All imports must be authorized by one of the state trading corporations. Customs duty is generally charged on imports and exports, with many exemptions and duty reductions available (including imports related to an aid program and goods to be used for security, national defense, scientific and educational training, or research purposes). Tariff rates are divided into three categories according to the import source country's trade relationship with Vietnam: ordinary rates apply to goods imported from countries that have not exchanged normal trade relations (NTR) agreements with Vietnam; preferential rates apply to goods from countries that have exchanged NTRs with Vietnam; and special preferential rates apply to goods from countries that have made special trade arrangements with Vietnam. Ordinary tariff rates are about 50% higher than preferential rates. Special preferential rates vary by country. There are also special consumption taxes (mostly on luxury goods) of up to 100%, a value-added tax (VAT) of 0–20%, and import quotas.
In 1994, the United States lifted its trade embargo on Vietnam and in 1995 the two countries established formal relations. Vietnam is a member of ASEAN and its free trade area (AFTA).