Nepal | August 10, 2020

Meeting to finalise TTA protocol only after elections

Himalayan News Service
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Ministry of Finance

Photo: Skanda Gautam/ THT

Kathmandu, September 18

The meeting with China to finalise the protocol of transit transport agreement (TTA) has been put on hold till provincial and federal elections that are scheduled for November 26 and December 7, respectively.

Nepal and China had held the initial meeting to draft the protocol of TTA in the first week of November last year in Tibet and agreed to finalise the protocol during the meeting in Kathmandu after exchanging the draft protocol for comments. However, Nepal has yet to organise the meeting of the authorities of Nepal and China.

According to the high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Commerce, the meeting that was supposed to be organised before mid-September this year has been postponed in view of the provincial and federal elections.

The draft of protocol has been finalised after incorporating comments from the Chinese side, said Ravi Shankar Sainju, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce.

The Ministry of Commerce; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport; Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were involved in developing the draft protocol. The Ministry of Commerce of the Nepal government and the Ministry of Transport China are taking the lead to conclude the protocol of TTA.

“Nepal has sought access to few land and sea ports of China for third-country trade, and names of the ports will be finalised during the meeting,” said Sainju, adding, “We are exploring to identify the convenient ports, which could also provide an opportunity for Nepal to reap benefits from the northern neighbour’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

Along with the seaports, the transit protocol has defined the transit operation modality, import and export procedures, mode of transport and customs clearance, among others. The draft protocol has proposed multimodal transport — road and rail — to carry out Nepal’s third-country trade via China.

Experts have said that the TTA with China could provide an additional window for trade in case the supply situation via India gets disrupted for any reason. However, commercial trade via China will not be economically viable unless robust connectivity — road and rail — are put in place.

“Transit facility from China could be instrumental in the long run if the country is able to develop next generation infrastructure to connect with the northern neighbour under the Belt and Road Initiative of the government of China,” said Purushottam Ojha, former commerce secretary.

Nepal and China had signed TTA during then prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China on March 21 last year. Through TTA, the northern neighbour had principally agreed to provide transit (railways/roadways and sea/land ports) for Nepal’s third country trade. However the agreement will come into force only when both the governments sign and exchange the protocol of TTA.

Till date, the country has been allowed to use two ports of India — Kolkata/Haldia and Visakhapatnam — as gateways for third-country trade.

A version of this article appears in print on September 19, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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