Crisis delays planned Nepal-Bangla accordA planned agreement between Nepal and Bangladesh to provide easier market access to each other’s products has been delayed as the designated signers have not been able to travel to Bangladesh due to the current supply crisis.
A planned agreement between Nepal and Bangladesh to provide easier market access to each other’s products has been delayed as the designated signers have not been able to travel to Bangladesh due to the current supply crisis.
As per the understanding reached between the two sides, Bangladesh will provide duty-free access to 108 Nepali products, most of which are agriculture-related. Most of them are agricultural products while some are
manufactured goods. Nepal had sought duty-free access for 153 goods.
Likewise, Nepal has proposed to provide preferential treatment to 50 Bangladeshi goods. Bangladesh has been asking for duty-free access to 64 products, but Nepal has not made any decision so far, officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Supply said. Most of the items to which Nepal wants to give preferential treatment are fish products, medicines, potatoes and industrial goods.
“The accord was scheduled to be signed in mid-October at the secretary level, but the Nepali delegation has not been able to go to Bangladesh to do so,” said Jib Raj Koirala, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supply.
“We have not been able to fix the time for a meeting as our entire machinery is focused on supply management.” According to him, there has been regular follow-up from Bangladesh regarding the issue.
Although Bangladesh had also sought duty-free access for its products, Nepal did not agree to the proposal during the last joint secretary-level meeting held in Kathmandu in April.
According to a Commerce Ministry official who took part in the meeting, Nepal has offered to reduce customs duty by 5 percent if the duty structure is higher than 15 percent, and by 3 percent if the duty level is below 15 percent.
“Nepal has given the same preferential treatment to Chinese products as per the agreement signed with the Tibet region of China,” said the official. “We had been mandated to negotiate with this as the bottom line.”
However, Nepal is considering offering duty-free access to certain products as it is required to do by the South Asia Free Trade Area Agreement (Safta) within 2016. Ministry officials said that there had been a plan to sign an agreement with Bangladesh after settling pending issues at the secretary-level meeting.
During the last bilateral meting, Bangladesh had also agreed to simplify the process of granting visa on arrival to Nepalis at two border points, Banglabandha and Burimari.
Although the facility is already in force, there is a lengthy documentation procedure. Bangladesh had expressed its willingness to cut the paperwork during the bilateral trade talks in Kathmandu.
Two sides had agreed to ask India for cooperation to give on arrival visa to Nepalis in Bangladesh if any Nepali reaches Bangladesh by land. Currently, it is available for Nepalese going there by air.
“Now, Indian visa should be stamped on the passport of Nepali nationals reaching Bangladesh by land but Nepalis and Indian enjoy visa-free regime,” said the official.
The two sides had also decided to defer discussions on a planned Kathmandu-Dhaka direct bus service till the next secretary-level meeting.
“Even though some issues still need to sorted out, there had been consensus between the two sides to do so at the secretary-level talks in Bangladesh where the agreement will be signed,” said Koirala.
As per the deal made in April, the two countries will harmonise sanitary-phytosanitary measures to remove technical barriers to trade. Bangladesh had submitted a draft operation guideline regarding the transportation of cargo to Mangla Port of Bangladesh by Nepali container trucks. In return, Bangladesh had sought permission for their vehicles to travel to Nepal.