Customs red tape costs Vietnamese traders $10 billion a year: expert

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A cargo ship at a port in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thu Thuy A cargo ship at a port in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thu Thuy

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Vietnam can help traders save US$10 billion every year by simplifying its customs procedures, which are now very time-consuming and complicated, an expert from a think tank has said. 
Nguyen Dinh Cung, head of the Central Institute for Economic Management, told an online conference on Tuesday that customs red tape means unnecessary high costs for businesses.
He cited a recent World Bank report as saying that the import procedures in Vietnam, including customs check and quality tests, requires an average of 21 days, compared to only four days in Singapore, eight in Malaysia and 13 in Thailand. 
“When the cost increases, businesses lose a big chunk of their profits and their product becomes less competitive,” Cung said, as quoted by Tien Phong newspaper.
If the whole process can be reduced by 10 days, businesses can save up to $10 billion a year, according to his estimate. 
Vietnam government has announced a plan to reduce the time for customs procedures to 14 days by the end of this year.
But Cung said government agencies are unlikely to reach that goal. He called Vietnam’s plan to cut its customs hours to match those of other ASEAN members “ambitious and unrealistic."
The government has listed nearly 300 regulations that its agencies have to review and amend to shorten customs procedures, but legal changes have been delayed. 
“Some amendments should have taken only a week to make, but then it took officials a month. Those that should have taken one month were dragged on for several more,” Cung said.
He also criticized several agencies for adding even more rules that are not necessary.
Cung said for instance a new rule is demanding food importers to apply for a new certificate from the Ministry of Health, even after they have passed all quality tests. 

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