KATHMANDU, Sept 8: Nepal is finally set to get access to four seaports via China, ending its sole dependence on India for transit access. This, according to government officials and private sector executives, gives Nepal better trade options and opens new avenues to begin trade through the northern neighbor.
The finalization of the draft protocol to the Transit Transport Agreement through a bilateral meeting in Kathmandu on Thursday is a move toward implementing the transit agreement signed two years ago with China when Nepal was facing a months-long Indian blockade and resultant humanitarian crisis.
The draft protocol also allows Nepal to have access to four sea ports – Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang – as well as use three dry ports namely Lanzhou, Lhasa and Shigatse.
Rabi Shankar Sainju, leader of the Nepali delegation in the talks, said, “We have got additional ports for use and possibly Nepal can trade with Russia and northeast Asian countries like Japan via this route. This is a shorter route and freight costs may be competitive here.”
Sainju is also the spokesman for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Industries. Wang Suiping, director general of Chinese Transport Service Department, was the leader of the Chinese delegation.
Both the private sector and government officials have welcomed the decision. However, the private sector representatives said they were yet to realize how these new avenues would be competitive and useful in the immediate term.
Using the four Chinese sea ports – Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang – may reduce cost of trading with some countries, and opening of the new routes would provide new options for a land-locked country, private sector representatives have said.
Using those ports and the Chinese trade routes will soon be possible as both the governments of Nepal and China are likely to endorse the draft protocol soon.
Opening up of new transit routes with the northern neighbor was a much-awaited decision for diversification of trade with other countries. Talking to Republica, Sainju said, “The technical meeting on Thursday concluded on the technical matters. It has paved the way for approval of the protocol from the Nepal government and concerned agency of the Chinese government.”
The protocol has charted out an action plan and procedure for allowing Nepal transit access as per the Transit Transport Agreement signed during KP Oli’s China visit during his first stint as prime minister. The bilateral talks have finalized the mode and process of transportation and customs clearance.
Pashupati Muraraka, former president of the FNCCI, said, “This is a new trading option for the country and we can see economically viability once it comes into use.”
Executive Director of Trade and Export Promotion Center Sarad Bikram Rana termed the decision a milestone.
Traders say these new avenues of trade for Nepal may force Indian ports mainly Haldiya and Vishakhapatnam currently in use to become more competitive. Traders have emphasized on the use of this transit through better connectivity including inside Nepal.