Kathmandu, April 17

Stakeholders say that the upcoming Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) council meeting could be a milestone in enhancing Nepal’s trade and investment relations with the worlds’ largest economy.

The authorities from the United States and Nepal are going to sit for the third round of TIFA council meeting on Thursday in the Capital. The meeting, going to be held in the country for the first time after signing of TIFA with the US in April 2011, may provide huge benefits for Nepal, said Kevin C Price, economic and commercial officer of the United States Embassy in Kathmandu. “As the duty-free facility for the 66 Nepali items has been granted by the United States government through exclusive act for the next 10 years, the country should better utilise this facility.”

The products under 77 tariff lines of the US can enjoy duty-free facility and this has already come into force since the beginning of this year. Nepal’s export of the 66 items that have been granted duty-free access to the US market in last fiscal was around $8 million.

“The United States has expected that the Nepali economy will benefit from the sustained growth of export,” stated Tristram Perry, chief of the Public Affairs Section at United States Embassy in Kathmandu. “This facility will provide an opportunity to create more entrepreneurs in the country.”

The Trade Preference Act covers various items, including carpets and rugs, shawls, scarves, luggage articles, handbags, pocket goods (such as wallets), travel bags and other containers, headbands, hats, gloves, among others.

The US Embassy in Kathmandu is also organising a meeting with private sector representatives interested to produce and export the goods covered by Trade Preference Act to interact with the officials from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Friday, a day after a TIFA council meeting. The USTR delegation, led by the Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott, is scheduled to visit Nepal for the TIFA council meeting.

The TIFA council meeting will discuss expanding trade and investment relations between the two countries. According to the officials of the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), the TIFA council meeting will discuss various reform initiatives taken by the government to enable the investment-friendly atmosphere and seek the support from the US to bring in investment as well as technology to Nepal.

As Trade Preference Act has envisioned providing technical support to Nepal in trade capacity building, the areas where the support can be extended by the US will be finalised during the meeting. The government will try to obtain support for the capacity building of the government institutions and for legal reforms to enable investment-friendly environment.

Nepal has recently framed the integrated Intellectual Property Rights Policy with the support of the United States.

As per MoC officials, the issue of utilisation of service waiver is also a prime agenda of TIFA meeting. Nepali authorities will discuss potential areas of service trade under the service trade waiver extended by the developed countries.

Moreover, the government will also request the USTR officials to extend preferential market access to major readymade garment produced in the country.