There are over 30,000 Vietnamese living in the Czech Republic and according to estimates some 3,500 are involved in business. Many work at the Vietnamese-run open-air markets familiar all over the Czech Republic, selling everything from underwear to electronics. There have been several occasions when customs officers have discovered and confiscated counterfeit merchandise at these markets, and sometimes these raids have even led to violent clashes with the vendors. To prevent this sort of problem, a new initiative has just been launched in Prague.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Prague together with officials from the Czech Trade Inspection Office have held the first in a series of courses meant to provide vital information to the Vietnamese business community in the Czech Republic. Speaking in front of a packed room, they explained the basics of Czech law and enlightened the attentive audience on how to do business in the Czech Republic. One of the organisations involved in the project is the Czech-Vietnamese Society.
"This cooperation with the Czech Trade Inspection Office will continue. Courses will be held in the regions, for example in the towns Karlovy Vary and Znojmo, according to the needs of the Vietnamese community."
Marcel Winter chairs the Czech-Vietnamese Society. He welcomes the initiative as a better alternative to repression but he says that from the part of the authorities it has come too late.
"Since 1989 this country has been granting trade licences to anyone without checking the knowledge and qualifications of the applicants. And now the state is only reaping the fruits of this leniency. Secondly, the counterfeit merchandise - which by the way comes from China in most cases - is allowed to cross the Czech borders freely by the customs officers who then raid the markets with a lot of hullabaloo and confiscate the goods they themselves had let in."
Between January and September the Czech Trade Inspection Office organised almost 1,500 raids on open-air markets and confiscated hundreds of thousands of counterfeit products worth over 2 million euros. A first sign that the situation might be improving came on Tuesday. At a search of markets in the border town of Zelezna Ruda, the inspectors found almost no counterfeits.
You can visit the website of the Czech-Vietnamese Society at www.cvs-praha.cz
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