EU businesses seek to solve COVID-19 challenges

September 10, 2021 | 20:21
The European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) on September 9 attended a high-level meeting with the prime minister of Vietnam, government ministers, and the European diplomatic corps to discuss the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.
EU businesses seek to solve COVID-19 challenges
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the meeting with EU businesses on September 9

The 4-hour dialogue – held in Hanoi and online – featured contributions from European business leaders, EU ambassadors, and government representatives. Participants discussed the difficulties of the current fourth wave of the outbreak and shared solutions to support both commercial operations and communities to rebound and recover from the pandemic.

EuroCham chairman Alain Cany and other European business leaders emphasised the need to accelerate Vietnam’s vaccine roll out; ensure the free-flow of goods; ease the movement of workers; speed up the process for vaccinated business leaders, investors, and experts to return to Vietnam; ensure that factories and companies can resume their operations as soon as possible; and the need to live with the virus in order to maintain economic growth and protect livelihoods.

“There is no disguising the fact that this fourth wave is having a dire impact on business. The EuroCham Business Climate Index is now recording the lowest sentiment in more than a decade. If lockdowns, social distancing, and travel restrictions continue for much longer, new investment projects could be put at risk and companies could consider relocating elsewhere in the region,” said Cany.

“What our members need now is a clear roadmap out of these current measures, one which resolves the roadblocks to their commercial operations and gives them a predictable path on which to plan the reopening of their businesses,” he added.

According to the chairman, one of the most pressing issues is the need for electronic vaccination passports to ease the free movement of vaccinated people both within and into Vietnam. "In particular, we urge the government to create a fast-track process for foreign business leaders, experts, and their families returning to Vietnam. The current procedure is both time-consuming and burdensome. It also represents a significant barrier to the trade and investment activities which will be essential to achieving economic growth post-pandemic," he added.

He went on to elaborate that the current "three-in-one" policies need to be refined. While the principle is sound, it places a huge burden on both companies and their workers in practice. It is also important to highlight the need for a vaccination roll-out which prioritises those most at risk to allow a gradual opening up of cities and provinces so that commercial operations can resume; consistent, centralised regulations to reduce confusion for companies and to ensure the smooth circulation of goods; alongside a streamlining and simplification of customs requirements.

During the event, some problems were solved, including pharmaceutical and work permits while the others will take some time to be dealt with.

The EuroCham has launched the "Breathe Again" fundraising initiative. The campaign aims to secure significant donations in order to purchase much-needed medical equipment to support Vietnam’s front-line healthcare workers and hard-pressed hospitals in their fight against the pandemic. The campaign has now raised over €1 million for ventilators, monitors, and other essential equipment for hospitals in some of Vietnam’s hardest-hit provinces.

By Bich Thuy

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