Kathmandu, Sept 23: Nepali and Indian officials will be sitting for the third round of talks to review the bilateral treaty of trade in New Delhi on Thursday.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the two-day meeting will focus on simplifying the existing barriers to bilateral trade. An amendment is also being made to allow Nepal to use transit points on Indian territory for trade with third countries.
“The joint secretary-level meet will discuss finalising the agenda which was sent to the second round of meetings held last March,” said Navaraj Dhakal, joint secretary of the ministry.
A cabinet meeting last Tuesday formed a nine-member Nepali team led by Dhakal to participate in the talks. The last time the treaty was revised was in 2009. Dhakal said the upcoming meeting would finalise issues that were not concluded at the second review meeting.
Nepal has requested India to allow the shipment of bulk cargo to additional customs points on their common border. Currently, bulk cargo imported from third countries through Kolkata, Haldiya or Visakhapatnam ports can be transported only to the Birgunj border point in Nepal. Bulk cargo includes fertiliser, sugar, soybean, salt, oil cake and raw plastic materials.
Nepal has also been asking the southern neighbour to allow the use of additional sea ports. India has agreed to allow Nepal to use two other sea ports at Dhamra, Orissa and Mundra, Gujarat. Nepal seeks to use these ports as alternatives to Kolkata and Visakhapatnam.
Developing infrastructure at the customs points on the border between the two countries was also discussed at the last trade talks. India has provided 22 designated routes for bilateral trade.
India has upgraded the Birgunj-Raxaul customs checkpoint while work at the Biratnagar-Jogbani point is nearing completion. But little progress is being made in the construction of infrastructure at the Bhairahawa-Sunauli and Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha points.
Nepal has also been pressing India to lift the quantitative restriction on the import of acrylic yarn, copper utensils, vegetable ghee and zinc oxide which has been in place since 2002.
India has been asking Nepal to lift the 5 percent agriculture service fee charged on imported Indian farm items. Nepal has been refusing to cancel the fee stating that it would affect the competitiveness of Nepali agricultural products.
Being a landlocked country, Nepal relies heavily on India to conduct trade with third countries. Persistent transit related problems like delays in cargo movement, high freight charges, slow customs clearance and hurdles in shipment of bulk cargoes, among others, are the underlying problems that Nepali traders face while carrying out trade with third countries.
Nepal and India are also looking forward to using inland waterways to transport cargo from Indian ports to the Nepali border. According to the ministry, India has started inland waterways from Kolkata to Varanasi along the Ganga River. The southern neighbour has expressed readiness to extend the routes up to the Nepal border along the Narayani River once the infrastructure is built in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states.
Dhakal said the two sides would be discussing policy issues more than operation procedures at the upcoming third meeting. He added that the meeting would likely finalise the amendments planned to be made to the Treaty of Transit to streamline trade.
The Nepal-India Intergovernmental Committee, a mechanism to solve trade-related issues between the two countries, will approve the proposed amendments, according to Dhakal.