KATHMANDU – The United States and Nepal held the sixth Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council Meeting on May 19, 2023. The meeting was co-chaired by Mr. Madhu Kumar Marasini, Secretary (Commerce and Supplies), Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies, Government of Nepal, and Mr. Brendan Lynch, Acting Assistant United States Trade Representative for South and Central Asia. Both delegations included officials from trade, agriculture, finance, labor, and other relevant agencies.
During the meeting, the delegation discussed a range of bilateral trade and investment-related issues covered under the TIFA, including, among others, policies impacting the investment climate, digital economy, intellectual property protection and enforcement, customs and trade facilitation, agricultural trade, market access and technical barriers to trade, Nepal’s graduation from the LDC status, labor rights, and utilization of the Nepal Trade Preference Program.
Nepal provided an update on recent efforts and initiatives taken to improve its trade and investment climate, and reinforced their desire to attract additional foreign investment from the United States. The United States appreciated Nepal’s efforts and initiatives to reform its trade and investment regimes and encouraged Nepal to continue such initiatives to enhance their investment climate. The United States acknowledged the role of investment in supporting economic development and outlined policy reforms that could further enhance the business climate in Nepal.
During the meeting, Nepal noted that its IT-related services have significant export potential and expressed its interest in expanding bilateral trade in these sectors. Both delegations expressed their interest in ensuring that workers in both countries are able to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital economy. The United States emphasized certain policies related to digital trade that promote inclusive economic growth and innovation.
Both countries noted that intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement fosters innovation and creativity, as well as promotes bilateral trade and investment in IP-intensive industries. The United States expressed its interest in continuing to provide capacity building in IP and welcomed the opportunity to engage with Nepal on potential legislative reforms affecting the protection and enforcement of IP.
Consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on worker-centered trade policy, the United States highlighted its priorities in enforcing labor laws and welcomed Nepal’s efforts to implement legal and policy reforms in various sectors in order to protect workers’ rights.
Both countries discussed ways to increase dialogue on bilateral agricultural trade issues. The United States also suggested that Nepal join the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate, a program that increases investment in agricultural innovation for climate-smart agriculture and food systems.
Nepal also shared its concern about the underutilization of the Nepal Trade Preference Program (NTPP) and its interest in expanding the list of products eligible to receive tariff-free treatment under the program. Nepal and the United States also deliberated on the impact of NTPP’s upcoming expiration on December 31, 2025. Both governments affirmed the importance of the NTPP to the bilateral relationship and acknowledged the potential of the program to enhance trade between the two countries. Nepal emphasized its need for additional support for productivity enhancement and capacity building to ensure a sustainable and smooth graduation from LDC status. Nepal side also requested the duty-free, quota-free market access beyond 2026 to sustain the graduation.
Both countries agreed to engage in constructive discussions on policies, laws and strategies related to trade, investment, IP, and labor, among others, and the United States expressed its readiness to extend support in implementation of reforms in these areas. Both governments pledged their commitment to deepen their engagement over the coming months. Both sides agreed to hold the 7th TIFA Council Meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2024.