Govt unveils wish list for IGC meeting

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu
Nepal will also ask India to allow it to use inland waterways for the movement of cargo within the framework of trade and transit arrangements

Apr 24, 2018-Nepal will be raising issues related to quarantine, technical barriers to trade (TBT), transshipment modality, bulk cargo movement and inland waterways at the Nepal-India Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) meeting slated to start Thursday in Kathmandu.

Commerce Secretary Chandra Kumar Ghimire will lead the Nepali team while Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia will lead the Indian delegation at the two-day conference.

The Intergovernmental Sub-Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the IGC meeting. The Nepali and Indian delegations at the joint-secretary level technical meeting of the commerce ministries will be led by Rabi Shankar Sainju and Bhupindra Singh Bhalla respectively.

Sainju, who is also the spokesperson for the Commerce Ministry, said the bilateral meeting would be more comprehensive compared to past meetings. “The major focus this time too will be facilitating trade and transit through Indian territory,” said Sainju.  He added that the government would be asking the southern neighbour to help address Nepal’s widening trade deficit with India. “We have also requested a revision of the existing bilateral treaties related to trade and transit to make this happen.” The IGC committee was constituted under a Nepal-India trade treaty. Committee meetings provide a platform to resolve trade related issues and discuss ways to enhance bilateral trade. The last meeting of the IGC was hosted by India in June 2016 in New Delhi.

As per the Commerce Ministry, Nepal is likely to focus on the railway service agreement, quarantine check, inter-bank transaction and bulk cargo this time too.

Nepal will also ask India to allow it to use inland waterways for the movement of cargo within the framework of trade and transit arrangements and provide additional access to the sea. The use of inland waterways is expected to result in cost-effective and efficient movement of cargo.

Currently, India allows Nepal-bound cargo to be transported by inland waterways up to Kalighat, Banaras. “We will be requesting India to permit Nepal to use this multi-model port,” he said.

Nepal will also be requesting India to allow it to use sea ports in Gujarat and Mumbai on the west coast. “At present, Nepal uses Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam ports in India. “If India provides access to these sea ports, it will reduce the cost of trading with third countries.”

Sainju said that they would be urging India to adopt a flexible policy regarding sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures on the export of agro products to India. Nepali exporters have been facing problems when shipping farm products and medicinal products due to the need for certification.

“We will be urging India to set up an integrated quarantine check system to facilitate exports of Nepali agro products to India,” he said. Nepal operates quarantine labs at major customs points on the Nepal-India border. “However, lack of experts at the quarantine labs is one of the major difficulties that has been holding back Nepal’s exports of agro products,” Sainju said.

The trade treaty signed between the two countries states that Nepali agricultural products can be exported to India at zero or nominal customs duty. Although Nepali exporters have been producing phyto-sanitary certification issued by domestic laboratories, Nepali products have not been put on the positive list by Indian customs.

Meanwhile, a proposed review of the railway service agreement has not happened due to the failure to finalise a transshipment modality. Currently, Nepal’s third country imports are required to clear Indian customs in Kolkata. The government has been asking India to allow customs clearance to be done at points closest to the Nepal border which would mean much savings to Nepali importers. India has agreed in principle to simplify the transshipment process, but the provision has not been implemented.

Sainju said the ministry had recently launched an electronic cargo tracking system that would make it easier to amend the transshipment modality. “As most of the documentation procedures are being done electronically, we will be asking the Indian side to accept electronic documentation and provide pre-clearance service to importers.”

Similarly, expanding the limits of the bulk cargo system under which goods are transported in open railway wagons is another issue that will be discussed at the IGC meeting.  Currently, fertiliser, coal and cement clinker are transported as bulk cargo through the Raxaul-Birgunj gateway only out of the 22 Nepal-India customs points.



Published: 24-04-2018 08:31

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