Nepal plans to request China to permit up to 10 containers to pass daily through the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong border crossing at the meeting of the Nepal-Tibet Trade Facilitation Committee scheduled to be held from September 25-26 in Lhasa.
Currently, clearance is given to only two to three containers to enter Nepal. The northern neighbour has started constructing the necessary infrastructure on its side of the border to facilitate trade through the Kyirong route which lies directly to the north of Kathmandu .
China permitted Nepal-bound shipments to be rerouted through Kyirong after a landslide cut off the Araniko Highway last August shutting down the Kodari route, the busiest trade artery connecting Kathmandu and Tibet. A motorable bridge is being built at the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong border which is scheduled to open on October 1, greatly expanding the scope of bilateral trade. Against this backdrop, Nepal has decided to ask China to increase the clearance of shipments through this route at the upcoming meet.
A five-member Nepali team led by Jib Raj Koirala, joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, will be participating in the conference. Representatives from the Department of Customs and the Finance and Agriculture ministries will form the rest of the delegation.
China has been building an Inland Container Depot (ICD) on its side of the border. Once it is completed, the Chinese authorities will be able to clear more goods. According to the Commerce Ministry, China has built a customs office and is working on the ICD and other infrastructure.
“We have asked for this route as an immediate solution to keep shipments flowing during this difficult time with the Araniko Highway made inoperational by the landslide,” said Koirala.
The Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong route is considered to be the only alternative land route for trade with Tibet, China. Although the Pulan-Yari route in Humla district and the Riwu-Olangchung Gola route in Taplejung have been proposed as alternative gateways, they do not look like becoming operational in the near future.
Koirala said that China had planned to bring the ICD into use from February. “Since the construction of the infrastructure is nearly complete, it is possible that China could allow the customs point to be used right away,” he said.
The Commerce Ministry said that Nepal would also press China to begin construction of an ICD on the Nepali side. China has carried out a preliminary survey for the proposed Chinese-funded project. “This time, we will ask them to conduct a feasibility study soon,” said Koirala, adding that Nepal had started the land acquisition process for the planned ICD.
Apart from the issues related to the Rasuwagadhi-Kyirong border, Nepal will also be requesting the Chinese side to ease the strict quarantine checks at the Tibetan border. “We will urge them to grant mutual recognition by accepting the certification issued by Nepali laboratories while exporting food products to China,” he said.
Similarly, use of English labels on Nepal-bound Chinese goods and quick resolution of the problems faced by the local people will be discussed at the two-day meet.
The two countries formed the facilitation committee due to growing prospects for bilateral trade. According to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre, exports to China surged 15.7 percent to Rs 2.32 billion in the first 11 months of the last fiscal year. Similarly, imports from China rose 10.8 percent to Rs 69.87 billion during the period.
The bilateral trade meet has been held every years for the last five years. The last meeting was hosted by Nepal in Kathmandu in August 2013.