Vietnam import rules may breach WTO, says business group

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Vietnam's new rules on gaining an import license for certain products may breach the country's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Chamber of Commerce said in a statement obtained on Wednesday.

The government imposed new guidelines for importers in July as the government tries to rein in a huge trade deficit, which is weighing heavily on the economy.

However, the chamber said the changes added to the uncertainty and administrative burdens for companies looking to import a range of new products from iron and steel items to vehicles, meat and fish, and liquor.

EuroCham said "key articles of Circular 24 appear to be in breach of Vietnam's obligations under the relevant WTO commitments dealing with import licensing". Vietnam joined the WTO three years ago.

Vietnam is trying to control surging imports, which the official Vietnam News Agency said rose more than 24 percent year-on-year in the first eight months while the trade deficit hit US$8.15 billion.

EuroCham warned that the rules "will have a restrictive effect on the import of many ordinary commodity items: Under Circular 24, importers may be discouraged to consider Vietnam as a key market for investment."

The time and effort required for each import transaction will increase costs that will likely shift to consumers or business operators, damaging the local economy, the group said.

The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.

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