The much-anticipated Nepal-China trade talks ended in Kathmandu Tuesday without any tangible progress in addressing Nepal’s concerns related to bilateral trade, let alone agreeing on any set of measures to boost Nepali exports to the world’s second largest economy. The two-day deliberations of the Nepal-Tibet Trade Facilitation Committee (NTTFC) became just another annual ritual where the Chinese trotted out a bunch of assurances to close Nepal’s gigantic trade deficit, but with no concrete plan to translate such assurances into action.
A number of non-trade barriers that the Chinese have put in place have been the biggest stumbling block to increasing Nepal’s exports to the northern neighbor. Against this background, it is worrisome that the two-day talks failed to chalk out measures to deal with the pressing concerns, and this at a time when Nepal’s bilateral trade deficit with China is a stomach-churning Rs 40 billion almost. Such ballooning deficit is not in the best interests of either country.
Agreed, Nepal does not have a whole range of products that can compete in China’s flourishing market, but it does have some exportable agro-products like meat, white flour and ghee that, we believe, would be greeted with delight in the Chinese market if only the current non-tariff barriers were not there. In this connection, it is disturbing to note that Nepal’s recent attempts to export meat products to China failed after Chinese quarantine authorities labeled them poor-quality without going into any details.
Nepal has been raising a host of other issues like problems in making payments, opaque quarantine rules, frequent changes in customs regulations without due information and mistreatment of Nepali traders by Chinese officials since quite some time. But it seems all our pleas have fallen on deaf ears in China.
Undoubtedly, decades-long and generous Chinese financial and technical cooperation have played a remarkable role in accelerating Nepal’s economic development, and China’s policy of non-interference in our internal affairs has been highly valued by Nepal. We do appreciate these facts.
All the more surprising then that China’s response to sorting out the serious hindrances that Nepali products are facing while trying to enter the Tibetan market has been lukewarm. Owing to non-tariff barriers, poor infrastructure for cross-border trade and complex and lengthy payment procedures, Nepal has not been able to benefit from Chinese market potential.
We urge China as the world’s second largest economy which not only weathered the global financial crisis but made the quickest recovery from it, to be more sensitive toward the dire trade imbalances that Nepal is facing. We believe that hindrance-free market access for Nepali products bound for Tibet will be the greatest possible help that the Chinese can provide to accelerate Nepal’s economic development.