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US hints at revising duty free access to Nepali goods

The US has expressed its interest in revising the list of Nepali products that receive duty free access through the Trade Preferences Act (TPA). In the new development, US officials have assured Nepal that Nepali readymade garment will be considered for the list. Currently, there are 77 products listed under the TPA.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, US officials expressed their commitment during the fourth meeting of the Nepal-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) Council, on Tuesday, in the US. “The participants of the meeting expressed their commitment that they would forward the proposal to the US Congress soon,” the Ministry’s Secretary Chandra Kumar Ghimire said.
During the one-day meeting, a Ghimire-led Nepali delegation held talks with high level officials from various department of the US led by Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott. The representatives from the US State Department, Department of Agriculture, Department of Labour, US Aid, United States Patent and Trademark Office and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Nepal Michael C Gonzales were among the officials from the US side who participated in the bilateral meeting.
Enforcing the TPA in 2015, the US has provided duty free access to 77 Nepali products that have high potential in the world’s largest economy. The goods include certain carpets and pashmina, headgear, shawls, scarves and travel goods. Nepal has been offered the facility until 2025.
Ghimire said the Nepali side pushed for Nepali garment in particular, citing the high comparative advantage in the product.
“We highlighted to the US officials that Nepal has not been able to benefit from the trading of some items facilitated under TPA and to consider the inclusion of other goods which have larger export potential,” said Ghimire adding that they sought the support of the US government regarding exports until Nepal could fully complete its political transition.
Earlier, the economic giant had been denying providing duty free facility to Nepali garments saying that it could violate the clause of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
As per the ministry, the US officials also expressed their interest to provide technical support to Nepal to promote production of the goods under TPA lists.
The US appeared keen to help Nepal implement the provisions of Trade Facilitation Agreement carried out in the ninth ministerial conference of WTO held in Bali, Indonesia, in 2013.
The agreement talks on reducing the trading costs through improvement in customs procedures, trade related infrastructures, Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures and food safety.
The ministry officials said the US has expressed that the country has considered Nepal, among the South Asian countries, under high priority for promoting bilateral trade and investment. Ghimire said the US officials in turn expressed their concern over the investment environment in Nepal to inject capital
from the US.
Ghimire said the US officials expressed their concern over the policy reform at a time when Nepal is heading towards political stability. “Implementation of existing provision in labour act, improvement in the law related to intellectual property right including copyright and facilitation of e-commerce are also major areas of interest of the US before they inject their investment in Nepal,” he added.
Nepal signed the TIFA with the largest economy on April 16, 2011. Under the provision, the two countries had agreed to hold the TIFA council every year. Last time, the meeting was held in Kathmandu on April 20, 2017.