Development of Alcohol Control Policy in Vietnam: Transnational Corporate Interests at the Policy Table, Global Public Health Largely Absent
This paper analyses input from global interests in the policy process leading up to the passing of alcohol control legislation in Vietnam in 2019. The global alcohol industry now relies on growth in volume in emerging markets in middle-income countries such as Vietnam, a large, rapidly industrializing country with a youthful population and emerging middle class. The industry’s role in the alcohol policy process is compared with that of global health interests.
Document analysis of letters and English language media coverage was supplemented by and triangulated with data from key informants on changes in the content of draft alcohol legislation and participant observation.
The alcohol legislation was negotiated in the context of active engagement from the global alcohol industry and some input from global public health interests. The global alcohol industry established a partnership relationship with politicians using CSR and funded a local employee in Hanoi over the decade prior to the draft legislation being considered. Direct lobbying took place over the content of the legislation, which went through six published drafts. Trade and investment agreements provided a supportive environment and were referred to by both politicians and industry. In contrast, public health resource was limited and lacked the support of a normative global policy to counter the economic imperatives. Vietnamese Ministry of Health proposals for cost-effective alcohol policy was not enacted.
Global commercial interests employed their considerable resources to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and build partnerships with policymakers over a long period, contributing significantly to an environment unsupportive of enacting effective alcohol control policy. The absence of structural support from a global health treaty on alcohol and the lack of an equivalent level of long-term sustained input from global health actors contributed to the legislative outcome, which excluded proposed cost-effective policies to reduce alcohol harm.