Nepal, B’desh to hold trade talks

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 19:

The commerce secretary-level meeting of Nepal and Bangladesh, scheduled for April 20 and 21 in Dhaka is to discuss issues related to trade, transit, investment and economic promotion between the two countries. A five-member delegation led by Bharat Bahadur Thapa, secretary

at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies, left for Dhaka today to take part in the meeting. Siddiqur Rahman Choudury, commerce secretary of Bangladesh, will lead the Bangladeshi delegation. “The meeting will focus on increasing trade volume between the two countries, duty-free related issues, tariff reduction and counter trade. Likewise, transport modality agreement for cargo transportation and linking of Kathmandu and Dhaka through bus services will also be discussed,” said Humayun Kabir, ambassador of Bangladesh to Nepal.

The meeting would be of importance in strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries for expanding economic activities, said Kabir, while briefing reporters in Kathmandu,

today. The present talk is a part of a regular high-level consultation on economic matters between the two countries. The last meeting was held in Kathmandu in August 2002. “Increasing volume of bilateral trade, addressing transit-related issues, promotion and exploration of new avenues in investment would be major agendas of the meeting,” said Thapa. Though the forthcoming meeting has been termed as a ‘regular meeting’, Dhaka is likely to push for finalising a draft agreements on using Mongla port for third country export-import purposes, transport agreement on cargo vehicles to and from the port, and introduction of bus services between the two countries.

Nepal is likely to put forward issues of duty-free market access for Nepali commodities such as agro produces and fast moving consumer goods. The counter trade proposal and custom tariff reduction will also be discussed at the meeting. Under the proposed transport agreement, Bangladesh would allow Nepali vehicles to enter Mongla port through the Bangla Bandh land port, which links the Nepali frontier through a 35-km Phulbari road in Indian territory.

Currently, Nepali vehicles cannot enter Bangladesh’s territory and goods have to be unloaded at Bangla Bandh land port. Though Nepal’s transportation agreement with India allows Nepali vehicles to use the Phulbari road, Bangladeshi vehicles cannot come up to Kakarvitta, as no such an agreement has been signed between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh has already decided to slash the port handling charge at the Mongla port by 50 per cent for Nepali exports and imports. However, the bilateral trade has not been able to pick up at the desired level. Bangladesh has also constructed a bridge over Rupsa River along the Phulbari road as agreed in the last meeting. Apart from official discussions, the Nepali delegation will also call on the Bangladeshi commerce minister and finance secretary during their visit to Dhaka. The delegation is also scheduled to visit EPZs of Dhaka. Nepal imported goods worth Rs 62.1 million in last six months of 2004 outstripping the figure of Rs 31.1 million exports to Bangladesh.