KATHMANDU, Jan 3: The delay in holding joint secretary level trade talks between Nepal and Bangladesh has pushed back the implementation of crucial trade agreements, including zero tariff facility under which 100 Nepali goods can enjoy free market access in the country´s second largest trading partner in South Asia.
The secretary level meeting between the two countries held in Kathmandu on June 30, 2012 had entrusted the responsibility of finalizing the modalities for implementation of major points agreed at the meeting to joint secretaries at commerce ministries of both the countries.
But works on finalizing the modalities have not begun, as the two countries are yet to agree dates for the joint secretary level meeting.
“We have recently received a letter from the Bangladeshi side for the joint secretary level talks,” Lal Mani Joshi, secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS), said.
The date for the proposed talks, however, has not been fixed.
Joshi said the meeting was delayed due to transfer of Mohamed Ghulam Hussain, the then Bangladesh commerce secretary who signed the trade pact, to another ministry.
The joint secretary of both the countries must finalize the final modality for implementation of the pact before secretary level meeting in Dhaka in February.
The secretary level meeting held in Kathmandu had agreed to operate transit cargoes between the two countries - a significant step to facilitate trade between the two South Asian nations. The two sides had also agreed to finalize the modalities on operating carriage transit cargo through Chittagong and Mangla ports by December, 2012.
In the meeting, Bangladesh, which slaps up to 60 percent customs duty on Nepali agro- products, had expressed readiness to provide preferential market access for 100 Nepali primary and agriculture products. Similarly, both the sides had agreed to finalize draft agreement to operate Kathmandu-Dhaka bus service at the earliest to facilitate movement of people from both countries.
According to Nepal Tourism Board, the number of Bangladeshi tourists visiting Nepal decreased by 9.1 percent to 16,354 in 2012 compared to a year earlier.
In a bid to enhance transport connectivity between the South Asian neighbors, Bangladeshi officials have expressed commitment to upgrade transport infrastructures, including road and rail transport, to Bangladeshi ports at the earliest.
Nepal and Bangladesh have also agreed to make necessary groundwork for setting uniformity on standard of quality, quarantine system and health related criteria for traded goods as well as recognize quality certification in respective countries.
Though Nepali vegetables, vegetable seeds and fruits hold great export prospects, the country has been mainly exporting lentils in huge quantity to Bangladesh.
Data compiled by Trade and Export Promotion Center (TEPC), shows Nepal exported goods worth Rs 2.57 billion to Bangladesh in 2011/12, while Nepal imported goods worth Rs 8.09 billion from its second largest trading partner in South Asia.