President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Tran Thanh Man speaks at the meeting in Hanoi on May 13 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – While specialised customs inspections have been reduced in recent times, the streamlining process has yet to make substantial progress and businesses are still largely unsatisfied with the results so far, heard a meeting in Hanoi on May 13.

Since 2015, the standing board of the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) Central Committee and relevant organisations have coordinated to monitor the tax and customs sectors’ implementation of solutions to improve the business climate and national competitiveness.

President of the VFF Central Committee Tran Thanh Man said one of the bottlenecks that needs to be removed is unnecessary specialised inspection procedures in customs clearance.

Improvements have been recorded in specialised inspections, he said, noting that 126 customs procedures joined the National Single Window (NSW) and the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) in 2018 – the most outstanding move in customs procedure reforms so far.

Over the last four years, 97 percent of procedures have been connected with the single window mechanism. Ministries and sectors are expected to raise this rate to 100 percent by the end of this year. 

Meanwhile, the rate of goods undergoing specialised inspections has been slashed from 35 percent of the total export and import volume to 19.1 percent within three years.

However, up to 70,087 commodities were still subject to specialised inspections as of March 2019. Some ministries had even increased the number of such items, Man added.

Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue who also chairs the national committee for the NSW, ASW, and trade facilitation, pointed out that the reduction of specialised procedures has yet to be substantive, while the policy implementation attitude remains weak. The satisfaction rate amongst businesses remains low and the number of firms joining the NSW and ASW is still modest.

He said several imports and exports are still subject to overlapping inspections conducted by many units of a ministry or even by different ministries. The involvement of the private sector in specialised inspections remains limited. Additionally, ASW connections are jammed during peak times, affecting businesses’ activities.

Vietnam is one of the countries most dedicated to implementing the NSW and ASW in the region. When it takes on its role as ASEAN Chair in 2020, the Government will promote this work as a focal task to connect and develop trading in the region.

Hue noted if the reduction of specialised customs procedures is carried out in a mechanical manner, it is likely to be taken advantage of by certain interest groups. Therefore, this issue needs thorough consideration.

The Deputy PM asked the standing board of the VFF Central Committee to monitor the performance of not only state agencies and public employees, but also businesses. He also told the Ministry of Finance, the General Department of Vietnam Customs, and relevant agencies to boost the private sector’s investment in equipment for specialised inspections so as to cut down costs for both the State and enterprises. –VNA