The Israel Chamber of Commerce (ICC) demanded on Tuesday that the customs duties of up to 12 percent on imported medical equipment be abolished. According to ICC President Uriel Lynn, such a move would make the import of this vital equipment more efficient and improve service to the public. In a letter to Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Lynn said some customs duties on medical equipment had already been canceled. However, he said, they remained on goods brought in from third-party countries with which Israel has no free market agreements - such as China, Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand and some South African countries - even if Israel manufactured the same types of devices. Lynn said the demand was not relevant to European Union countries, the US or a variety of other countries with which Israel has free market accords. He noted that the government decided in 1991 to expose the economy to competing imports and reduce import taxes. "It is very strange that Israel today puts customs duties on imported medical equipment and claims it is to protect locally made products," said Lynn, a former MK. "This is an anachronistic policy that has no place here, especially when it involves vital medical equipment." He maintained that the Treasury would lose only a negligible amount of money if it abolished the tax on such equipment. Beyond the issue of the money, however, Lynn said the existence of duties on the equipment and the need to seek authorizations for exemptions created needless red tape that was a burden on medical equipment importers.