Nepal-China meeting scheduled for July-end
Kathmandu, July 14
Nepali and Chinese officials have scheduled a meeting here in the capital city at end of this month to finalise the protocol of transit transport agreement (TTA).
Officials of both the countries had recently met in Beijing to expedite the exchange of protocol to bring the TTA into force. However, the Chinese side had presented a different proposal than the draft of protocol exchanged between the two countries. A delegation of Nepali officials led by Commerce Secretary Chandra Kumar Ghimire had held a meeting with Chinese officials last week, but during the discussion, the Chinese side proposed delivering Nepal-bound cargoes imported from third countries at Kyirong.
The Nepali side had proposed utilising any sea or land port of China as a gateway port for third-country trade from northern neighbour and sought a multimodal transport facility.
But taking a step forward, the Chinese side floated the idea of Nepali traders conducting third-country trade from any of its port and that it would ensure trans-shipment facility to Kyirong, as Nepal and China are planning to connect Kathmandu and Kyirong by rail.
Now, the Nepali side will draft a protocol as per the Chinese proposal and the Chinese delegation has been invited for further discussions at end of the month, as per officials of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The delegation led by Secretary Ghimire comprised joint secretaries from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport; Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and executive directors from Trade and Export Promotion Centre and Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board.
The transit protocol has defined the transit operation modality, import and export procedures, and mode of transport and customs clearance, among others. The trans-shipment facility to Kyirong will be proposed. 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, according to experts.
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.
Nepal and China had signed TTA during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China on March 21, 2016. Oli was the prime minister back then too. 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.