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'Bicycles that are good for Amsterdam are also good for TLV'

Israel to ease rules on imports of goods to boost competition, reduce cost of living

Economy Ministry says thousands of items — electronics, bicycles, eyewear, toys — that already meet international standards will benefit from reform of regulations

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Startups and Business editor and reporter.

People ride bicycles on empty Jerusalem roads on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest of Jewish holidays, September 16, 2021. (Flash90)
People ride bicycles on empty Jerusalem roads on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest of Jewish holidays, September 16, 2021. (Flash90)

Israel is moving ahead with plans to implement regulatory reforms aimed at lowering the high cost of living, publishing a list of goods this week that may soon no longer require domestic regulatory standards approval in addition to international product certification and licensing from the US and the EU.

The move is meant to increase competition for products such as electronics, eyewear, and toys and to lower prices for consumers by forgoing time-consuming local certification processes that can drive up costs for importers. The Standards Institution of Israel, a government body, is charged with ensuring product safety and compliance and issues standards marks and certifications to importers.

The Economy and Industry Ministry circulated a draft list of thousands of items that are set to be approved as part of these reforms for “public comment” on Monday. A finalized list will be available at a later date, the ministry indicated. The reforms are set to go into effect in June.

“The reforms we are leading are expected to increase the supply [of goods], the number of products and the number of importers, and lower the price to consumers,” said Economy Minister Orna Barbivai in the announcement.

The idea is to facilitate more imports “by relying on compliance with foreign standards in other developed countries,” she noted.

“Bicycles that are good for Amsterdam are also good for Tel Aviv,” quipped Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman. “This is another step in adjusting regulation in Israel to what is common in developed countries. Reducing the regulatory burden, especially for small businesses, is expected to increase competition and reduce the cost of living.”

The Economy Ministry said standard procedures for goods from other countries are also being examined.

According to the ministry’s documents, eased regulation processes will apply to items such as eyeglasses and sunglasses, adult and children’s bicycles, ceramic and glass cutlery, car batteries, baby cribs and strollers, toys for children over three years of age, dishwashers, air conditioners, washing machines and dryers, among many others.

Some items will undergo brief standard testing, such as for the presence of lead, while others will be subject to the inspection of one product per shipment. Other items will only require importers to submit a declaration of standard compliance.

The reforms “will significantly reduce the costs to importers, which add up to millions of shekels a year, said the ministry, adding that it “expects that this relief will be reflected immediately in the reduction of prices to consumers.”

The ministry said it also expects that new importers will enter the market to increase competition “for both the range of products and their prices.”

On Wednesday, Globes reported that the Finance Ministry was considering easing regulations on parallel imports of vehicles.

According to the report, Israel has 14 official car importers authorized by carmakers and another 35 parallel car importers, who purchase vehicles directly from dealers in foreign markets. But parallel importers are subject to more red tape and costly customs procedures that hinder competition. Relaxed regulations may help parallel car importers compete more fairly and drive down costs, according to the report.

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