Homework for trade talks with India, US begins

REPUBLICA 2011-08-24

Homework for trade talks with India, US begins

KATHMANDU, Aug 24: The government has initiated preparation for trade talks with the country’s two crucial trade partners — India and the US.

“We´ve begun formulating agendas, incorporating pertinent issues for the upcoming bi-lateral talks, and reviewing progress made since the earlier talks with both the countries,” said Toya Narayan Gyawali, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS).

Gyawali said talks on the Trade and Investment Frame Work Agreement (TIFA) with the US has been tentatively scheduled for December, whereas the date for Inter-governmental Committee (IGC) meeting with India is still to be fixed.

Though the meeting of Nepal-US Council on Trade and Investment (NUSCTI) under TIFA was originally scheduled to be held in November, it has been postponed to December due to busy schedule of US trade negotiators. The meeting was last held on April 15 in Washington DC.

TIFA - the forum to discuss and resolve trade and investment issues — also serves as political and legal commitment to enhance bilateral trade and investment, paving the way for full-fledged bi-lateral free trade and investment agreement.

Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce and Supplies Bharat Mohan Adhikari and US trade representative Ron Kirk had signed the TIFA.

Gyawali said the agenda for upcoming NUSTI meeting will largely focus on seeking duty free access for Nepali readymade garment (RMG) in US and luring US investment in Nepal.

The government has already registered a petition at the US Congress for Generalized System of Preference (GSP) for nine Nepali products, including RMG, in the US market.

Nepal RMG industry has been facing a touch time after the US ended duty-free-quota-free access from December 2004.

Similarly, officials at the MoCS are also busy preparing draft agenda for IGC — the secretary level meeting — to be held in New Delhi in the near future. A source at the MoCS said Nepal will request the southern neighbor to scrap the recently introduced additional lock system on containers ferrying third country imports via Kolkata port, accreditation of quality standard from Nepali lab, simplification of customs and quarantine test on Nepali goods.

India on the other hand will push for Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) along with preferential treatment for Indian goods as compared to third country imports.

“We are organizing Public Private Dialogue (PPD) on September 12 and 13 to collect suggestions of the private sector for trade negotiations with India and China. Outcomes of the two-day meeting will be crucial for setting agenda for upcoming bilateral talks with both the countries,” added Gyawali.

The meeting is also expected to identify the ways to bring down the country´s widening trade deficit with India and China. Nepal suffered trade deficit of Rs 195.30 billion and Rs 37.67 billion with India and China respectively during the first eleven months of 2010/11.

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source: Republica