of comparative advantage, Vietnam is increasingly viewed as an alternative destination to countries such as China or 97 Vol....
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