China's non-cooperation in trade: Barely 20 trucks passing through the border compared to 200 in the past

Published On: January 13, 2022 01:30 PM NPT By: Dilip Poudel

KATHMANDU, Jan 13: Traders and locals have demanded that the two transit points with China be made operational as the operation has not been smooth for a long time.

Accusing China of imposing an undeclared blockade, traders and entrepreneurs staged a demonstration in the capital on Wednesday to demand that the blockade be reopened. The Kerung and Tatopani checkpoints, which were closed after the start of COVID-19 pandemic, have not been fully reopened. At present, only 20 vehicles are allowed to enter through these checkpoints, which were used to import 200 to 250 truckloads of goods daily.

According to the customs office, nine trucks of goods are being imported daily from Kerung and 11 trucks enter from Tatopani daily. Among the imported goods, hydropower products, vegetables, fruits, apples, garlic and other items are given priority. Traders have complained that the goods ordered for winter have not arrived yet.

According to the Himalayan Cross-Border Chamber of Commerce, hundreds of trucks loaded with goods have been stranded in China as the Chinese side has tightened its grip on the area. "China has imposed a kind of undeclared blockade," said Bharat Karki, general secretary at Himalayan Cross-Border Chamber of Commerce. Initially, the Chinese side said it was tightening the transportation flow due to COVID-19, but did not increase the number of vehicles even when COVID-19 infection was low.

The Chinese side has been dropping the goods coming through Kerung on the bridge between Kerung and Rasuwagadhi. From there Nepali workers load and bring the goods. Nepali traders have difficulty in loading goods when the Chinese side drops them on the bridge. At the Tatopani port, it is a bit easier as the Chinese containers bring the goods to the customs and drop them off there.

There are allegations that the Chinese side has become irresponsible in the problems of Nepalis. The traders complained that even after drawing the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs three or four times, their concerns were not heard.

Former General Secretary of the Himalayan Cross-Border Chamber of Commerce Nabaraj Timalsina said that the diplomatic initiative was not enough. "The goods have been blocked for three or four months," he said. “The government failed to take a diplomatic initiative.”

Chinese goods dominate the Nepali market. It takes 18-20 days to import goods from Tatopani and Kerung. It takes about 40-42 days for goods to reach Nepal in containers from Kolkata, India. As it takes less than half the time to import goods through Tatopani and Kerung, traders want to bring it from China. But the Chinese side has ignored the demand of Nepali businessmen.

Nepal imports goods worth billions of rupees annually from China. According to the data of the Department of Customs for the fiscal year 2020/21, goods worth Rs. 233.92 billion have been imported from China. Traders want to import goods through Kerung and Tatopani border crossings as the cost of shipping from India is high.

The situation at Kerung and Tatopani, which has been tightened since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, is still the same. Despite repeated requests from Nepali traders and the government to increase the number of vehicles used to import goods through the border checkpoints, Nepali businessmen are in trouble as the Chinese side has not listened to them.

The government has not been able to take concrete initiative despite the demand of businessmen to increase the number of vehicles. Ram Prasad Mainali, chief of Rasuwa Customs Office said that the upper body has been informed about the complaints of the traders. "We hear of initiatives from the bodies concerned," said Mainali, "But there have been no results whatsoever."

Stating that there used to be dialogue between Chinese counterparts, he said that there has been no discussion with the Chinese counterpart. The import which shrunk after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, has not gained momentum. According to the Tatopani Customs Office, only 10/11 vehicles come from the checkpoint where previously more than 100 vehicles entered daily. Lal Bahadur Khatri, chief of the Tatopani Customs Office said that diplomatic initiatives should be stepped up. "Entrepreneurs come with complaints," Khatri said. "There is nothing we can do. The government should step up its diplomatic initiatives.”

Sewa Lamsal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that work is underway to take the grievances of the businessmen to the bodies concerned. "We have been taking diplomatic initiatives to solve the problem," Lamsal said. "We have also informed the ambassador about this." Despite the ministry saying that the diplomatic initiative has been taking place, transportation has not been smooth in the border points.

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