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France’s AFD pledges $1mn to improve Vietnam’s geographical indication system

Thursday, November 12, 2015, 14:26 GMT+7
France’s AFD pledges $1mn to improve Vietnam’s geographical indication system
A woman prepares bottles of Phu Quoc fish sauce for shipment to Ho Chi Minh city in Kien Giang Province, located in southern Vietnam.

A French development agency has pledged to fund more than 75 percent of a US$1.3 million project aimed at improving the registration and management of geographical indications in Vietnam.

The Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) will sponsor $1.09 million of the project value, while the Vietnamese partner will cover the rest, the Paris-based institution said at a conference in Hanoi on Wednesday.

The three-year project was launched at the event by the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology, and will be implemented by a three-way international consortium, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The group includes Vietnam’s Rural Development Center (RUDEC), the Center for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD), and the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD).

A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation attributed to that origin.

In order to function as a geographical indication, a sign must identify a product as originating from a given place.

The AFD’s financial assistance will be used to help Vietnam innovate its geographical indication registration and management system via a brand new approach with experience learnt from the EU, and particularly France, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

“Geographical indication is still an issue in Vietnam and there are few products that bear such a sign,” Tran Viet Thanh, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, admitted at the conference.

Many Vietnamese products are therefore unrecognized by consumers, and fail to gain their trust, the official, who is also head of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (NOIP), added.

The Southeast Asian country hopes to learn from the experience of France to make geographical indication “a fundamental and effective commercial tool” for its agriculture and food industries.

"Geographical indication is another example of the efficient cooperation between Vietnam and France, which has a lot of experience in the field to learn from,” Deputy Minister Thanh said.

Vietnam currently recognizes 46 geographical indications, 42 of which are Vietnamese cities and provinces, according to the NOIP.

Nuoc Mam Phu Quoc, or fish sauce made on Phu Quoc Island off the southern province of Kien Giang, and Shan Tuyet Moc Chau Tea, grown in the northern province of Son La, are among the Vietnamese products with geographical indications.

Pepper from the central province of Quang Tri and cashews from the southern province of Binh Phuoc have also received the indications.

However, Vietnam needs more geographical indications to boost exports of its agro-produce, one of the country’s moneymakers, but the process is beset by many problems, including a dearth of appropriate policies, Deputy Minister Thanh said.

The AFD-sponsored project will therefore seek to call for more support from the government, in terms of policy and mechanism, to facilitate the registration of geographical indications, he said.

"To make this project effective, we must act at all levels: the development of the local economy and legal environment," Bruno Vindel, a project management official from AFD, was quoted by Le Courier du Vietnam, a French-language newspaper published in Vietnam, as saying.

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