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Lao Government Tackles Trade Challenges

Lao government has identified common challenges in foreign trade and is taking measures to further facilitate trade, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said.

Representatives from involved agencies in five central provinces, including those operating import-export businesses, are scheduled to meet next week in Vientiane to highlight the challenges and discuss ways to address the problems, state-run online newspaper Vientiane Times reported Saturday, citing officials from the ministry.

Procedures that involve too many steps appeared to be one of the most common challenges faced by import-export businesses. Business operators said the process was far more time-consuming than it should be.

They said too many state departments wanted to have a hand in the approval process, which was not in keeping with the regulations.

Inexperienced staff and inefficient computing and other equipment also contributed to the slow processing.

In addition, some provinces were unable to certify plant quarantines for farm products and had to ask Vientiane authorities to do the job, which consumed more time and money, business operators said.

Worse, some provinces charge service fees by using self-produced receipts, which are not in line with the import-export forms provided by the central department.

Cumbersome bureaucratic processes sometimes mean that certain export products such as cardamom cannot be harvested on time.

Tax regulations and calculation standards for different kinds of goods remained unclear and businesses were concerned that this could leave a loophole for officials to demand money.

Similar meetings have been organized for the northern and southern provinces to facilitate trade and increase the capacity of businesses to compete.

The Laos government has been attempting to improve trade conditions since 2011 under the Trade Facilitation Strategy of Laos for 2011-2015, the ministry said.

As a result, Laos was ranked 148 in 2015, up from 155, out of 189 countries in 2013, according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

Source: Global Times (originally published in Xinhua)