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Harambe:  New e-visa policy to help lure more foreign visitors | Vietnam+ (9/3/23)

. The e-visa policy, which took effect from August 15, is expected to help Vietnam attract a hike in the number of international visitors right in the autumn-winter tourist seasonof 2023, said Do Van Hao, Deputy Chief of Police at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

According to Hao, the resolution issued by the Government on August 14 on granting e-visas to citizens of all countries and territories represents a breakthrough and reaffirms the Vietnamese Government’s commitment to continuing the policy of openness to foreigners, creating favourable conditions in terms of visa, entry and exit procedures for them, especially those visiting Vietnam for the purposes of working, investment, and tourism.

The number of foreign visitors, especially those from Europe and the Americas, is projected to increase sharply after the Autumn-Winter tourist season starts (from late September to early October), Hao said.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport put automatic entry systems (Autogate) into operation in early August, helping reduce the time for security check to about 30-40 seconds per passenger, the official noted.

However, Director of the municipal Department of Tourism Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa said a survey conducted by the agency at travel agencies found that there hasn’t been a significant change in tourist numbers to Vietnam following the implementation of the new e-visa policy.

Statistics reported by local hotels show that the number of room reservations for September reached around 70% of the total capacity.

Strong growth is expected in both international and domestic visitors during September and towards the end of the year, Hoa said.

Sharing Hoa’s opinion, General Director of Viet Tourism Communication JSC Pham Phuong Anh predicted that the new e-visa policy may increase the number of international tourism arrivals to Vietnam served by the company by 2-25% per year.

According to the Government’s decision, foreigners using e-visas are permitted to enter or exit Vietnam via 13 air border gates, 16 land border gates, and 13 sea border gates


Harambe:  Vietnam to host Biden visit and elevate US links amid rising China assertiveness in South-East Asia | Brisbane Times (9/2/23)

The United States and Vietnam are poised to significantly enhance their economic and technological ties, bringing the former wartime foes closer at a time of increased Chinese assertiveness in South-East Asia.

The deal, expected to be announced when US President Joe Biden makes a state visit to Vietnam next weekend, is the latest step by his administration to deepen relations in Asia.

For Hanoi, the closer relationship with Washington serves as a counterweight to Beijing’s influence.

The establishment of a “comprehensive strategic partnership” will give the United States a diplomatic status that Vietnam has so far reserved for only a handful of other countries: China, Russia, India and South Korea. The deal was confirmed by a senior Biden administration official and two people in Hanoi familiar with the matter.

Tightening the American relationship shows Hanoi is willing to risk angering Beijing but sees the move toward Washington as necessary given how aggressively China is flexing its military muscle in the region, analysts said.

“If you have the United States on the same pedestal as China, that is saying a lot to Beijing, but also to the rest of the region and the world,” said Derek Grossman, a senior defence analyst at Rand Corporation and a former US intelligence officer.

“That’s saying the US-Vietnam relationship has come a long way since 1995”, when the two countries normalised relations.

The agreement, proposed by the Biden administration in recent months, flows from a US strategy to build economic and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific that can serve as a bulwark against Chinese economic and military coercion.

For Vietnam, it “serves both symbolic and substantive purposes”, said Le Hong Hiep, a senior fellow at the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

The agreement is expected to lead to greater economic activity between the two countries, as the United States seeks to diversify its manufacturing supply chains away from China, and as Vietnam aspires to develop advanced technologies. American semiconductor firms have expressed “a willingness to support them in that ambition”, said a senior Biden administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the agreement has not yet been announced.

The United States is now the top destination for exports from Vietnam, which has made a dramatic economic transformation over the past two decades.

VinFast, the country’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, is now selling its sleek SUVs in California and recently held an initial public offering of its stock on Nasdaq.

American companies have likewise shown a willingness to do business: Apple and Google suppliers have invested heavily in new factories in Vietnam, and a major announcement is expected from Boeing, which said earlier this year that it intends to expand its footprint in the country.

Harambe:  Iran shopping gold as dedollarization trend accelerates – Mehr News Agency (9/3/23)

According to the data from the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, gold, worth over $265 million, accounted for more than one percent of all Iranian imports during the five month period. Iran has been quietly ramping up its foreign purchases of gold, adding over 4.1 tons of standard gold ingots to the country’s coffers in the first five months of the Iranian calendar year (March 21-August 22).

Both the Iranian state and private citizens appear to have been turning to gold recently, with the World Gold Council reporting in May that demand for gold coins and bars by Iranians had jumped dramatically, with investment soaring to 13 tons over the first months of 2023 – 26 percent more than the 10 ton five-year quarterly average, as citizens searched for solid stores of values amid inflation and sanctions-related pressures.

Iranian Trade Promotion Organization chief Mehdi Zeighami indicated that the bump in gold imports was related to eased regulations by the state late last year related to the return of export proceeds, which has led companies engaging in exports to import gold to pay their hard currency liabilities to Iran’s Central Bank.

“Imports of gold ingot are economical for businesses and we have tried to diversify methods used for repatriation of hard currency,” Zeighami explained, Sputnik reported.

The measures are a boon to the Iranian state, which has worked carefully to build up gold reserves and expand domestic extraction activities. This week, Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade Department of Exploration Affairs director general Ebrahim Ali Molabeigi announced that the country discovered some 79 tons of untapped gold reserves worth $355 million in 2022 alone.

Iran has successfully used gold to deal with sanctions, using it in trade to avoid using dollars or becoming ensnared in Western financial institutions subjected to US and European sanctions and secondary restrictions. The country now has an estimated 340 tons in proven gold reserves, although exact data on gold held by the Central Bank are unknown.

Gold’s attractiveness as a store of value has climbed steadily over the decades, reaching close to $2,000 an ounce in public trading this week, amid inflation and uncertainty about the value of the dollar and other paper money, and the growing popularity of gold in countries’ international reserves after witnessing how reserves held in Western currencies can be frozen or transformed from a financial instrument into a weapon.

Speculation about the possible use of a gold-backed token of exchange by the BRICS bloc has served to further pique investor and government interest in the precious metal.

Earlier this year, Russian officials revealed that Moscow and Tehran were considering the use of a gold-backed ‘Persian Gulf token’ stablecoin. Financial experts said that idea, if realized could cause a potential “tectonic shift” in international finance, with serious implications not only for the dollar but for other fiat currencies around the world, since they could serve as “a very appealing safe haven alternative that cannot be weaponized against the owners and users of such tokens.”