Vietnam has become one of the top destinations for suppliers who want to avoid US import duties on Chinese products in the trade war.
"But it also makes Vietnam more vulnerable to being fake by Chinese companies made in Vietnam," said Au Anh Tuan, Acting Director of Customs Management Supervision Department - General Department of Customs said during an interview in Hanoi.
"We have detected that commercial fraud activities have been on a sharp rise since the trade war began," he said. "We have strengthened our cooperation with the US government to combat this behavior. We are taking drastic steps, including a list of 25 commodities to track."
Vietnam's trade surplus with the US reached nearly US $ 40 billion in 2018. Then it reached nearly US $ 41 billion in the first 9 months of 2019, an increase of 29% over the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data.
"Vietnam really needs to increase action on this issue," said Nestor Scherbey, a US licensed customs broker and consultant. "They have no other choice and they are aware of that. If they don't pay attention to the country of origin of the goods they are exporting, they will be in trouble."
The United States is Vietnam's largest export market. Capital econom Ltd estimated that if Mr. Trump imposes a 25% tax on goods imported from Vietnam as he did with Chinese goods, it is likely to reduce more than 1 percentage point of GDP growth. Meanwhile, economists said that Vietnam's economic growth has only increased by 0.5 percentage points thanks to war gains.
Vietnamese officials said they would buy more high-value items from the US, including Boeing Company aircraft and liquefied natural gas, to help cut the trade surplus.
Mai Xuan Thanh, deputy director general of the General Department of Customs, said customs officials are focusing on very suspicious areas - such as electronic components and wooden furniture - that have had exports increase by more than 15% over the same period. Hundreds of domestic and foreign companies are under special export supervision, he said.
Beginning December 27, Vietnam will temporarily suspend transshipment and temporary import of plywood products to the US, a change that will take effect until 2024, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said at the beginning of this month.
The National Steering Committee on Smuggling and Trade Fraud has ordered provinces along the border to intensify inspection of imported goods.
Vietnam's customs last month said it had discovered and seized about $ 4.3 billion of Chinese fake aluminum that had been made with fake Made in Vietnam labels that were shipped abroad, mostly to the United States.
"We have put more resources to prevent export fraud and illegal shipping," the Minister of Industry and Trade said. "This is a really difficult job in the context of the ongoing trade war."