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Iran to liberalize imports in March

January 26, 2000, TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - In an effort to boost foreign trade, Iran will liberalize imports from the beginning of its third five-year development plan, a customs official said Wednesday.

The move, which will go into effect on March 21, will include "all commodities that have no legal or religious restrictions into the country," the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the head of Iran 's customs administration, Mehdi Karbasian, as saying.

March 21 also marks the beginning of the Iranian fiscal year.

IRNA quoted Karbasian as saying that the liberalization would be in the form of elimination of non-tariff restrictions. He did not give details.

He said the step constitutes a major stride in improving the quality of products produced in Iran as well as introducing healthy competition in the marketplace.

Although privatization of state firms proposed in Iran 's third five-year development plan has been rejected by the hard-line Guardians Council, the plan allows limited liberalization of Iran 's state-controlled economy.

Karbasian was also quoted as saying that the plan has similar provisions on the exports of non-oil goods and hoped that the measure would also serve to raise the present low level of exports.

Karbasian said the Iranian economy is grappling with a host of "open and hidden monopolies" and called them the "biggest impediment" facing the country's foreign trade.

He called for transparency and the elimination of these monopolies the bulk of which are enjoyed by various Iranian government agencies and organizations.

"The prohibition on the imports of foreign made cars is a consequence of this hidden monopoly by some government agencies," he said.

The country's automotive industry is under the control of the Industries Ministry with an annual production of some 300,000 units per year.


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