Kathmandu, March 14

Nepal and the United States are planning to hold the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) council meeting in either April or May, five years after the signing of the agreement. Visiting Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative Dawn Shackleford met commerce secretary here today to discuss about the preparations of TIFA council meeting.

Nepal and the US had signed TIFA on April 15, 2011. While signing TIFA, the two countries had agreed to hold the council meeting at least once a year to ensure effectiveness of the bilateral agreement. However, the meeting has not been held since five years. The very first meeting of the council was held in the US after signing of TIFA.

During the preparatory meeting held in the commerce ministry, Nepal has proposed to organise meeting in the country, said Ravi Sainju, joint secretary at Ministry of Commerce (MoC). “The date and venue will be fixed later as per the convenience of both sides, but we are planning to hold the meeting in April or May.”

The TIFA council meeting is jointly chaired by the secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

The preparatory meeting for TIFA council meeting was also held here in July, 2014. But the preparation for SAARC summit, earthquakes of April and May and recent political turmoil stalled the TIFA meet, as per Sainju.

As the US has announced its support for trade capacity development of the country through an exclusive act for Nepal, ‘Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act’, the country will design the areas to mobilise the US support.

“The country may utilise the US support for establishment of labs, accreditation centres and cooperation on patent, trademark, and industrial designs for promoting Nepali goods in the international market,” another high level official at MoC said.

The exclusive act for Nepal recently enacted the US congress provides duty-free access for 66 Nepali items in the US market for next 10 years. The US will grant preferential treatment for Nepali products like, pashmina, headgear, shawls, leather products, scarves, carpets, travel goods, among others into the US market under the facility when the law come into force. It is reported that the law will come into effect next month after completion of some procedural stipulations.

Officials here say the upcoming council meeting will cover wide range of issues related to trade and investments. Nepal has been preparing to lure investors from the US by showcasing various projects in hydropower, tourism, industry and service sectors.

Currently, Nepal enjoys trade surplus with the US. Nepal enjoyed trade surplus of Rs 1.42 billion with the US in the first six months of current fiscal. In the review period, Nepal exported goods and services worth Rs 4.39 billion to the US and imported goods amounting to Rs 2.97 billion from the world’s largest economy.

Woollen carpets, readymade garments, handicrafts, silver jewellery, woollen and pashmina products, handmade paper products, precious stones, and articles of apparel and clothing accessories are Nepal’s major exports to the US.

Similarly, Nepal imports aircraft spare parts, machinery and mechanical appliances, optical, photographic,

cinematographic parts, pharmaceutical products, man-made staple fibres, edible vegetables, cereals, essential oil, perfumery and cosmetics from the US.