WASHINGTON, April 7: Nepal and the United States has begun talks on trade, investment and formation of a council to strengthen economic ties and give new impetus to trade and investment between the two countries.
Visiting Commerce Secretary Purushottam Ojha, who led the Nepali trade delegation for negotiations, discussed on various trade-related issues and Nepal´s concerns on market access in the US with the senior White House officials.
They had met with Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Program Bureau William Craft.
During the talks, the Nepali side pushed for duty-free entry facility for Nepali goods, including the readymade garment, to the US and requested technical assistance for trade development. The US officials, on the other hand, requested Nepal to improve business environment in the country so that the US companies based in South Asia could expand their operations in Nepal.
They also suggested the Nepali officials to work for attracting US multi-national companies based in South Asia, instead of seeking direct investment and businesses from the investors based in the US territory. They also Nepal has higher chances of getting businesses and investment from the US business units operating in the South Asia than those based on the other side of the Atlantic. Most of the US multi-national companies in the region have their bases in India.
Blake and Craft also asked the Nepali authorities to do away with problems like political instability, labor unrest, power crisis, infrastructural bottlenecks and fragile security situation. Unless these constraints are addressed, they said Nepal will not get substantial investment from the US.
Nepal pushes for zero-tariff facility
Seeks more US investment
US seeks end of instability, labor unrest, power crisis
Suggests Nepal to diversify trade
The US officials also suggested Nepal to focus on expanding export basket and diversify trade, instead of relying on a single product -- particularly readymade garment -- to address unemployment problems and reduce trade deficit.
Contrary to the US officials´ statements, local manufacturers, however, have been saying that the industry can still bounce back provided that they get duty free market access facility in the US. The Nepali delegation has included zero tariff facility for garment as one of its agendas for talks.
The delegation also pushed for duty-free facility on coffee, pashmina, woolen carpet and tea, among others. Apart from discussing on these facilities, the two sides are scheduled to hold article-wise talks on Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on Tuesday, when they will meet senior officials of US Trade Representative (USTR).
In the TIFA, the two sides will mainly discuss on non-tariff barriers in bilateral trade, ways to promote protection of intellectual property rights and setting up a permanent high-level body that will meet frequently to identify constraints to trade and investment and solve them.