Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal requested Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to allow Nepal use Mongla and Chittagong Ports during the meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister at Bangladesh House in SAARC village, Thimpu.
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister said that she had already talked to Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the issue during her India visit in January this year. She said that Nepal — with huge potential of producing hydro-power — could benefit from exporting electricity to Bangladesh.
During the meeting,the issue of regional connectivity featured prominently in the discussion. The two prime ministers also discussed various issues of bilateral interests, including expansion of trade and business between the two countries. Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni was also present during the meeting.
Meanwhile, the scheduled meeting of the commerce secretaries of Bangladesh and Nepal in Dhaka next week — to facilitate bilateral trade and establish connectivity between the two countries under a proposed transit deal — is postponed.
The meeting was supposed to focus on further integration in sub-regional perspectives and mutual recognition of each other’s testing and standardisation certificates, according to experts. The commerce secretaries of the two countries are expected to devise a strategy for the implementation of relevant clauses of the joint communiqué, signed by the premiers of India and Bangladesh at New Delhi in January.
A joint communiqué, co-signed by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina has assured of giving
Nepal and Bhutan access to Mongla and Chittagong ports. The prime ministers — in the joint communiqué — also agreed that Rohanpur-Singabad broad gauge railway link would be available for transit to Nepal.
“The upcoming secretary level meeting between Dhaka and Kathmandu will pave the way for implementation of commitments made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during
her recent visit to New Delhi to boost the sub-regional integration on both trade and connectivity fronts,” the Bangladesh Ministry of Commerce said.
Besides, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries on mutual recognition of standardisation is likely to be inked at the meeting. The trade talks to be held between the countries will also focus on problems relating to loading and unloading of goods at zero point of the border.
At present, Nepali trucks cannot enter Bangladesh and they need to load/unload at zero point of the border. Most of the traded goods of Nepal
are carried via Banglabandha land port.
Similarly, due to absence of such agreement, Nepali trucks cannot reach the warehouses of the land port and they need to wait on no man’s land for Bangladeshi trucks to come for re-loading, which increases the cost of business.
The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries is very low, less than $60 million a year. Bangladesh exported goods worth $6.70 million to Nepal in 2008-2009, its imports figured $53 million. Major exports from Bangladesh to Nepal include pharmaceuticals, woven garments, plastic goods, furnace oil, zippers, duck down, dry cell battery, ceramic table ware and handicrafts. Pulses, lentils, rice and wheat make up Bangladesh’s import basket from Nepal.
Nepal’s merchandise exports during the first eight months of the current fiscal year declined by eight per cent to Rs 40.41 billion against a growth of 16.2 per cent in the corresponding period of last fiscal year.
On a monthly basis, the merchandise exports, however grew by 8.9 per cent in February-March as against a decline of 0.8 per cent in the corresponding month of the previous year.