The Vietnam Gold Traders Association has asked the Ministry of Finance to reduce the export tax on gold and gold jewelry from 10 percent to zero, arguing that the tax was contributing to the nation's growing trade deficit.

The 10-percent rate has only been applied since January 1, when the ministry raised the tax from zero to help stabilise the domestic gold market.

In a proposal sent to the ministry early this week, Gold Traders Association general secretary Dinh Nho Bang said that, since all of the gold in Vietnam was imported, imposing a 10-percent export tax or otherwise limiting gold exports might exacerbate the trade deficit, as well as encourage smuggling and increase the drain of US dollars out of the country.

Bang also said that no country on earth imposed such a high tax on the export of gold, so the high tax caused made-in-Vietnam jewelry to lose competitiveness and jeopardises jobs in the jewelry industry.

Under Circular No 184, the tax rate is imposed on gold of purity between 99 and 99.99 percent and gold jewelry of above 99 percent. Gold bars with purity of under 99.99 percent are also imposed the tax rate.

Bang attempted to argue that Vietnam lacked the equipment and technological expertise to assess purity beyond 99.9 percent, although the effect of the circular is simply to impose the tax on all unprocessed gold of purity greater than 99 percent. Since the industry worldwide recognises that no gold achieves full 100-percent purity, 99.99 percent is simply synonymous with saying full purity.

Nevertheless, the ministry has stated that it would adjust the circular to make it more consistent with reality.

Phu Nhuan Jewelry, the nation's leading gold jewelry exporter, has said, meanwhile, that it was indifferent to the tax hike because the firm only exported gold jewelry of 8 karats (33-percent purity), 14 karat (58.3 percent) and 18 karat (75 percent).

Asia Commercial Bank's gold trading centre also said it was free from the effect of Circular No 184, as it only exported gold bars of 99.99-percent purity.

Gold lost 30-50,000 VND per tael on Jan. 18 to trade at 35.5-35.59 million VND (1,690-1,694 USD) per tael. Kitco spot gold prices late on Jan. 18 gained slightly to 1,367.90 USD per ounce. (One tael equals to 1.2 ounces).

Recent figures from the State Bank of Vietnam show that Vietnam imported nearly 71 tonnes of gold over the past 12 years./.