Saturday, September 8, 2018

Nepal can now use Chinese ports for third country trade and more

China allows Nepal access to its ports, ending Indian monopoly

From The Kathmandu Post: Two years after signing the Transit and Transportation Agreement, Nepal and China have agreed on the text of the protocol to the agreement that would allow Nepali traders and businessmen to use Chinese sea and land ports for third country trade. With this agreement, Nepal’s long dependence on India for third-country trading has ended, allowing Nepal to trade from the Chinese sea and land ports once the deal goes into effect. Prime Minister K P Oli had signed the Transit and Transportation Agreement with China in March 2016, following months-long Indian blockade at the southern border.

The major takeaway of the agreement is that Nepal can use four Chinese seaports, three land ports for third country import, and export through the six dedicated transit points between Nepal and China. “The Chinese side is also open for Nepal to use its other seaports if Nepal requires them,” said Joint Secretary at Ministry of Commerce and Supplies Rabi Shankar Sainju, who led the Nepali delegation in the talks. The Department of Transport Services Director General Wang Shuiping led the nine-member Chinese delegation at the meeting on Thursday.

The agreed-upon text would be signed during a high-level visit from China, the date or details of which have not been announced, said a foreign ministry official. The Chinese side hinted that the protocol can be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal, expected to take place in 2019. There were suggestions that the Chinese president was supposed to visit this year, but Chinese officials told Nepali counterparts that his schedule was packed this year.

According to a press statement issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies following the agreement on Thursday, China has agreed to let Nepal use Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang seaports and Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse dry ports for trading with third countries.

One major hurdle to implementing the deal, according to the Nepali officials, is the upgradation and improvement of Nepal’s roads to China. Other challenges facing Nepal are poor infrastructure on its side of the border, including maintenance of highways and construction of dry ports to park the imported and exported goods. “This is a major breakthrough, but we have to upgrade our infrastructure too,” said Sushil Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at the Nepali Embassy in Beijing. He was also part of the Nepali delegation.

Imported goods would be transported up to Xigaste by Chinese rail and Nepali containers would bring them from Xigaste to the Nepali border. Currently, Nepali containers are permitted up to Kerung. The same rule applies to two other land ports. Nepal will provide lists of import and export goods that would be transported as well as electronic bills of all items transported to China. China electronically monitors all goods containers.

In 2012, Nepal and China agreed to open six dedicated land routes: Humla, Korola, Rasuawagadhi, Tatopani, Olangchung Gola and Kimangthanka. Currently, only the Rasuwaghadi-Kerung route operates.


On the same note, how viable will be third country trade through China? Here is an excerpt from a piece I wrote two years ago: "Practically, it bears little significance unless Nepal upgrades existing connectivity as well as constructs new commercial custom points with China, reduces cost of doing business, establishes trust among traders on both sides, and boosts productive capacity by taking decisive action on policy and implementation fronts. "

Nepali workers to benefit as Qatar lifts ‘exit permit’ system

From The Himalayan Times: The decision of the Qatari government to allow most migrant workers to leave the country without an exit visa will facilitate thousands of Nepalis working in the Arabian nation to return home without any hassles after completion of their work contract, as per recruiting agencies. The government of Qatar on Wednesday partially scrapped the ‘exit permit’ that had been preventing migrant workers from leaving the country without their employers’ permission.

This decision of the Qatari government has been welcomed by labour-related international organisations, including International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Amnesty International. “The decision is an important first step towards dismantling Qatar’s exploitative sponsorship system,” Amnesty International said in a statement issued today. As Qatar is one of the major work destinations of Nepali migrant workers, both the government and recruiting agencies said that the recent decision of the Qatari government will facilitate almost 300,000 Nepalis currently working in Qatar.

“Due to lack of enough human resources and lengthy process to hire new employees, we had often received complaints of employers in Qatar extending work contract of Nepalis against their will and not facilitating them in acquiring exit permits even after their work contract had ended,” informed Rohan Gurung, president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies. According to him, this decision of Qatar will ease the process for Nepali workers to return home. As per available data, an average of around 100,000 Nepalis go to Qatar for jobs every year.