Kathmandu, April 12

The dates to hold long-stalled Nepal-Bangladesh commerce secretary-level talks have been proposed for May 11 and 12 in Dhaka.

During the meet, both countries will endorse the agreements on preferential market access for products of each other’s country and finalise critical trade facilitation measures discussed during the joint secretary-level talks of commerce ministries last year. The commerce secretary-level meeting was last held in July 2012.

The upcoming commerce secretary-level talks will focus on implementation of preferential market access facility agreed by both countries and reduction of non-tariff measures to boost the trade relations between the two countries.

Some other steps for trade facilitation that had been discussed during the joint secretary-level talks last year and are likely to be finalised in the upcoming meeting include facilitation of cargo movement, simplification of immigration rules and linking the two countries through bus service.

Nepal and Bangladesh, during the joint secretary-level talks, had agreed to provide preferential market access for some products. Nepal agreed to provide preferential market access to 50 products for Bangladeshi exporters. Most of the products incorporated in this list are various species of fish — trout, catfish, shark fish, tilapia, among others. Nepal had also agreed to extend preferential market access to potatoes, bamboo shoots, cereals, roasted cereals, among others, from Bangladesh, according to the officials of the Ministry of Commerce.

Similarly, Bangladesh pledged duty-free access to 108 Nepali products. Nepali exporters can enjoy duty-free facility in agricultural products like cheese, honey, rose, rhododendron and its juice, lentils, cabbage, strawberry, rice, pineapple, edible oil, raw skin (of sheep, lamb).

Reportedly, commerce secretary-level talks will endorse the  agreements of joint secretary-level talks. More importantly, both the countries have agreed to ease quarantine-related hurdles without compromising the standards and remove technical barriers to trade. In this regard, both the countries will recognise the quality certificates of the products issued from each other’s laboratories.

Both countries have principally agreed to set similar standards to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and the agreement in this regard will be signed during the commerce secretary-level talks.

As Bangladesh has agreed to extend on-arrival visa in Burimari and Banglabandha for Nepali tourists travelling on land routes via India, Nepal will also seek facilitation on immigration. Nepal and Bangladesh plan to conduct bus service from Kathmandu to Dhaka and vice versa and the pacts in this regard will be signed during the commerce secretary-level talks. For ease in movement of Bangladeshi tourists to Nepal, both the countries will request India to provide transit visa for Bangladeshi tourists coming to Nepal at Phulbari of India. Nepal and Bangladesh are connected through 52 km land over the Indian territory and the move is expected to bring new impetus in inflow of Bangladeshi tourists to Nepal via land route.

The commerce secretary-level talks between the two countries is taking place following India’s approval to utilise Rohanpur (Bangladesh)-Singhabad (India) rail transit for trading goods between Nepal and Bangladesh. During Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India in February, Indian government had agreed to allow movement of traffic to and from Nepal and Bangladesh via Indian territory by using Singhabad Railway Station in India and Rohanpur Railway in Bangladesh. However, few other arrangements, like establishment of customs point in Singhabad Railway Station, are critical to start trade between the two countries.

Moreover, as India has also pledged to ensure seamless movement of vehicles from Kakarvitta to Banglabandha — the only trade route in operation between Nepal and Bangladesh, but which allows only restricted movement of vehicles at present — both countries are preparing to implement transit cargo and carriage operation guidelines for effective and efficient movement of cargo in transit.

Besides Rohanpur-Singhabad transit, Nepal will urge Bangladesh to convert Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh) rail line into broad gauge. The two countries had been using rail route for trading goods, but  transit facility was suspended in 2005 after India upgraded its rail line to broad gauge from metre gauge.