Before January 15th, 2018, foreign-invested enterprises (“FIE”) that desired to conduct trading in Vietnam had to apply for a trading license. Therein, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System code (HS Code) of the products intended to import, export, wholesale and retail had to be recorded.

Regulations on trading activities of the FIEs, as from such date have been less restrictive by virtue of the new decree promulgation (Decree 09/2018). This decree reflects the less overprotective attitude towards domestic investors.
From then on, trading license has only been issued to FIEs in case of (i) conducting retail trade, without retail outlets, products excluding rice, sugar, recorded items, books, newspapers and magazines; (ii) importing and wholesaling lubricants; and (iii) retailing rice, sugar, recorded items, books, newspapers and magazines.
In respect of lubricants, license for importing and wholesaling is only issued where FIEs produce lubricants in Vietnam or manufacture machines and equipment using certain lubricants.
FIEs may seek for more opportunities in the retail industry, then, to open retail outlet FIEs must apply for the establishment of retail outlet license. Apart from the first outlet, retail outlets are smaller than 500m2 in size, retail outlets are located in a shopping mall and categorized as convenience stores or mini supermarket, all other retail outlets establishment requiring compliance with economics need test (ENT).

Governmental agencies
MOIT and provincial department of industry and trade are the specialized state agencies in charge of issuing trading licenses and licenses for retail outlet establishment. Provincial People’s Committee is the competent authority holding responsible for ENT conduct.
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