Strong lobbying needed to get US senate to pass bill: ExpertsExperts have stressed on the need for strong lobbying in the US to ensure that a bill on duty-free access to Nepali garment products is passed.
The bill tabled by US Senator Dianne Feinstein, is stuck in the SU senate.
The massive disaster caused by the April 25 earthquake makes a strong case for pushing the US lawmakers for the passage of the bill, they said.
They, however, added there was also a need for enhancing production capacity and market diversification.
Since the quota system ended in 2005, the Nepali garment industry suffered heavily as the products could not compete n the US market.
In 2001, Nepal exported readymade garment (RMG) products worth Rs 11.62 billion, out of which exports to the US accounted for 89.4 percent, according to official data. The export earnings, however, dropped to Rs 5 billion in recent years.
Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi said chances were high for the Nepali products to be given preferential treatment. “As Senator Feinstein has been backed by a number of other senators, the bill could be passed by the US Senate this time,” said Bairagi at an interaction here on Friday.
“Also, the US law provisions giving duty-free facility to goods with less than 1.5 percent market share, and Nepali RMG products accounted for just 0.2 percent US’ total garment imports, that too during the heydays of the Nepali garment industry,” he said.
Bairagi said Nepal should take the post-quake situation to as an opportunity to convince the US lawmakers to pass the bill.
The US offers duty-free access to 5,000 goods from least developed countries, including Nepal. However, 11 textile products, including RMG and woollen gloves, are excluded from the list.
Bairagi, however, expressed doubt Nepal might not be able to take maximum benefit of the facility even if the bill is endorsed. “The bill talks about providing duty-free facility only if Nepali RMG products maintain 35 percent value addition, and Nepali producers hardly maintain that level,” he said.
Shankar Sharma, former Nepali Ambassador to the US, said strong lobbying could help the endorsement of the bill. “However, there is a need for a serious strategy from various domestic agencies,” he said.
Presenting a paper, former commerce secretary Purushottam Ojha underscored the need for developing a high-powered committee to address the issue from the government-level. “Besides, issues like labour shortage, transit problems, refinancing facility and low value addition, among others, should be addressed properly to minimise the production cost to boost the products’ competency,” he said.
Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal said the government should facilitate the sector that has the potential create jobs and reduce trade deficit. He also said there was a need for exploring new markets, besides the US.
The participants stressed on the need for focusing on bilateral agreements, promoting RMG products through Special Economic Zones, increasing incentives to manufacturers, producing trained manpower and active role of the Nepalese Embassies abroad.