News on 13 July 2016

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1)   Formosa unit suspected of burying untreated waste in central Vietnam

Authorities in the central province of Ha Tinh said they are looking into allegations that a unit of Taiwanese firm Formosa buried industrial waste in a private farm with the help of the property's owner. The scandal came as Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp. (FHS) is still struggling with a public relations disaster following mass fish deaths in the central region. Vo Ta Dinh, director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said Tuesday (Jul 12) that authorities had unearthed around 100 tons of muddy waste allegedly disposed of by FHS in a farm. The farm, which grows mostly banana and cajuput trees, is owned by Le Quang Hoa, the director of state-owned Urban Environment Company in Ky Anh Town. Dinh said samples of the waste were collected for testing. Authorities also confiscated equipment used to bury the waste after inspecting the farm on Monday (Jul 11).

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2)   Intra-Asia cable system broken

The Intra Asia (IA) cable system connecting Việt Nam to Hongkong and the United States was reportedly broken. The damage will be repaired between July 12 and 19. The break will slow down Internet speed between Việt Nam and other countries. The cable was broken some 45km off the coast of Singapore. The IA is used by major local providers FPT, Viettel and CMC. According to Viettel Group, they will be the most affected Internet provider, so they have transferred traffic from IA to the Asia America Gateway (AAG) undersea cable to maintain the quality of the connection. The AAG in late June also had technical problem but had been fixed. Other Internet providers are mainly using the AAG and landlines, so they will not be as affected by the IA breakdown. The group said they were working with their partner, Tata Communications, the operator of the IA connection to Singapore, to fix the damage. The IA undersea cable system was officially launched in November 2009, connecting Singapore, Việt Nam, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. The 6,800km-long system boasts a data transfer speed of 3.84Tbps.

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3)   Japan's Takashimaya to open first store in Vietnam

Takashimaya, a popular luxury department store chain in Japan, is set to launch its first outlet in Vietnam this month, local media reported on Tuesday (Jul 12). The 185-year-old operator has invested $25 million in the five-floor store, which is located at Saigon Centre building in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, according to news website Saigon Times Online. With 19 stores around Japan and another three in Singapore, Shanghai and Taipei, Takashimaya has been expanding its businesses in Asia, it said. Its first store in Thailand is expected to be opened in Bangkok next year. In a report published last month, news website Nikkei Asian Review said the retailer's net profit in March-May declined by 44 percent year-on-year to 3.5 billion yen ($34.1 million). The company forecasts its net profit to grow 1 percent to 24 billion yen ($235.65 million) this year, the website reported.

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4)  Europe Approves New Trans-Atlantic Data Transfer Deal

European officials approved a new agreement on Tuesday (Jul 12) that will allow some of the world’s largest companies, including Google and General Electric, to move digital information freely between the European Union and the United States. The pact, known as the E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield, comes after months of political wrangling. It is aimed at allowing online data — from social media posts and search queries to information about workers’ pensions and payroll — to be transferred across the Atlantic. The agreement also provides extra privacy protections for European citizens when their information is moved to the United States. The pact allows more than 4,000 companies that have registered with the Department of Commerce to transfer data between Europe and the United States. The new deal became necessary after Europe’s highest court ruled last year that the previous one — known as Safe Harbor — was invalid because it did not sufficiently protect Europeans’ privacy rights. These digital data transfers are vital for many businesses, particularly technology companies like Facebook, which rely on moving information quickly between regions to power their online advertising businesses. As much as $260 billion of trans-Atlantic commerce depends on the Privacy Shield, according to industry estimates, so politicians were under pressure to reach an agreement.

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5)   8,000 new bikes, 750 cars hit Vietnamese streets every day

Vietnamese are buying cars and motorbikes like there's no tomorrow.

Sales of vehicles continued to grow at a very fast pace in the first half of the year, with car ownership in particular becoming even more affordable and appealing to many people.

Figures from the Vietnam Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers showed that domestic sales in the first six months increased 8 percent year-on-year to more than 1.44 million. That translates to around 8,000 new bikes every day. Meanwhile, nearly 136,000 cars were sold over the same period, or nearly 750 every day. Compared to the same period last year, that was a staggering 31 percent surge. Industry insiders believe many people have been buying cars to avoid higher luxury taxes on large cars, which came into effect on July 1. But sales of small cars in upcoming months may benefit from lower tax rates, not to mention upcoming preferential tariffs for cars from regional countries. Reports from government agencies forecast that the demand for cars in Vietnam will be increasing in the coming years, which will impose heavy pressure on its overstrained transport infrastructure, especially in large cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, more than 45 million vehicles are crowding Vietnamese roads. That has gone beyond the number of 36 million vehicles that the infrastructure system was originally expected to serve in the year 2020.

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(All the above News Items have been sourced from: Reuters, ThanhNien News, Vietnam Net, Tuoitre News, Vietnam News, New York Times)

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