The second joint council meeting of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the US that has been postponed repeatedly since the start of this year, could take place by the end of October.
"We are planning to hold the second joint council meeting of TIFA by the end of October as the US has sent feelers about holding the meeting soon," said commerce and supplies secretary Lal Mani Joshi.
Earlier, the meeting was expected to take place by September. The government and the private sector have been preparing an agenda for a long time but the meeting has not taken place.
The first joint council meeting — that was held in Washington immediately after the TIFA was signed — had decided to hold the second meeting in Nepal in November. However, the meeting had been postponed for January 2012. The meeting was again postponed for March.
The first meeting was held in Washington, where the US and Nepal discussed and reviewed various issues.
US trade representative Ron Kirk, and then deputy prime minister and finance minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari had signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement on April 15, 2011 — to enhance trade and investment between the two countries — replacing the six-decade old bilateral trade and economic pact.
Aimed at providing a forum for bilateral talks to enhance trade and investment, discussing specific trade issues, and promoting more comprehensive trade agreements between the two countries, the TIFA is expected to be a better platform.
The TIFA meeting could be a better platform to discuss about the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for textiles, said deputy assistant US Trade Representative for GSP and chair of the GSP sub committee of the Trade Policy Staff Committee William D Jackson.
The framework agreement is also expected to help both the countries enter into a trade agreement besides 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, workers’ rights, environmental protection, and removing barriers to bilateral trade.
The council is a permanent body that will hold meetings regularly involving the private sector and civil society.
The agreement is also expected to help Nepal not only attract US investment but also boost exports. Though Nepal does not have a trade deficit with the US, the gap is slowly closing.
"Though the US has been providing Generalised System of Preferences facility for some 4,975 products, it has excluded most textile and apparel products that is one of the key exports of Nepal to the US," said Garment Association of Nepal (GAN) president Uday Raj Pandey, asking the trade representative's help in providing GSP facility for Nepali textiles.
US closing trade deficit gap with Nepal
Fiscal Year – Nepal Exports – Nepal Imports
2005-06 – Rs 6.99 billion – Rs 1.67 billion
2006-07 – Rs 5.57 billion – Rs 4.25 billion
2007-08 – Rs 4.59 billion – Rs 3.71 billion
2008-09 – Rs 4.87 billion – Rs 3.80 billion
2009-10 – Rs 3.86 billion – Rs 5.38 billion
2010-11 – Rs 4.39 billion – Rs 3.93 billion
(Source: Trade and Export Promotion Centre)