Sunday, 14 April, 2024

New Trade Strategy

Despite some measures in place to increase export trade, Nepal has not been fully successful in giving a boost to it. The country has been experiencing a widening trade deficit over the years. Each year, the country pays huge amounts to import a wide variety of goods ranging from petroleum products, garment to construction materials. Once a food exporting nation, Nepal now imports food to meet the growing demand. However, the country holds enormous potential for increasing export trade with her richness in biodiversity and the gradually improving business climate. A healthy economy is one where both exports and imports experience a steady and balanced growth. Nepal needs to work towards becoming a healthy and robust economy with balanced levels of imports and exports.

In the absence of jobs within the country, the number of foreign job aspirants has been on the rise annually. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Against this backdrop, the present government is planning to frame a new trade integration strategy to promote export of Nepali products, help accelerate the process of economic development and create more employment opportunities. According to a news report published in this daily on Wednesday, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) is working to develop a new strategy as the existing one has not been able to achieve the goals set in the past. The country had first introduced the National Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) in 2010. The then government had revised the strategy in 2016 by slashing the number of goods and services having high export potential to 12 (nine products and three services) from 19. Leather and footwear products, readymade garments, pashmina, hand-woven carpet, black cardamom, ginger, tea, and medicinal and aromatic plants were incorporated in the list. Similarly, remittance generating services, information technology, business process outsourcing and IT engineering, and tourism were also included in it.

The ministry has now begun assessing the impacts of the NTIS, 2016 on the country’s export trade. It aims to identify the key strengths and weaknesses of the strategy before creating a more effective one. The government has now realised the need for promoting exports as one of its high priorities as export promotion could contribute to generating more jobs and expanding economic activities. It will formulate the new strategy in close consultations with the private sector. The MoICs has already started sharing ideas with the business community’s umbrella associations and other stakeholders. Considered an ‘engine of growth’, the private sector could play a crucial role in achieving these goals when more congenial policies and strategies are in place.

As suggested by the private sector, the government needs to include hydroelectricity as another export commodity in the new NTIS. It should also focus on implementing the policies and strategies in a more effective manner so as to boost national economy and reduce the burgeoning trade deficit. The country had failed in export promotion of highly potential products such as cashmere, tea and garment due to poor branding. It is necessary for the government to simplify export trade procedures and supporting in the marketing of ‘Made in Nepal’ products in the domestic as well as international markets. The NTIS in the offing must have clear provision to take the business community into confidence.