Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nepal-US sign trade agreement

Nepal and the US signed a framework agreement aimed at enhancing trade and investment between the two countries – replacing the bilateral trade and economic agreement of six decade ago.
The US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari signed the new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on behalf of their respective countries yesterday evening in Washington.
The new agreement will provide a forum for bilateral talks to enhance trade and investment, discuss specific trade issues and promote more comprehensive trade agreements between the two countries.
“The US has now an institutional framework for discussing trade and investment issues,” Kirk said, after signing the agreement.
”It will help us learn more about each other’s legal, regulatory and trading regimes,” he said, in the statement, adding that the US looks forward to deepening its relationship with Nepal and breaking down any and all barriers that may prevent our producers, exporters and ranchers from selling their products in Nepal.
The agreement will now help to enter into a trade agreement between the two countries apart from the US-Nepal Council on Trade and Investment that will address a wide range of trade and investment issues like capacity building and technical assistance, intellectual property rights, worker rights, environmental protection and removing barriers to bilateral trade.
The TIFA further creates a mechanism for dialogues on initiatives for expanding trade through enhanced cooperation and more comprehensive agreements. The TIFA mechanism also establishes a US-Nepal Council on Trade and Investment (TIFA Council) comprising representatives of each party.
The Council will be a permanent body that will hold meetings regularly involving the private sector and civil society. The commerce secretary of Nepal and the Office of the US Trade Representative will chair the Council meeting that will meet once a year in Washington DC and Kathmandu on a rotational basis.
Adhikari, after signing the agreement opined that it would go a long way in expanding bilateral trade and attracting US investments into Nepal.
Nepali ambassador to the US Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma, commerce and supplies secretary Purushottam Ojha, law and justice secretary Madhab Prasad Paudel, home secretary Govind Prasad Kusum and officials from the various departments of the US government were present during the signing ceremony.
The First meeting of the TIFA Council was also held at the Office of the US Trade Representative after the signing of the agreement. The Council meeting took a stock of Nepal-US economic and trade relations.
The USTR side made a presentation on the best practices of TIFA regimes in some successful countries which could be replicated in Nepal as the agreement is put into practice.
Similarly, Nepali delegates underlined the need for market access for the Nepalese products in the US markets, effective utilisation of GSP facilities, US investment promotion in Nepal since Nepal has already opened 11 service sectors with 65 subsectors under WTO.
The promotional activities through a Nepal-US Business Working Group was also emphasised by Nepal.
The Council decided to hold its second meeting in Kathmandu in second half of 2011. OJha led the Nepali team assisted by Paudel, Gyawali, and the senior staff of the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC, while the US side was led by Deputy United States Trade Representative ambassador Marantis accompanied by other senior officials of the USTR.
The US has TIFAs with its key trading partners like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The US has been showing its interest in investing in Nepal with Washington entering into a bilateral trade agreement with Kathmandu that now promises to boost export.
Currently, Nepal's trade with the US is comfortable. But the picture may not all that rosy after a couple of years since America is fast closing in on the trade deficit.
The US has reduced its trade deficit with Nepal by four times between 2004 and 2010. In 2004 the US trade deficit stood at $117.5 million but in 2010 the US has decreased its trade deficit with Nepal to $32.2 million.
In the first two months of 2011, the trade deficit of the US with Nepal stands at $4 million only as the US imported $10.3 million worth goods and exported $6.3 million worth goods to Nepal. In the year 2000, the deficit used to stand at $194.4 million.
The trade treaty between Nepal and the US is likely to give a new lease of life to the export of Nepali Readymade Garment (RMG) that has plunged by 81 per cent.
Nepal has signed bilateral investment treaties with Britain, Finland, France, Germany, India, Mauritius, and Norway, according to the Foreign Investment Division, Department of Industry.
Earlier, Nepal and the US had signed Friendship and Commerce Agreement on April 25, 1947.

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