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A bill drafted by the Ministry of Public Security that would require major tech companies like Google and Facebook to establish offices and servers within Vietnam has been met with staunch opposition.

VnExpress reports that the draft legislation, if passed, would dramatically change the way foreign tech companies do business in Vietnam. 

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) wrote in the bill: "Foreign companies that provide telecommunications and internet services in Vietnam have to follow the country's laws, respect its sovereignty and national security, obtain a license, and have a representative office and server in the country to manage local data use."

Accordingly, popular social network and messaging giants like Google, Facebook, Viber, and Skype would have to create a physical presence in Vietnam.

While it is far from certain this bill will become reality, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), an umbrella group for businesses in the country, has come out in strong opposition to the regulation, VnExpress shares.

The organization has said that such a law would run counter to Vietnam's international commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which is expected to come into force next year. 

The news source reports that Hoang Quang Phong, VCCI's vice chairman, sent a letter to the National Assembly explaining that the country's WTO commitments require cross-border telecommunications services to remain unlimited in markets which join the global trade pact. The EVFTA includes similar stipulations.

Another major international agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Vietnam signed last year, forbids signatories from deciding whether tech companies can do business in a country depending on where their servers are situated. It is still unclear whether the TPP will ever come to fruition, but the agreement has been signed on to by Vietnam's leaders.

The MPS' draft bill is the latest effort by Vietnam's top authorities to reign in the country's freewheeling social media ecosystem - Vietnamese users rank in the top 10 among Facebook's largest national communities.

In January, for example, the Ministry of Information and Communications asked Facebook and other social sites to work with authorities in order to prevent so-called "toxic" content from reaching users.

Google was also asked to remove 2,200 clips from YouTube which the Vietnamese government said insulted national leaders. The tech giant ended up blocking 1,300 videos in April.

[Photo via The Daily Conversation]


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