Trade talks between Nepal and Bangladesh are scheduled to start on Wednesday in Kathmandu. During the meeting, Nepal has planned to ask for easy visa facility for Nepalis, preferential treatment for a number of Nepali goods, access to Bangladeshi ports for exports to third countries and determination of the exchange rate between the currencies of the two countries.
According to the Ministry of Commerce and Supply (MoCS), a Bangladeshi delegation will be arriving in Kathmandu on Monday for the meeting. The two countries have been holding annual trade talks at the joint secretary level since 2008.
An official at the MoCS said the trade talks would mainly focus on accomplishing the major agenda that could not materialised through the previous talks, particularly on duty free access to Nepali goods.
“Nepal will be requesting Bangladesh to allow duty-free access to 45 products,” said the source.
The list of products for which Nepal has been seeking duty-free entry includes mainly farm products like tea, dairy products, vegetables (cauliflower and cabbage among others), ginger, oil cake, meat products and chicks. During the last trade talks held in Dhaka in 2013, Bangladesh granted permission to 108 items out of the 153 proposed products.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, has also been demanding similar facility to 64 of its goods to the Nepali market. The items for which Bangladesh has sought duty-free access include fish products, medicines, juice, soft drinks, raw jute and some agricultural products.
According to the MoCS source, Nepal will also ask Bangladesh to allow using Mangla Port of Chittagong to carry out exports to third countries. Currently, loaded containers are permitted only up to the Inland Container Depot situated in Banglabandha. “Along with allowing transit cargo to Bangladesh, the ministry has also planned to simplify permits and visa procedures for the cargo and drivers to enter Bangladesh.”
Similarly, both the countries will hold talks on fixing the exchange rate between the two currencies.
At present, the Bangladeshi taka is not listed in the list of convertible currencies of Nepal Rastra Bank.
“If the currency is made convertible, the exchange rate will be fixed directly between the two without basing it on the US dollar, making it convenient for traders to conduct business,” said the MoCS source.
Bangladesh is one of Nepal’s main export destinations. Lentils, fruits and fruit juice, wheat, oil cakes, hide and skin and vegetables are the major exports to Bangladesh. Nepal’s exports stood at Rs2.14 billion last year, down from Rs2.73 billion in the previous year.
Similarly, Nepal has been importing pharmaceutical goods, electronics, juice, medicines, cotton, solar batteries, readymade garments, cosmetic items, raw jute and plastic furniture from Bangladesh.