According to General Statistics Office of Vietnam, the country’s export of goods in the first 8 months of 2022 has increased by 17.3%, with a total value of 250.80 billion USD, having a higher growth rate if compared to the pre-COVID19 period, while imports saw a growth rate of 13.6%, with a value of 246.84 billion USD.

These incredible results are the consequence of Vietnam’s ongoing process of international economic integration, which can be seen in the 15 foreign trade agreements (FTAs) that the country has signed in the past years, both independently and as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

One of the most relevant FTAs signed by Vietnam as part of the ASEAN is the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the People’s Republic of China (herein after referred as “the Framework Agreement”) relevant to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which comprehends several other agreements such as the Agreement on Trade in Goods (effective from July, 2005), the Agreement on Trade in Services (effective from July, 2005), and the Agreement on Investment (effective from February, 2010), bringing huge tax benefits for the import and export of products between the signatories.

Vietnam’s commitment to tariff cuts under the Framework Agreement is huge:

In 2018, according to the Ministry of Finance of Vietnam, 588 tariff lines were cut to 0%, with a total of 8,751 tax free items reached (90.3% of the whole list), including meat and vegetable processing, cereal, electric automotives, home appliances, chemicals, automobile square parts and construction materials.  In addition, about 475 sensitive tariff lines have been cut to 5% during 2020, including iron and steel products, electric cables, electric appliances, ceramic, cement, processed agricultural products, some types of trucks and specialized vehicles.

In this context, in order to enjoy the tax benefits derived from the Framework Agreement, it is fundamental to look at the “origin” of the goods traded (which means the economic nationality of the product), stating if the merchandise comes from the countries that signed the agreement. The origin is guaranteed by the Certificate of Origin (C/O), a key document that states that all the products in a specific export shipment were entirely obtained, produced, manufactured, or processed in the country in question.

As specified in the circular 12/2019/TT-BC, the C/O required by the Framework Agreement is the C/O (Form E), which is valid for 1 year after it is released, and it should be filled in and presented by the Exporter to the Customs Authority within this period.

The main information to be provided in the form are:

  • Exporter’s business name, address, and country
  • Consignee’s name, address, and country
  • Means of transport and route (as far as known)
  • Item number
  • Marks and numbers on packages
  • Number and type of packages, description of products (including quantity where appropriate and HS code of the importing Party)
  • Origin criteria
  • Gross weight or other quantity and value (FOB)
  • Number and date of invoices

The C/O (Form E) should be requested prior to or at the time of shipment at the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam (MOIT) or at authorized entities such as the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the Import-Export Management Offices.

In exceptional cases where the C/O (Form E) has not been issued by the time of shipment or no later than 3 days from the date of shipment, the C/O (Form E) shall be issued retroactively at the request of the Exporter, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the country where the Exporter is located, within 12 months from the date of shipment.

Vietnam is moving forward to be wholly integrated in the international economy through the establishment of FTAs both independently and as part of ASEAN such as in the case of the Framework Agreement. Under this agreement, the C/O Form E represents not only a key document to have access to incredible tax benefits, maximizing the advantages coming from the ACFTA, but also an important tool to protect the origin of the goods exported.