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Businesses weary of revised automatic import license procedure   2010-08-05 - Tuoi tre

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) has applied what it calls ‘automatic import licensing’ to some categories of imports in an effort to curb the trade deficit by restricting the import of non-essential goods. Businesses complain that the scheme is full of problems.


Lost in the mail?


Long Quoc Trung, Director of Matsu Electronics, a distributor of refrigeration equipment from Malaysia, said he is nervous because after two weeks, he still has not got confirmation of his registration for an automatic import license.


According to Trung, the documents were sent to MoIT’s HCM City office by registered mail on July 23, 2010.  “I don’t know if the documents sent back to us have gotten lost on the way. If we are asked to provide more documents, we will have to wait another seven working days, and we will still have to work through the post,” Trung said .


Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, a senior executive of HCM City based Inco Company, says that businesses are supposed to receive the automatic import license after seven working days. However, it hasn’t worked out that way for her company.  In general, the company has to wait 13-14 working days. Hoa said businesses do not know what to do in case the documents are lost.


Trung says the current automatic import licensing scheme is being implemented in accordance with MoIT’s Circular No 24.  The scheme is considerably more rigorous than its predecessor (Circular No 17 of December 2008).  Previously businesses were promised necessary paperwork after only five working days.  They were allowed to hand in documents and receive them back, with necessary approvals, at the MoIT office.


Fees are a burden


In principle, if products arrive at Vietnam’s ports but importers do not have their automatic import license in hand, the products won’t be cleared by the Customs Department.


Hoa’s company imports ten 20 foot containers each time.  To avoid storage fees, it’s essential that the company have its automatic import license in hand within seven days after the goods are on the dock.


If the licenses come late, the company must pay heavy fees -- while waiting for licenses.  In that case, Hoa’s company has to pay $15-20 per container per day to shipping agents, plus storage costs of $6 per day.


Enterprises that import food products must pay even higher fees to lease cold storage. “These are big sums of money for enterprises, which they count on when calculating sale prices,” Danh, a food importer, said.


Trung, the Matsu executive, explains that firms must submit many documents to get an automatic import license.  A big problem is that the regulations are unclear on the responsibility of MoIT officials and businesses in case the documents sent to enterprises are lost in the mail.


The Circular No 24 just stipulates that in case the automatic import license is lost  or damaged, businessmen need to resubmit the documents again to MOIT with an explanation why they need the license again. The license will be re-issued to enterprises within five working days.

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