Egypt sharply increases customs duties as it seeks to curb imports

Rise in tariffs by almost 60 pct, the second to be imposed this year

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Egypt has sharply raised customs duties on more than 300 goods to encourage domestic production and curb a ballooning trade deficit, prompting fears consumers already struggling with double-digit inflation will face further price increases.

The increases, which saw many tariffs jump to 60 percent, are the second to be imposed this year in Egypt, which relies heavily on imports of everything from wheat to luxury cars.

They follow a slew of other measures including a currency flotation, increases in fuel and power prices and a new value-added tax. All are likely to fuel inflation, which was near 14 percent in October.

Manufactured products

The finance ministry said the tariff increases on 320 categories of goods targeted manufactured products that are also made locally, such as carpets, ceramics and cosmetics. Duties were also raised on goods deemed non-essential, ranging from some types of fresh fruit to shampoo and toothbrushes.

Duties on cosmetics, dairy products, air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, microwave ovens, electric shavers, perfumes and a host of other goods were increased to 60 percent from 40 percent.

Duties on carpets and baked goods doubled to 60 percent.

“The amendments ... aim to create the necessary climate to attract investment ... and give a strong boost toward increasing productivity, which is the basis of economic growth, as well as cutting imports, which ... have widened the trade deficit to over $49 billion,” the finance ministry statement said.

Importers criticized the increases, saying Egyptian suppliers did not produce enough of any of the goods included.

The move was likely to boost local monopolies rather than encouraging competition, they said.

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