Orange Is the New Green in Argentina's Customs Stamp Fiasco

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(Bloomberg) -- A shortage of green stickers is holding up millions of dollars worth of imports at Argentine ports.

Customs officials affix the stamps to goods that are approved to enter the country, but the supply was exhausted on April 9. Now items such as clothes, watches and motorcycles are stuck in warehouses, unable to be sold to the nation’s eager consumers.

The timbres, as they are known in Spanish, are designed to reduce fraud and trace imports. But to most Argentines they feel like leftovers of the excessive bureaucratic procedures that have made the South American nation one of the world’s most closed-off economies. And they’re a reminder that despite all of President Mauricio Macri’s efforts to increase trade, he still has a long way to go to make local markets more efficient.

The good news is that the government has proposed a solution: Use an orange stamp. But nothing in Argentina is ever simple -- the change needs to be published in the country’s official gazette before it can take hold. The next one doesn’t come out until Monday.

The country’s tax agency attributed the green-stamp shortage to delays at the government agency that prints them, and promised the situation would be resolved by the start of next week. It said as many as 1,400 shipments from abroad had been affected by the issue.

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