Nepal fails to report country policy updates at WTO in time
KATHMANDU, July 21: The government has dragged its feet to timely report the country´s policy updates to the fellow World Trade Organization (WTO) members even as Nepal´s commitment at the Organization required it to report them by April, 2012.
Though submission of such report, under which Nepal needs to clearly inform the changes and update it effects in trade and other national policies, is not a binding obligations, its compliance is considered crucial in sending a message that the country is investment and trade friendly.
“Submitting policy briefs on time builds a good image of the country among the other member in the WTO regime. Sadly, apathy to adhere to this moral obligation have repeatedly portrayed our image negatively,” said Dr Posh Raj Pandey, former member of the National Planning Commission (NPC), who was also engaged in the process of country´s accession to the WTO.
Officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) supposed to carry out this task admitted of the adverse impact. But they failed to give convincing reasons behind the delay.
“We have already started the preparations and are trying to forward the policy updates at the earliest,” said Ravi Bhattarai, under secretary of MoCS. Though he too remained silent on the reason behind Nepal consistently failing to comply with the obligations, knowledgeable sources said lack of zeal and dedications of the concerned staff themselves were the main reason.
“The reality is that maintaining a good working relationship with the multilateral trading partners is simply not in the priority of the Ministry. Hence, not even the top MoCS care whether the ministry carried out tasks as committed at the WTO,” said the source.
This is not the first time the country missed complying with the WTO commitments since it joined the multilateral trading regime in 2004.
Records of the MoCS shows the country had failed to enact competition and other laws and update trade and other policies on time in the initial years of membership. Though the country has presently fulfilled almost all binding commitments, it has always been dragging its feet to comply with commitments that are not compulsory, but exist as moral obligations.
“Very recently, the Ministry had missed the deadline to submit trade policy review as well,” said Dr Pandey. Although the WTO commitment schedule had sought Nepal to submit the trade policy review in December, 2011, the MoCS did so only in February 2012.
Under the WTO norms, all WTO members need to submit their policy updates to the organization so that other member countries can clearly know the status of tariff lines, rules and regulations related with goods and services they trade on.
Such transparency is considered crucial in maintaining effectiveness of the multilateral trading.