BIMST-EC meeting to discuss free trade

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 5:

The fourth round of BIMST-EC trade negotiation committee (TNC) meeting is scheduled to to held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from tomorrow. A five-member delegation led by Prachanda Man Shrestha, joint secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies left for Colombo today to take part in the meeting. The five-day long commerce joint secretary-level meeting of seven-member grouping — Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic

Cooperation (BIMST-EC) will discuss trade in goods, rules of origin (RoO) and dispute settlement to enter into a free trade agreement. The member countries signed the FTA last February. The FTA will come into force from July 2006. The BIMST-EC members will exchange negative lists and discuss on fast track and normal track under trade in goods during the meeting, a senior official at MoICS said. “All the member countries are expected to present their negative list as agreed in last meeting held in Yangon,” he added.

Nepal’s negative list mostly comprises of agro- and herbal- products with medicinal value.

According to the officials, Nepal has enlisted about 1,200 products in the negative list. As per the FTA protocol of BIMST-EC, there will be two types of custom rates in normal track — zero per cent and one to five per cent, whereas the customs duty should be lowered to zero per cent under fast track. At present the trade volume among the BIMST-EC member countries stands at $7.3 billion, which is only four per cent of the total trade volume. After the identification of new areas to further strengthen economic cooperation, the trade volume among the member countries is expected to grow substantially.