Nepal seeks easier trade access to Chinese markets

KATHMANDU, March 14 (Reuters) – Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Tuesday asked China to provide “easier and more generous” market access to products from the Himalayan country to help narrow the country’s large trade deficit with Beijing.

The landlocked Himalayan nation of 30 million people has traditionally looked to India for economic support and trade, but Nepal has increasingly been wooed by China with transport, trade and transit deals, to New Delhi’s dismay.

Nepal’s imports from China fell to $1.84 billion in 2022 from $2.38 billion a year ago, while exports stood at $5.39 million, down from $8.37 million in the same period, official data showed.

“Nepal’s widening trade deficit with China and the apparent gaps in commitment and actual investment of FDI from China” are some of the problems that required a practical solution, Dahal told a business meeting organized by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in Kathmandu.

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China is among the top investors in Nepal’s infrastructure. Beijing accounts for 14% of Nepal’s international trade, while India has nearly two-thirds of it, trade officials said.

In 2016, China agreed to allow Nepal to use its ports to trade goods with other countries. Beijing will also help Nepal build a trans-Himalayan railway network linking Kathmandu with the Tibet region of China.

Dahal said Nepal was also seeking help from China to improve production capacity in a number of its products and asked for duty-free access for Nepalese vegetables, meat products, tea and herbal products to China.

He had requested China to provide access to “about 512 tradable Nepali products” to the country’s duty- and quota-free market, he said.

“Trade is the engine of growth and our future prosperity lies in our ability to produce and trade more,” Dahal added.

China is allowing duty- and quota-free access to 8,030 goods from least developed countries, including Nepal, officials said.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; editing by Sudipto Ganguly, William Maclean and Sharon Singleton

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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