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East-West Corridor yet to boost trade among neighbours


September 20, 2008

East-West Corridor yet to boost trade among neighbours
The East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) a 1,450km highway linking central Vietnam with Laos, Thailand and Myanmar which opened two years ago has yet to boost trade equitably among countries as anticipated, reported Vietnam News Agency.

Statistics released by Tien Sa Port in Da Nang City, revealed that in the first five months of the year, of the 30,000 containers passing through the port, there were only 1,000 belonging to Lao enterprises.

According to Thai transport companies, provinces in Thailand's north-east region each year transport around five million tonnes of cassava, one million tonnes of rice, one million tonnes of ore and 500,000 tonnes of rubber latex via Vietnamese ports.

However, freight companies prefer to transport goods through Bangkok rather than through Da Nang, which is just 500km away 200km nearer than the Thai capital.

Thai companies claim it takes them two days to transport goods to Da Nang and they incur numerous fees. They also say goods take too long to clear customs at four border gates: Mukdahan, Savanakhet, Densavan and Lao Bao.

The Lao Bao border gate in particular has suffered administrative problems, admitted Chairman of the central Quang Tri Provinces Peoples Committee Le Huu Phuc.

Currently, the "one-door" administrative policy has been piloted at Lao Bao and Densavan border gates the first in the Greater Mekong sub-region to apply the policy,

which is designed to shorten the time it takes to clear customs.

However, enterprises using the two gates are still subject to numerous charges, such as the customs fee, the botanical quarantine fee collected by the Botanical Quarantine Agency and the border-crossing fee collected by border guards.

Aside from the cost, the process is also time-consuming, freight companies say. The provincial Peoples Committee is drafting a plan to simplify fee collection procedures for imports and exports.

Customs clearance for imports and exports at Vietnam's Lao Bao border gate are also considered more complex than that in Laos and Thailand.

Another problem encountered by freight companies is that right-hand vehicles are not allowed to travel in Vietnam, according to Lam Quang Minh, Director of Da Nang City's Investment Promotion Centre.

Despite the fact that transport ministers from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand signed an agreement to permit right-hand-drive vehicles to travel in EWEC countries, Minh says

Vietnamese cars and lorries are not allowed to enter Thailand, while right-hand-drive vehicles are only permitted to enter Vietnam's Lao Bao special commercial and economic zone.

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