Tatopani customs formally opens, Rasuwagadi still closed

Kathmandu, April 9

Twelve days after the government decided to reopen the major trade points with China, the Chinese authorities formally reopened the border check point and customs point at Tatopani of Sindhupalchowk district on Wednesday.

According to customs officials, after the Tatopani customs was reopened Nepali importers imported some medical goods. On the first day, 10 boxes of hand sanitisers and 19 boxes of face masks were imported to Nepal.

“This is just the beginning and we expect the trade between the two countries to pick up gradually, especially of medical products, among other goods, in the coming days,” said Suman Dahal, director general of the Department of Customs (DoC), adding, “The customs point has been opened after following the necessary procedures to stop the spread of the coronavirus as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.”

However, the Rasuwagadi customs point still remains closed after the Chinese government informed the Nepali authorities that it would not be opened for the time being.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, China had sent information that it would allow trade, especially of essential commodities, only through the Tatopani customs point at the moment.

The government had sent a letter via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 25 asking the Chinese government to reopen the Tatopani and Rasuwagadi customs points.

The government had shut down the border points with China on January 29 after the coronavirus spread massively in the northern neighbour.

As per an official at the commerce ministry, China had sent a message that the Tatopani customs point would be opened on condition that only essential goods would be imported to Nepal.

According to Dahal, the Chinese authorities are scared that the coronavirus infection could spill over to China if all the border points are reopened for trade immediately.

He further said that Nepali traders are ready to bring the goods which have been stalled in the safe zone at present.

“The Chinese authorities have informed us that the containers which have been stalled are in the designated cold warehouse and that all goods are safe and secure,” Dahal informed.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.