Commerce minister stresses collaboration

Kathmandu, March 20

Commerce Minister Romi Gauchan Thakali urged the concerned ministries, agencies and private sector for collaboration to cope with the ballooning trade deficit.

The country’s trade deficit is widening every year due to rising import against sluggish export. The country’s trade deficit in the first seven months of this fiscal hovered around Rs 514 billion and such deficit is expected to rise exponentially in this fiscal along with import surge of construction material for the post-earthquake reconstruction drive.

Speaking during the press-briefing organised by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) here today, Minister Thakali stated that the country could surely minimise the burgeoning trade deficit if the government agencies and private sector worked in a coordinated manner.

“Coping with trade deficit is a cross-cutting issue and coordinated approach is a must to overcome with this structural problem of the economy,” said Minister Thakali.

Rising import of consumable goods, even agricultural goods despite country’s potential to be self-reliant on agro production is a major concern, according to Minister. The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has given high priority for the productive capacity enhancement, trade-related infrastructure development to minimise the cost of trade and address the hassles of export.

Mainly, there are raft of hassles in export of agricultural goods. For this, the government has initiated the process of developing labs for certification of agro products. Exporters have been facing various problems due to lack of internationally accredited lab in the country that can issue test certificate for the agro products. The MoC plans to develop a fully-equipped lab to carry out all kinds of agro-related tests in a single location in Birgunj, which is a major trade point with India. Plant, animal, food and chemical quarantine labs will be established in the near future under Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project (NIRTTP), as per the minister.

Simultaneously, the MoC has urged the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, and Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology to initiate process for the mutual recognition agreement (MRA) with the labs of India, China, Bangladesh and other countries so that the certificate issued from the Nepali lab would be valid in these countries, according to Commerce Secretary Naindra Prasad Upadhyay.

The NIRTTP project is also assisting to develop central plant quarantine in Hariharbhawan of Lalitpur, which is expected to come into operation after two years, as per officials.

In the press-briefing today, Minister Thakali also said that construction of trade-related infrastructure — expansion of highways, construction of Inland Clearance Depots, Integrated Check Posts — have been expedited and substantial results will be seen within a year.

He further informed that the firm registration from the Department of Commerce (DoC) has been digitised to facilitate registration of companies and the MoC is planning to expand similar services to the regional offices of the DoC in the near future.

“Reforms have been initiated in administrative front for the delivery of effective and quality service,” said Minister Thakali, adding, “The small and medium enterprises as well as development of products and services included in Nepal Trade Integration Strategy, 2016 have been given high priority.”

The minister further informed that his ministry has been continuously lobbying with Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties, India to remove anti-dumping duties levied by the Indian government in Nepali jute products and the negotiation is moving in positive direction.