Finance Ministry suggests further extending tax payment deadline
The Ministry of Finance has submitted a proposal to the Government seeking approval to create a decree expanding the timeframe for tax and land lease payments.
The move is expected to ease difficulties faced by enterprises amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in tourism and transportation.
Under the proposal, payments of value added tax are to be extended by five months, during which revenue to the State budget will fall by nearly 68.8 trillion VND (2.99 billion USD).
Regarding corporate income tax, around 40.5 trillion VND in payments during the first and second quarters will be delayed by three months.
Meanwhile, the payment of some 1.3 trillion VND in value added tax and personal income tax from business households and individuals will also enjoy a delay.
The ministry suggested extending the deadline for land lease payments in the first installment, valued at about 4.4 trillion VND.
The total value of delayed taxes and land lease will amount to 115 trillion VND.
Tax agencies allowed delays in tax and land lease payments worth some 87.3 trillion VND last year, for 184,900 taxpayers./.
Vietnam to overcome difficulties in 2021 through solidarity: MoIT leader
Challenges remain ahead in 2021, but Vietnam will overcome all with solidarity between the political system, businesses, and the people, Politburo member, head of the Party Central Committee’s Economic Commission, and Minister of Industry and Trade (MoIT) Tran Tuan Anh has said.
In an interview with the Vietnam News Agency, Anh said that this year, amid the complex developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the major target defined by the Party, State, and Government continues to be effectively containing the pandemic to protect people’s lives and public health.
The country will coordinate with the international community to fight COVID-19 while continuing to recover its economy and return to true normal, ensuring people’s living conditions and building a foundation for the country’s sustainable development over the next five and 10 years, he said.
All economic recovery and normalisation activities will be conducted on the basis of ensuring the prevention of COVID-19, he added.
He underlined that the new integration frameworks Vietnam is engaging in, especially free trade agreements (FTA) and new-generation FTAs, bring unprecedented opportunities for the country in all fields, helping to fuel economic growth.
Anh stressed the need for the Ministry of Industry and Trade to further speed up the restructuring of economic sectors towards reforming the growth model, and improving added value.
At a ceremony to ship the first coffee batch to Europe (Photo: VNA)
He highlighted the necessity for Vietnam to further expand markets, especially within the FTAs, while engaging more deeply in supply chains to promote supporting industries as well as the manufacturing and processing sector and agriculture. This is a vital factor for the successful international integration by agriculture and farmers under the country’s general strategy.
In particular, it is crucial to immediately implement Politburo Resolution No 55 on sustainable energy development and Resolution No 23 on national industrial policies, he said, describing those documents as the cornerstones for the building and development of essential infrastructure of vital significance for the economy, serving sustainable development in the future.
He noted that Vietnam signed three FTAs in 2020: with the EU and the UK as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Thanks to its integration process, Vietnam has made fundamental changes in its macro-economy, thus securing economic and socio-political stability and paving the way for continuous sustainable development in the years ahead, he said./.
Investment booms as Soc Trang improves business climate
Soc Trang province’s efforts to improve its business climate is paying off with more and more investors, both domestic and foreign, coming since 2016.
The Mekong Delta province has worked with hundreds of potential investors seeking to invest in areas where the province has strengths like hi-tech agriculture, tourism and wind and solar power.
It approved 116 projects with a total investment of 27.3 trillion VND (1.18 billion USD) in 2016-20, 5.5 times the amount in the previous five years.
Nine of them are FDI projects.
Soc Trang authorities have been making efforts to improve the investment climate and provincial competitiveness by focusing on infrastructure and providing lands for projects.
They are keen on projects that are sustainable and environment-friendly.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Nhi, deputy director of the province’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, said her department had been reforming administrative procedures, boosting the province’s competitiveness in terms of attracting investment and business climate.
One key infrastructure project is the upgrade of Tran De deep-water port, which will reduce logistics costs for exports from the Mekong Delta.
The recently approved Chau Doc – Can Tho – Soc Trang highway will connect to the port, aiding goods transportation and improving links with the rest of the country.
The province is also creating a start-up eco-system with development assistance, incubation programmes and sponsorship for creative small and medium-sized businesses.
In the last five years 1,900 new businesses were set up, a 47.2 percent increase from 2011 – 15. Many companies have invested in manufacturing in the An Nghiep Industrial Park, creating tens of thousands of jobs.
In 2021 – 25 Soc Trang seeks to further improve its business climate and competitiveness, focusing on business assistance services, labour training and helping investors start projects smoothly.
There are 3,300 registered businesses in the province with a total charter capital of 33 trillion VND.
Soc Trang’s economy grew by 6.75 percent in 2020./.
Ministry takes action on market stability in new circumstances
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has called for concerted solutions to maintain market stability, remove difficulties facing domestic firms, and increase the total retail sales of goods and services.
Such solutions rolled out in line with the Government’s Resolution No 01/NQ-CP dated January 1, 2021, are expected to contribute to the country’s socio-economic stability.
The ministry will continue to improve the socialist-oriented market economy mechanism to facilitate economic recovery, and spur growth in the industry and trade sector in a rapid and sustainable manner.
It has also focused on improving the sector’s adaptability and resilience against external shocks to stabilise production and consolidate the domestic and foreign market so as to flexibly and effectively realise the dual goals of containing COVID-19 and recovering and developing the sector in the “new normal”.
Notably, the sector has stepped up restructuring in tandem with growth model reform, and paid more attention to the processing and manufacturing industry in combination with smart technologies and digital transformation to raise productivity, quality, efficiency, and competitiveness.
More attention will be paid to developing the domestic market, promoting the consumption of Vietnamese goods, enhancing trade promotions, and boosting e-commerce.
Given the impact of COVID-19, the ministry has asked businesses to increase the supply of goods, especially necessities, and requested local Departments of Industry and Trade to take measures to ensure market stability.
To remove difficulties in the consumption of agricultural products, the ministry has adopted solutions to boost consumption links domestically and negotiated with major buyers to facilitate exports./.
HCM City: Work begins to supply power for Metro Line No 1
The Management Authority for Urban Railways of Ho Chi Minh City (MAUR) and contractors kicked off work on power supply for the southern economic hub’s first metro line project on February 19, which has now seen 82 percent of works completed.
Consultation and construction are now underway to link power sources from the 110kV Binh Thai and Tan Cang electricity stations to supply all power stations along the metro line.
According to the MAUR, if COVID-19 can be controlled, the work of cable pulling will be completed in the second quarter of this year, which would allow for trial runs and commercial operations taking place earlier.
MAUR deputy head Huynh Hong Thanh vowed to work with contractors on speeding up construction progress, with quality put first and pandemic control and prevention measures implemented effectively.
The 2.05 billion USD metro line, which runs between Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Suoi Tien Theme Park in District 9, is the first of at least six to be built in the city and aims to ease traffic congestion in its north-eastern gateway.
It is designed to have 14 stations, three of them underground. There will be 17 three-carriage trains plying the route, running at a maximum speed of 110 km/h above ground and 80 km/h below ground./.
Fight with e-commerce fraud to be increasingly fierce
The General Department for Market Surveillance has shown determination in the war against counterfeit goods and trade fraud products in e-commerce channels.
Last year saw e-commerce flourish and it is forecast that this will continue in the coming years. Therefore, the fight will be increasingly fierce this year, especially as “the border gate is at the door of each citizen”, according to one official.
Tran Huu Linh, director-general of the General Department for Market Surveillance, said that in the past, large warehouses were often located in big cities such as Ha Noi and HCM City, but now, the largest warehouse is located in the northern mountainous province, just a few kilometres from the border.
Along with that, modern logistics, delivery and payment services help bring the “border gate” to the front of houses, he added.
By just packing the goods and delivering them to shipping companies, the goods could be taken anywhere domestically without any difficulty, said Linh.
This created more challenges for authorities as transactions through e-commerce become more and more popular with all people, he noted.
“We have determined that there must be a more professional and methodical plan in this fight. In the immediate future, it is necessary to propose units in the Ministry of Industry and Trade to soon submit to the Government a decree replacing Decree 52/2013 on e-commerce,” Linh told online newspaper phapluatplus.vn.
One reason the decree is needed is the speed of e-commerce development, meaning it’s time to consider and treat goods in the e-commerce environment as in the traditional environment, he noted.
Linh said that the decree was issued to promote the development of e-commerce, so it has not strictly regulated goods traded via e-commerce.
Besides, the decree has not specified the responsibilities of e-commerce trading floor managers. This loophole has caused the floors not to strictly control the origin of the goods displayed for sale.
Therefore, it was necessary to hold e-commerce floor owners responsible so that when having trade fraud problems, they are also subject to inspection and post-inspection sanctions. Important services including payment and transportation would also be included in the new decree, he said.
In addition, the General Department for Market Surveillance will focus on e-commerce for two to three years because as it was forecasted that the ratio of trade fraud in e-commerce would be about 50-60 per cent in that period compared to overall types of fraud in general, said Linh.
That is why the General Department for Market Surveillance has built a relatively comprehensive plan to mobilise strength for this tough war.
It is proposed to set up an official division of the market surveillance force specialised in preventing fraud in e-commerce, at the same time, improving the post-inspection capacity of the market surveillance force and regularly reviewing and inspecting e-commerce trading floor owners and social networking platforms.
Public investment disbursement must be sped up: minister
Speeding up the disbursement of public investment from the start of this year was an important solution to accelerate economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung has said.
The global economy was expected to embark on the recovery process after a deep downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, the recovery would be different from country to country, depending on the developments of the pandemic and efforts to contain the virus.
“It is necessary to drastically implement measures to accelerate the disbursement of public investment in 2021, right from the first months of the year to create the impetus for economic growth to meet and even exceed targets,” Dung said.
Accountability must be enhanced, he stressed.
To make public investment a pillar for economic growth, the finance ministry is developing a programme with a focus on removing legal bottlenecks to disbursement of public investment.
Inspections would also be enhanced to ensure the allocation and use of public investment to follow National Assembly and Government plans while close watch would be kept on the process to tackle problems.
Regarding the disbursement of public investment from foreign loans, Dung said the progress remained stagnant, partly due to the pandemic.
There were also subjective reasons for the stagnation, including slow site clearance, a lack of accountability and poor preparation which required adjustments and slowed disbursement, he said.
Dung said that to fulfil the public investment plan for 2021-25, it was important to enhance the accountability of all parties relevant to the use of public investment in all stages, from preparation to implementation and settlement.
Projects which failed to meet planned progress should have their capital revoked, he stressed.
Statistics of the Ministry of Planning and Investment showed the disbursement of public investment was estimated at VND398 trillion (US$17.3 billion) as of the end of December, meeting 82.8 per cent of the Government’s plan – the highest rate in the 2016-20, thanks to the Government’s determination to speed up the disbursement of public investment as a major driver for economic growth.
According to the General Statistics Office, every increase by 1 per cent in public investment disbursement would push GDP by 0.06 percentage points.
The Vietnamese economy expanded at 2.91 per cent in 2020, the lowest rate in the past decade but this was considered a big success in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 14,000 tonnes of dragon fruit exported to China via Lao Cai border gates
More than 14,000 tonnes of dragon fruit were exported to China from February 10-17 through border gates in the northern province of Lao Cai, according to the provincial Border Gate Customs Sub-Department.
Lao Cai authorities, including customs, border guards, and medical quarantine officials, maintained operations in the opening days of the Lunar New Year to ensure the quick and safe customs clearance of goods.
During the period, total import-export revenue through border gates in Lao Cai topped US$11 million, including $2.4 million worth of imports, mainly fertilisers and farm produce, and $8.8 million worth of exports, mostly agricultural products.
According to the Border Gate Customs Sub-Department under the Lao Cai Department of Customs, in 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19, the sub-department completed its ‘twin targets’ by processing customs clearance declarations for 516 businesses with an import-export value of more than $1 billion and ensuring safety from the pandemic.
In 2021, it will work with other sectors to speed up administrative reform while exhibiting better performance in e-customs clearance activities to save time and costs, ensuring economic development and COVID-19 prevention and control at the same time, the department said.
Bac Ninh eyes $123 million IP
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved investment intention in a project on infrastructure development at the Thuan Thanh I Industrial Park in northern Bac Ninh Province.
The project covers a total area of some 250ha in Ninh Xa, Tram Lo and Nghia Dao communes of Thuan Thanh District, with total investment of VND2.84 trillion (over US$123 million), of which VND859.73 billion comes from its investor – Viglacera Corporation.
The construction is scheduled to last for 36 months from the land hand-over, and the project is set to operate for 50 years from February 17, 2021.
The PM required the provincial People’s Committee to ensure the accuracy of information and data reported, and carry out land reclamation, site clearance, compensation and land lease in line with approved documents.
The construction must comply with the detailed planning scheme that has been approved, he said, stressing that the committee needs to instruct the management board of industrial parks in Bac Ninh and relevant agencies to supervise and assess the implementation of the project.
The PM also highlighted the building of houses, and social, cultural and sport facilities for labourers in the industrial park, as well as employment and vocational training support to local residents who have to relocate to make way for the project.
Hybrid model, the new rising trend in office market
A hybrid working model comprising both remote and office-based work is a trend that many companies will embrace since working methods have changed globally after the pandemic broke out, including in Viet Nam, experts have predicted.
In a note on trends in the property market this year, property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) said a year of lockdowns that forced people to work from home showed many tasks could be done remotely, spurring companies to adopt new, hybrid working models.
The shift was already underway at many businesses, but was accelerated by COVID-19 like many other things, it said.
“In 2020 a work from home experiment took place globally and showed that businesses can continue to operate effectively by leveraging technology” Paul Fisher, country head of JLL Vietnam, said.
“But for many, the lack of face-to-face interaction has put pressure on teams and whilst a number of our clients expect to adopt flexible working practices in the future, for the majority this will include the office remaining the central point for business activities.”
But many aspects of work would not change, the note said. People would still need to collaborate, innovate and liaise with managers on projects and their careers, a reason why people missed the office, and it was why for many offices would retain a central role in corporate life.
The office still existed as the best and most convenient place for team building and connecting with management.
WeWork predicted at an ongoing roundtable on office trends in the region that beyond economic pressures and realities that enterprises face, tapping new workspace strategies is crucial for future-proofing themselves in a volatile climate.
Amidst the changing face of its enterprises, Southeast Asia is seeing a shift towards flexible workspaces bridging enterprises’ challenges and opportunities, it said.
Talking about the future of the workplace after the pandemic, Elizabeth Fuller, the company’s head of growth, SEA, said after a year of pandemic working from home might be an alternative option for many companies.
But this is not sustainable for businesses in the long term, she claimed.
In the workplace, innovation, creativity and organisational health hinges on successful collaboration, and a loss of these would hinder sustained business performance, employee engagement and organisational health in the long run, she said.
The new work order would thus be a hybrid of flexible workplace arrangements, she said.
She cited the example of two Fortune 500 companies that have expanded their presence with WeWork across several buildings by establishing a headquarter presence in one location and supporting functions and business units in the others.
“They have leveraged our CBD presence, with locations in close proximity to each other. This allows them to scale accordingly without having to renegotiate existing real estate commitment, implement distributed workforce as a safety measure and also enjoy engagement.”
Property consultancy CBRE said the pandemic has changed the structure of office demand.
Due to COVID-19, technology and online shopping utilisation have increased significantly, which led to the expansion of e-commerce companies last year, it reported.
The pandemic has also changed the real estate strategies of occupiers. Previously employees were heavily relying on being in office, but are now more willing to work in different spaces.
Pham Ngoc Thien Thanh, associate director, CBRE Vietnam, said: “COVID-19 has reshaped the market’s dynamics, and unaffected sectors will drive market demand in 2021.
“Besides, tenants will start paying more attention to all factors including saving rental costs, ensuring employees’ wellness and maintaining business performance.
“To do that, occupiers tend to adopt a hybrid workplace model, designing offices with lower density and also diversifying the workplace into different sites such as decentralised options and co-working spaces.
“The market will be intensely competitive in the next two years with a wave of new supply. To stay ahead of the competition, landlords should consider applying workplace strategy tools to evaluate current strengths and deficiencies of their buildings to come up with an optimal solution to increase their assets’ values.”
The HCM City office market remained in a deep slump last year due to COVID, which badly affected many enterprises. It witnessed negative net absorption of – 20,544sq.m of leasing area.
Three new office buildings came into the market, Friendship Tower (grade B), UOA Tower (decentralised grade A) and Opal Tower (grade B), with a combined 65,372sq.m of net leasing area, but it represented a fall of 31 per cent in area compared to the previous three years.
Switching to HNX can help reduce overload on HoSE: VNDirect CEO
Market regulators should consider policies to encourage companies listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE) to temporarily switch to the Ha Noi Stock Exchange (HNX), said CEO of VNDirect Securities Co Do Ngoc Quynh.
He said such a move aimed to help mitigate the overload of the transaction system at HoSE while awaiting the completion of a new technology system for the whole market, he said.
Since the end of 2020, Viet Nam’s stock market has witnessed a booming trading period with multi-session liquidity of more than VND15 trillion (US$653.2 million).
The wave of new investors entering the stock market has helped set new liquidity records, which is a positive signal for the market, he said.
As interest rates are still at low levels and people’s understanding of the financial market is improving, this can be considered a very favourable period for attracting investors and developing Viet Nam’s stock market.
However, skyrocketing liquidity has far exceeded market forecasts, leading to frequent congestion in many sessions, causing a lot of trouble for investors and affecting the quality of the market.
“The sudden increase in liquidity recently is unpredictable, causing undesired interruptions in trading,” said Le Hai Tra, Chairman of the Board of Members of HoSE.
“To tackle this issue, the State Securities Commission said it was speeding up the implementation of a new information technology system for the entire stock market, known as KRX.
“However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of the new system is delayed and if the disease progresses more complexly, it will be difficult to continue the plan,” he said.
In the short term, one of the solutions applied by the State Securities Commission (SSC) is to increase the minimum trading volume for a transaction on HoSE from 10 to 100 shares to help reduce the burden on the transaction system.
Although officially in place at the beginning of 2021, congestion still occurs when investors flock into the market and push the liquidity to new heights, sometimes reaching $1 billion per session.
The SSC has also instructed the HoSE to request securities companies to review, limit errors arising from the companies’ processes, limiting automatic transactions to avoid negative impacts on the system, to check internal control, control risks, limit errors that may occur in the trading system and arrange staff on shift duty at peak transaction times.
In the short term, as the KRX system is not immediately available while trading demand is huge, a temporary solution is to transfer some companies from HoSE to HNX, said Quynh.
This can be considered as an appropriate step because the Prime Minister issued Decision 37/2020/QD-TTg to establish the Vietnam Stock Exchange (Vietnam Exchange), based on the merger between HoSE and HNX.
“This is the quickest and least costly solution at the time being. This will not only help to reduce the overload on the HoSE system but also ensure the smooth transaction of the Vietnamese stock market, meeting the legitimate trading needs of investors, ensuring credit of the stock market in the eyes of domestic and foreign investors, maintain an effective capital mobilisation channel for enterprises in the economy,” he said.
If the SSC approves and facilitates administrative procedures for companies to switch from the HoSE to HNX, VNDirect will volunteer to help them with the transferring procedures, Quynh added.
Wood exports enjoy sharp increase during January
Vietnam’s timber and wood exports in January witnessed a surge of 48.4% to US$1.25 billion in comparison to the same period from last year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).
The United States, Japan, and China remain the three largest importers of Vietnamese timber and wooden products last year, making up 78.1% of the country’s total export value.
Most notably, strong export growth has been seen in markets such as the US, Thailand, and Canada with the export value rising by 33.8%, 20.4%, and 14.1%, respectively, while wood exports to the UK endured a downward trajectory of 26.5%.
Furthermore, the import value of wood and wooden products in January recorded an annual rise of 64.8% to US$280 million.
Last year saw the total import value of wood and wood products increase by 0.6% to US$2.56 billion compared to 2019, of which imports from China, the US, and Thailand made up 33.7%, 12.2%, and 5.1%, respectively.
In line with these figures, local imports of timber and wooden products from China and Thailand saw a boost of 31.1% and 14.7%, respectively, while imports from the US suffered a decrease of 8%.
The MARD stated that 2020 proved to be a successful year for the wood industry despite facing an adverse range of impacts caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The resilience of the Vietnamese wood industry in recent times can largely be attributed to the openness of the local legal system, coupled with the enforcement of various free trade agreements (FTAs).
Moreover, the MARD have revealed that there remains plenty of room for wood exports to grow in the near future as the global furniture market has a commercial value of approximately US$450 billion per year, of which wooden furniture makes up roughly US$150 billion annually. Meanwhile, Vietnamese wooden furniture exports account for only 6% of the global market share.
Moving forward, the local forestry sector aims to export US$14.5 billion this year, a rise of 12% compared to 2020, with timber and wooden products set to reach a figure of US$13 billion.
China increases imports of cassava chips and starch from Vietnam
Vietnam exported 400,000 tonnes of cassava and cassava-based products worth US$144 million in January, with the market share of Vietnamese cassava chips and starch as part of China’s total imports last year increasing sharply compared to 2019’s figures.
These statistics show a rise of 88.1% in volume and 97.1% in value compared to the same period from last year, while the average export price recorded an increase of 4.8% to US$360 per tonne, according to data released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
According to figures compiled by China Customs, Chinese import of cassava chips increased by 22% last year to US$782.85 million compared to 2019, with the country joining Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos as the four largest suppliers of cassava chips to China.
Most notably, the nation was the second largest provider of cassava chips to China last year with US$95.91 million, an increase of 90.8% compared to 2019.
Last year saw the neighbour import 2.75 million tonnes of cassava starch worth US$1.13 billion, a rise of 16.1% in volume and 9.7% in value compared to 2019, with the majority being imported from Vietnam Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
Most notably, the nation was the second largest provider of starch to China last year with 982,480 tonnes worth US$ 388.76 million, up 30.4% in volume and 24.9 % in value in comparison to a year earlier.
Thai group purchases 70% stake in Vietnamese plastics manufacturer
It is expected that SCGP’s acquisition will be completed in the first half of 2021. Duy Tan manufactures household plastic containers with a capacity of 116,000 tonnes per year.
The company’s increased investment in Vietnam is in line with its strategic plan, which foresees an increase in the diversity of products, including plastic and paper packaging, as well as the development of domestic design teams, according to Wichan Jitpukdee, CEO of SCGP.
“We are prepared to work with all partners to share experience and knowledge in the development of integrated packaging solutions and support the growing demand for diverse types of packaging among customers in ASEAN,” Jitpukdee added.
During the past decade, the Thai company has continuously increased investment in Vietnam, which has yielded a revenue growth of more than 10% annually.
All three projects of the company in Vietnam including Vina Kraft Paper Co., Ltd. in the southern province of Binh Duong, the packaging producer Tin Thanh Packing JSC and Bien Hoa Packaging JSC are expected to contribute to its increased sales of about 8.5 billion baht (US$283.1 million) per year.
The Thai company is also looking into expanding its paper production capacity in the north of Vietnam. “This is to satisfy domestic demands and expansion of export markets, which will be a boon to Vietnam’s economic growth as well,” Jitpukdee said.
Imports and exports of FDI sector enjoy sharp increase in January
The total import and export value of foreign direct investment (FDI) enterprises in January saw a surge of 60.1% to US$39.16 billion, equivalent to an increase of US$14.69 billion, according to figures compiled by the General Department of Vietnam Customs.
The country’s import and export value throughout January soared by 48.2% to US$55 billion, equal to an annual rise of US$17.88 billion.
In relation to the figure, total Vietnamese exports increased sharply to US$28.55 billion, while imports also soared by 41.3% to US$26.46 billion against the same period from last year, with the country recording a trade surplus of US$2.09 billion.
Most notably, the total import and export value of the local FDI sector rose by 60.1% to US$39.16 billion, while the domestic sector’s imports and exports increased by 25.2% to US$15.85 billion on-year.
The export value of FDI enterprises also skyrocketed by 70% to US$21.57 billion compared to the previous year, therefore accounting for 75.5% of the country’s total export value. In addition, its import value rose by 49.4% to US$17.59 billion, making up 66.5% of the country’s total import value.