By Modnath Dhakal
Kathmandu, Jan. 3: China’s international trade bounced back to normalcy, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and trade dispute with the United States of America, by the end of 2020 making it one of the best years with $460 billion trade surplus – up 21.4 per cent from this time in 2019 – in the first 11 months of 2020.
The world’s largest economy (on purchasing power parity) has opened its borders for trade but the two border points with Nepal were shut for seven months and have come into partial operation since September-end 2020.
The northern neighbour of Nepal had shut the major trade and transit points – Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani, in late January last year after the coronavirus appeared in Wuhan of Hubei province. Since then, the goods inbound to Nepal from China have been stuck for seven months only to result in limited cargo, mainly medical supplies, passing since September end.
While goods of hundreds of containers were piled up on the Chinese side, Nepali traders and importers suffered shortage of raw materials and trading goods and were forced to close their factories.
“Thousands of trucks were stuck on the other side of the border. It topped up the troubles to the entrepreneurs that were struggling hard to manage the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and months-long lockdown,” said Prakash Singh Karki, Chair of Road, Transport and Transit Committee at the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
He said that the things were complicated as Nepali traders were not allowed to take their trucks and containers as well as people to the Chinese side.
Thousands of businesses suffered troubles and losses. We requested the government and Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu many times to facilitate for the smooth operation of the border points but in vain, said Niraj Rai, Chair of Customs Committee at the Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC).
According to the traders, export business has become more troublesome through the northern borders. Statistics of the Department of Customs (DoC) show that there was no export trade via Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani border points.
Goods worth Rs. 5.13 billion were imported via Rasuwagadhi from mid-July to mid-December 2020 and Rs. 797.6 million from Tatopani border but export from these two points was nil.
In the same period in 2019,
Rasuwagadhi pass had seen the imports of Rs. 21.58 billion and exports of Rs. 455.2 million, and imports of Rs. 3.37 billion and exports of Rs. 137.6 million happened via Tatopani.
According to the trade statistics, Nepal’s trade with China was highly imbalanced with Rs. 180.72 billion deficit. Nepal imported goods worth Rs. 181.9 billion from China and exported goods of only Rs. 1.2 billion in the last fiscal year 2019/2020. The northern neighbour is the second import source and sixth export destination. Quite contrary, India is the largest import and export market for Nepal.
Govt seeks details
Responding to the multiple pleas from the business community, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) had asked the FNCCI to send the details of the goods stuck on the Chinese side.
“We have sent the details of the items and quantity. We know that the ministry has been coordinating but there are no positive results about facilitating the business,” said Karki.
Secretary at the MoICS, Dr. Baikuntha Aryal, said that the passing of limited number of trucks continued at both the points and Tatopani border might come into full operation from mid-January.
Rai said that the traders had started rerouting their imports via India which is longer and more costly. “Customs agents at Rasuwagadhi are asking for about 900,000 (50,000 RMB) to pass a container truck. Since China has allowed passing about five-eight trucks a day, some traders are forced to pay the bribe in the hope to get the work done earlier,” he said.
Rajesh Rajkarnikar, Chairman of Yoma Ma E. Motors, a company that sells China-made electric bikes and scooters in Nepal, said in a programme on Friday that the time and cost to conduct trade with China was equal to that of the European nations as the goods are shipped to the Indian port and then transported to Nepal via trains and trucks.
– The Rising Nepal