The visiting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs of the United States Department of State Ambassador Donald Lu met CPN-Maoist Centre Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal today and told him that he wanted to see the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement signed between the USA and Nepal ratified by December 14.

Dahal told mediapersons after his meeting with Lu that there was no pressure from the American side, but the latter said that if a decision on the MCC was taken by December 14, the US could take a decision too on the issue as other countries were asking for assistance.

According to Dahal, the US team told him that the US could give the amount to other countries if Nepal opted out of the deal. Dahal told the US team that he discussed the issue with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba yesterday and he was planning to discuss it in an all-party meeting, as well as with other stakeholders, including journalists.

Dahal told Lu that the ruling parties would reach a decision on the deal before December 14. He also told the American side that the MCC deal got a little complicated as the requirement of Parliamentary ratification, which was not part of the original document, was later inserted in the deal.

Dahal said that the ratification was the key issue.

Some leaders of the CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN- UML, and CPN (United Socialist) have opposed the $500 MCC project, saying the deal was against the national interests. They say the deal could be ratified only if some amendments are made to it, but Vice-president of MCC Compact Operation Fatema Z Sumar had written to the finance minister in September clarifying that the agreement signed in 2017 could not be amended at this time.

The visiting US team also met UML Chair KP Sharma Oli separately today.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka received Lu and his team this afternoon. During the meeting, discussions were held on wide areas of Nepal-US friendship and cooperation, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Khadka thanked the US government for valuable medical support, including vaccines during the COV- ID-19 pandemic.

The two sides exchanged views on the long-standing US cooperation to Nepal, including MCC projects that could be important for the country's economic development.

The Assistant Secretary of State, while conveying to the foreign minister the congratulatory message from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, looked forward to working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on matters of mutual interests. He also assured the foreign minister of the continued US cooperation to Nepal.

The conversation also covered various areas of Nepal's development priorities, as well as the role of trade and investment in the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Acknowledging the adverse impacts of climate change on climate vulnerable mountainous countries like Nepal, the two sides discussed effective climate action and the need for financing adaptation and mitigation measures.

The two sides discussed the dynamics of Nepal-US relations in the changed international context as well as ways and means to take forward bilateral engagements, including through the exchange of high-level visits, economic partnerships, and people-to-people contacts.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.