Vietnam asks firms to use local materials as US threatens tariffs

Some producers are misleadingly labeling their products as “Made in Vietnam” to avoid tariffs. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 July 2019

Vietnam asks firms to use local materials as US threatens tariffs

  • Vietnam has been accused of benefiting from the trade war between US and China
  • US announced it would create tariffs of up to 456% on some steel materials produced in South Korea and Taiwan

HANOI: Vietnamese manufacturers should use domestically-sourced raw materials to avoid incurring US tariffs, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, days after Washington said it would impose large duties on some steel products shipped through the Southeast Asian country.
The US Commerce Department said on Tuesday it would slap tariffs of up to 456% on certain steel produced in South Korea or Taiwan which are then shipped to Vietnam for minor processing and finally exported to the United States.
“The Ministry of Industry and Trade has warned local companies about possible moves by importing countries, including the United States, to apply stricter requirements in trade protection cases,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said at a routine news conference in Hanoi.
Vietnamese companies should consider business strategies that include switching to domestic materials, she said.
Hang said Vietnam will continue to work with the United States in its efforts to crack down on goods of foreign origin illegally relabelled “Made in Vietnam” by exporters seeking to dodge tariffs.
Vietnam has been touted as one of the largest beneficiaries of the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, but recent comments from US President Donald Trump have led some to believe that Vietnam may be the next target of US tariffs.
Last month, Trump said Hanoi treated the United States “even worse” than China, amid the ongoing trade spat between Washington and Beijing.
Vietnam responded by saying it was committed to free and fair trade with the United States.
Vietnam’s largest export market is the United States, with which it has a rapidly growing trade surplus, which widened to $17 billion in the first five months of this year from $12.9 billion in the same period last year.


UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

Updated 15 July 2020

UK, US COVID-19 vaccines show signs of immunity in patients

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci: ‘No matter how you slice this, this is good news’

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity. 

The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.

The Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials proving a success. The team behind it says it is “80 percent confident” of it being available by September. 

It works by injecting altered COVID-19 genetic material, attached to a similar but benign virus called an adenovirus, which causes common colds, into the body, in a process known as recombinant viral vector vaccination. 

The aim is to facilitate an immune system response by mimicking COVID-19 itself, and training antibodies to attack the spike proteins on the virus’s exterior that it uses to attach itself to human cells.

When faced with COVID-19, in theory the immune system should then act in the same fashion.

The Oxford vaccine is currently in its second, expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.

Though no official results have been formally published, subjects exposed to the vaccine in its early phase were found to have developed antibodies and a certain type of white blood cell, called T-cells, which help fight infection

“An important point to keep in mind is that there are two dimensions to the immune response: Antibodies and T-cells,” a source at Oxford told ITV News in the UK.

“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the T-cells response is important in the defense against coronavirus.”

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford team leader, earlier this month said the vaccine could provide protection for several years at a time.

She told UK MPs on the House of Commons’ science and technology select committee: “Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.”

She added: “It’s something we have to test and follow over time — we can’t know until we actually have the data, but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we’ll see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity.”

Moderna, meanwhile, reported that all 45 volunteers in its early phase had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.

Its initial studies found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.

Moderna will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”

Vaccines, though, are not the only potential route in the quest to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials have already begun for an antibody treatment, manufactured by AstraZeneca, that would see patients given a three-minute infusion of COVID-19 antibodies that could provide protection for up to six months.

This would be a potential solution if the vaccine proves less effective in some people (especially the elderly), for those who suffer adverse reactions, or for people taking immunosuppressant drugs or undergoing chemotherapy.

Sir Mene Pangalos, head AstraZeneca’s research into respiratory diseases, said: “There’s a population who are elderly that (may not) get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine.

“In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.”