Foreign retailers selling goods without permission in Vietnam?

Rice, one of the seven goods categories foreign retailers are not allowed to distribute without permission in Vietnam, is still on the shelves of Lotte Mart and MM Mega Market.  

Foreign rice brands are available in a MM Mega Market supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. (Source: news.zing.vn)

Vietnam's commitments under the World Trade Ogranization included opening the distribution system for all kinds of goods manufactured in Vietnam and legal imports.

However, the country has opted out from seven categories of goods, including cigarettes and cigars; books, newspapers, and magazines; pharmaceutical products; precious metals and gemstones; dynamite; crude and processed oil; as well as rice, cane, and beet sugar.

Foreign retailers are coming under closer scrutiny after Big C temporarily halted purchasing Vietnamese soft-line products, raising concerns that imported goods will be given priority over domestically-produced goods. In this context, news.zing.vn pointed out that imported rice has been available in several supermarkets of Lotte Mart and MM Mega Market.

Over the past few years, the appearance of foreign retail brands like Thailand-based Central Group and TCC Group – the parent companies of Big C and MM Mega Market – as well as South Korea-based Lotte Group (Lotte Mart), has made the local retail scene more dynamic. Specifically, Vietnam currently has 13 Lotte Mart supermarkets, 19 MM Mega Market’s, and 35 Big C’s.

Moreover, South Korean company Lotte Group also expressed the ambition of reaching 60 Lotte Mart supermarkets across the country in 2020.

It could be seen that retail is one of the most attractive sectors in Vietnam. The nation currently ranks sixth in the global retail development index released by market research company A.T Kearney.

According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO), total retail revenue in 2017 hit VND3.942 trillion ($171.4 million) in the country.

However, in line with the rapid growth of the retail sector, it is necessary to improve the competitiveness of Vietnamese goods as imports have been gaining a rising foothold.

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