Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

Nepalese seek direct road link to up trade
Apex chambers float joint business council

Nepal's businesses have sought direct road communications with Bangladesh to foster trade between the two countries.

Nepal's trade with India is rising rapidly due to direct road links between them and the same can happen to Bangladesh, the visiting business delegates of the Himalayan kingdom observed at a meeting with members of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and industry (FBCCI) yesterday in Dhaka.

"Direct road link is key to enhancing trade and investment. The road linkage will also help rise tourists flow," said Binod Bahadur Shrestha, president of the Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).

The two apex chambers floated joint business council by signing an agreement yesterday.

The council will explore avenues for co-operation in such areas as energy, tourism, agro-industries, water resources, harmonisation of standards and sanitary and phyto sanitary to boost bilateral trade and investment.

"We must augment intra-regional trade to change our fate," said Shrestha, who is leading a 11-member delegation as part of South Asia Business Forum which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Pointing out that the South Asian countries do only three percent of their total trade with their regional neighbours, he underlined the need to increase regional trade for a sustained development. "We can live better by co-operating with each other and need not look to the West to boost our exports," he said.

FBCCI President Abdul Awal Mintoo, who only recently took over as chairman of South Asia Business Forum, said the South Asian countries should look to each other as partners not competitors.

"We should not think about India as a threat in the region because of the size of its economy. We must accept economic superiority of India and should not take it negatively, rather we should cooperate and learn from our big partner," said Mintoo, who will co-chair the joint business council.

Nepal's Ambassador to Bangladesh Bhagirath Basnet said the newly formed council, which will among other things identify and suggest specific measures for issues like banking, freight forwarding, customs services, tariff and warehouse, would help expand trade and commerce between the two nations.

Delwar Hossain, a former director of FBCCI and president of Panchagarh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Banglabanda Land Port, which is expected to go into operation by March, would contribute to increase trade between the two states.

Faridul Haque, president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, said the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank has recently formed a tourism working group to do a feasibility study on direct road link between Bangladesh and Nepal.

Bangladesh's export to Nepal totalled $0.65 million and while its import from that country stood at $3.34 million in 2001-2002. The exports include chemical fertiliser, melamine tableware, pharma-ceuticals and tea while imports include vegetable products and rubber.