TIFA council meeting to be held tomorrow

Kathmandu, June 8

Nepal and the United States will sit for talks on Friday, five years after the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed. The TIFA council meeting, led by Commerce Minister from Nepal and United States Trade Representative (USTR), will hold discussions on enhancing bilateral trade and investment.

A seven-member team, led by Commerce Minister Jayanta Chand, comprising commerce secretary, agriculture secretary, joint secretary from commerce ministry, director general of Department of Customs, and under secretary from the Prime Ministers’ Office left for Washington on Tuesday. Ambassador of Nepal to the United States Arjun Kumar Karki and Economic Consular at the Nepali Embassy Kailash Raj Pokhrel will also join the delegation.

The Nepali delegation will participate in a public hearing programme on Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) market access for 66 Nepali products in the US market. The USTR will provide justification regarding the deal during the programme, which is one of the procedural stipulations to bring the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, 2015, into enforcement.

The US Congress, through the exclusive Act, has extended DFQF facility for 66 products to support inclusive and sustainable growth of the country in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes of last year.

On Friday, the TIFA council meeting will be held during which the Nepali delegation will seek support from the US for trade capacity enhancement of the country and invite US investors to invest in Nepal.

As the country has been facing hassles of sanitary and phyto sanitary measures in export of agriculture products and livestock, Nepal will seek US support for establishment of labs and accreditation centres. Similarly, cooperation for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) like patents, trademarks, and industrial designs to promote Nepali goods in the international market is another agenda of the Nepali delegation.

Similarly, customs facilitation is also on the agenda of TIFA council meeting. The US had pledged to support Nepal in implementation of trade facilitation measures as agreed during the World Trade Organisation’s Bali ministerial conference in 2013. Besides, Nepal will seek support from the US for institutional and human capacity development for better trade negotiations.

Currently, Nepal enjoys trade surplus with the US. Nepal enjoyed trade surplus of around Rs 600 million during the first nine months of this fiscal as against Rs 1.25 billion of the corresponding period of last fiscal. Nepali goods and services worth Rs 6.67 billion were exported to the US against imports of Rs 6.07 billion in first nine months of this fiscal.

The trade surplus amount with the US has been gradually narrowing in recent years as import from the world’s largest economy has been increasing with each passing year.

Woollen carpets, readymade garments, handicraft items, 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 United States.

Similarly, Nepal imports aircraft spare parts, machinery and mechanical appliances, optical, photographic and cinematographic parts, pharmaceutical products, man-made staple fibres, vegetables, cereals, essential oil, perfumery and cosmetics from the US.

The very first meeting of council was held in the United States after the signing of the TIFA on April 15, 2011. While signing the TIFA, the two countries had agreed to hold the council meeting at least once a year to ensure effectiveness of the bilateral agreement.