Easy market access, trade barrier removal top agendas
- Post Report, Kathmandu
Apr 27, 2016- Nepal and Bangladesh are scheduled to hold commerce secretary-level talks on May 11 and 12 where an agreement on providing easier market access to each other’s products and removal of trade barriers are expected to be signed. The inter-governmental committee meeting is taking place in four years, after Nepal decided to attend the talks proposed by the Bangladeshi side. A senior official at the Commerce ministry said dates have been fixed after the ministry sent a confirmation on the Bangladeshi proposal. As per an understanding reached earlier, Bangladesh will provide duty-free access to 108 Nepali products—most of which are agriculture related—while Nepal will provide preferential treatment to 50 Bangladeshi goods.
Ministry officials said Nepal has offered to reduce customs duty by 5 percentage points if the duty structure is higher than 15 percent, and by 3 percentage points if the duty level is below 15 percent. Nepal has given similar preferential treatment to Chinese products as per an agreement signed with China’s Tibet. Nepal is also considering offering duty-free access to certain Bangladeshi products in line with the South Asia Free Trade Area Agreement (Safta) within 2016. Ministry officials said it plans to sign an agreement with Bangladesh after settling pending issues at the joint secretary-level meeting. Banladesh has agreed to provide duty free access to products such as cheese, honey, rose, rhododendron and its juice, lentils, cabbage, strawberry, rice, pineapple, edible oil and raw skin. With Bangladesh providing duty-free access to Nepali products, it had sought reciprocal measures from Nepal during the last joint secretary-level meeting held in Kathmandu in April, 2015. However, Nepal has asked the Bangladeshi side to implement previously-pledged concessions first. Besides, harmonisation of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade will be the main agendas during the bilateral talks. Under the measures, the recognition of the products tested in the internationally accredited labs in both the countries will be the major issues. According to the ministry source, the memorandum of understanding regarding the issues is likely to be inked during the trade talk. Department of Food Technology and Quality Control and Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology have accredited laboratories for testing various exportable products. Both the sides will likely agree on easing customs procedures on cargo movement. Simplifying the visa process will be major agendas in the proposed trade talks. Talks will also be focusing on simplifying the visa procedures for visitors of the two countries. The agreement on Bangladesh providing on-arrival visa to Nepali visitors travelling through land is also likely to be signed. Bangladesh currently grants visas on arrival to traders with specific conditions after fulfilling lengthy procedures. Bangladesh on the other hand has also been demanding Nepal to simplify visa process for traders and employees bound for Nepal.