Discussions to be held on reopening Tatopani route

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 11, 2018-

Nepali and Chinese government officials are slated to meet in the border town of Khasa to discuss the modality of reopening the Tatopani-Khasa transit point which has remained closed after being damaged by the 2015 earthquake.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the talks will also form a joint committee to create a plan to reopen the border point which used to be the busiest overland transit point between Nepal and China.

The northern neighbour agreed to reopen the border crossing during the eighth Nepal-China Tibet Trade Facilitation Committee meeting held in Kathmandu last month. China has been insisting on carrying out a joint study by conducting a site visit before reopening the route.

The Nepal-China Tibet Trade Facilitation Committee, a joint mechanism set up to  promote trade between Nepal and China’s Tibet region, also deals with bilateral trade issues. Ministry spokesperson Rabi Shankar Sainju said the bilateral meeting would form a joint inspection team. “The team will carry out an on-site study to explore ways to reopen the border point,” Sainju said. He said that the Tatopani border point could become operational from May next year.

Nepal has long been pushing China to reopen the Tatopani-Khasa border point. The recent development has raised hopes that the route will be revived soon.

After Tatopani was closed, commerce was rerouted through the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border crossing which is currently the main conduit for trade with the northern neighbour. On a normal day, 50-70 containers pass through the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point. However, traders face difficulties due to the tough terrain and natural disasters like landslides triggered by rain and snow during the winter.

After the Tatopani-Khasa overland route was closed, a major portion of Nepal-China trade is being conducted through Kolkata port. According to the Department of Customs, annual exports to China swelled 18 percent to Rs2.43 billion in 2017-18 compared to 2014-15. During the same period, imports from the northern neighbour jumped 61 percent to Rs159.98 billion.

According to the ministry, restoration work on the 26-km Barhabise-Tatopani highway in Nepal and on the highway in Nyalam in China has been completed. China has also completed the construction of customs, immigration and quarantine offices at Nyalam. In response to Nepal’s plea, Chinese officials have repeatedly been urging Nepali authorities to step up security and surveillance at the border so that trade can be resumed.

Meanwhile, Nepal has been saying that trade should be conducted in the usual way, but China wants Nepal-bound containers to be sealed at Nyalam and opened only after they arrive at Tatopani dry port.

The dry port is being built with Chinese grant assistance. China plans to complete the dry port by April 2019 and it hand over to the Nepal government by May 20, 2019. Sainju said the joint inspection committee would also fix the modality of operating the dry port.

Published: 11-08-2018 08:26

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