Consultations to be held before technical meeting
- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu
May 23, 2016- The Ministry of Commerce wants to hold consultations with Chinese Embassy officials first to prepare for a technical level meeting planned with a Chinese team to formulate a protocol to the recently signed Transit Transport Agreement (TTA).Nepal and China signed the TTA during Prime Minister KP Oli’s visit to Beijing last March. The ministry is planning to hold meetings with Chinese officials within this week, according to Joint Secretary Ravi Shanker Sainju. Nepal’s third country trade is presently conducted only through Indian territory. The TTA with China allows Nepal to transport its imports and exports via the northern neighbour’s territory. However, the TTA is just a framework and is incomplete without the protocol. In international relations, a protocol is generally a treaty or international agreement that supplements a previous treaty or pact. The protocol to the TTA will include details about customs arrangements, mode of transport, types of cargo and operational modality. The Commerce Ministry had been awaiting the arrival of the Chinese technical team so that it could work with the Nepali negotiating team to formulate the protocol, but it decided to talk with embassy officials first after they expressed interest in discussing the protocol. “However, we will not discuss the technical details of the protocol during the meeting,” said Sainju. “Such details will be discussed with the technical team from China which will arrive after the meeting with embassy officials.”Once the Chinese technical team reaches Kathmandu, a joint Nepal-China technical team will be formed, and this group will develop the protocol which will contain transport and transit details. “During the meeting with embassy officials, we will discuss the ranks of the officials who will represent the two countries in the joint technical team,” added Sainju. Nepal has not decided at what level it will be represented in the joint technical team, but it will contain representatives from the Commerce, Foreign, Finance and Law ministries. The Foreign Ministry has asked the Commerce Ministry to develop and enable the protocol within six months, but it is expected to be completed well before that. The Commerce Ministry has already drafted an action plan to develop and implement the protocol. The action plan contains two things to do—form a study team to identify possible trade routes between Nepal and China in addition to Chinese ports through which goods are imported, and form a negotiating team which will conduct dialogue with its Chinese counterpart. The study team will identify suitable ports in China where Nepal’s imports from third countries will be delivered. According to experts, an efficient transport network and simplified paperwork and information system will be essential to make practical use of the transit facility, and such things must be included in the protocol. The freedom of transit provided to landlocked states under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea can only be fully exercised through bilateral agreements signed by landlocked states. Thus Nepal will be able to enjoy its freedom of transit through China under the TTA, but this can only happen after an effective protocol is enabled.