Cost of living cabinet approves import reforms

Committee finds import regulations impose more of a cost on Israeli consumers than import duties; issues slew of recommendations to cut red tape.

Zim cargo ship (photo credit: REUTERS)
Zim cargo ship
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Cost of Living cabinet on Monday approved import reforms recommended by the Committee for Increasing Competition and Reducing Import Barriers.
The committee, also known as the Lang Committee, after Economy Ministry Director- General Amit Lang, who spearheaded it, found that import regulations imposed more of a cost on Israeli consumers than import duties, and issued a slew of recommendations to cut red tape.
“We will be the lobbyist for the Israeli consumer,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“The committee’s recommendations will make importing easier, will bring many products to Israel and will increase competition, which is the strongest weapon in the fight to lower the cost of living.”
The recommendations would put the Economy Ministry in charge of coordinating activities of 37 different regulators that deal with imports, and give the antitrust authority power to go after dominant importers that block competition.
The committee recommended shifting the onus from the state to importers to ensure their products were up to code, paired with tougher enforcement for those who didn’t follow guidelines.
The standards institute, which defines safety requirements for a slew of products, will be tasked with matching Israel’s benchmarks to those accepted by other countries.
Setting up a website listing import information would increase transparency, promote parallel imports and prevent anti-competitive practices, and would help more importers enter the market.
The recommendations also tinker with a slew of small bureaucratic rules, such as canceling the requirement that imports be labeled only before their arrival in Israel.
“The cost of living in Israel is among the most pressing issues for the Israeli public,” said Lang.
Relative to income, he said, the average Israeli household spends 20 percent more on consumer goods than the OECD average. Reducing consumer prices could save families hundreds of shekels every month, he added.
“The committee’s recommendations that were brought for approval will help increase competition and will lead to reduced prices,” he concluded.