Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung spoke of the need to push reform during a working session with the General Department of Customs and relevant agencies in Hanoi on March 25.

Customs formalities should be more convenient and rapid, making it easier for both exporters and importers as Vietnam summons its strength to achieve the 2010-2015 socio-economic goals. Suggested strategies included removing red tape and improving the business climate and economic competitiveness, he said.

According to the World Bank, firms spent an average of 21 days in 2012 and 2013 to fulfil procedural requirements for their trans-border imports and exports, with 5.88 days spent on customs procedures and 15.12 days were taken up by other domestic agencies and the process of handling goods.

The leader noted that an uncompetitive economy is unable to attract investment inflows, and that one of the key contributing factors to the lack of competitiveness is customs bureaucracy.

He recognised initial progress in customs overhaul but expressed his belief that the sector could be doing far more, mandating a sense of responsibility and determination from ministries and agencies involved, he said.

Looking forward, he asked ministers to thoroughly review existing laws and international practices to determine appropriate solutions.

To bring about true reform, he requested the Vietnam Fatherland Front, media and business community keep a watchful eye on the process.

In his report, Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung said the 2014 Customs Law has laid a solid foundation to modernise customs management and simplify procedures.

Customs departments nationwide have used the Vietnam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System and the Vietnam Customs Information System (VNACCS/VCIS) since November 2014.

The ASEAN and national one-stop shop customs mechanisms have been piloted as scheduled, with the latter already connecting the administrative procedures of the Ministry of Industry and Trade since last December at 12 international seaports, Dung said.

In Saigon Zone 1 port, the customs clearance time for imports has been slashed 18 percent to over 34 hours compared to 2013. Time required for exports is under 7 hours, down 58 percent.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh suggested several ideas, including embracing technological advances, boosting linkages among ministries, building a common database to keep track of imports and exports and holding regular dialogues with businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam proposed determining set time limits within the 21 days for each ministry responsible to process trans-border customs clearance.-VNA