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Lao authorities have reduced import tariffs on 8,536 items to zero as part of efforts in establishing the ASEAN Free Trade Area, a government report said.
The report, which the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment distributed recently at annual meeting of the finance-planning sector held in capital Vientiane recently, shows the Lao government no longer charges import tariffs on 8,536 goods from ASEAN member countries, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Wednesday.
These goods represent 89 percent of total items on a designated list which Laos trades with regional member countries under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), according to the National Socio-Economic Development for 2019 report.
The report also indicated that under the ATIGA, Laos is only able to maintain import tariffs on some goods which it sees as essential for economic stability. In this regard, the government has left the level of import tariffs unchanged on 325 items.
A customs official told local daily Vientiane Times that under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, each member country has the right to list some goods on which the level of import tariffs can be maintained to prevent a dramatic drop in domestic revenue collections.
He also said the Lao government has imposed 10 percent value added tax on goods imported into the country as part of efforts to shore up domestic revenue in recent years. In addition, excise or turnover taxes are also charged on imported goods, local daily mentioned as a customer official saying.
Lao government began implementing the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in 2015. As one of the least developed nations and a newer ASEAN member, Laos was able to prolong the implementation of the full obligations of the agreement until 2018.
The main purpose of the ASEAN Free Trade Area and the elimination of import tariffs is to boost trade in the region of 600 million consumers. The removal of tariffs aims to help producers and traders in the region to distribute their goods more freely and to reduce their business operating costs, the report said.
At present, Laos is flooded with foreign products, which account for more than 50 percent of the goods sold in the country. Lao government has been trying to boost domestic production and consumption. However, some businesses such as cement and steel producers have complained about the stiff competition they face from foreign firms, according to the local daily.
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