Second Sino-Nepal trade route opens

With China officially opening the Gyirong Port on the Rasuwagadhi border on Monday, the second land route has opened for bilateral trade between Nepal and China. Tatopani border was the sole trade transit with China for a long period. The new route has historical importance as it was a busy trade link between Tibet and Nepal during the Lichchhavi and Malla periods, reports Nepal’s top online news portal The newly opened route is linked with the Chinese government’s railway project. During the fifth Nepal-Tibet Trade Facilitation Committee meeting in Lhasa in September, the Chinese side had agreed in principle to extend the Qinghai-Tibet railway to the Nepal border.

Hari Prasad Bashyal, Nepal’s consular general in Lhasa, and Dong Mingjun, vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, jointly inaugurated the facility. China briefly opened the route in August when the Tatopani border was shut due to landslides along Araniko Highway. Nepali importers rerouted their shipments from China via Rasuwagadhi for some time. China closed the route before Dashain citing the lack of infrastructure on its side. According to Chinese authorities, the customs, quarantine and immigration offices have come into operation. The development is in line with the northern neighbour’s commitment to support Nepal in upgrading six dry ports at major customs points, including Rasuwagadhi. China had agreed to strengthen these points under the agreement “Management of Ports on the China-Nepal Border” during his Nepal visit by then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in January, 2012. China has agreed to strengthen Pular-Yari, Jilong-Rasuwa, Zangmu-Kodari, and Riwu-Olangchug Gola border crossings, among others. Consular General Bashyal said traders can now use the checkpoint without any obstruction and the Chinese authority will provide visas and one-day pass to traders at the checkpoint. Goods worth Rs 5 billion stuck on the border will be moved into Nepal from Tuesday. Meanwhile, Nepali authorities from the newly established immigration office in Rasuwagadhi have started providing on-arrival visas to Chinese visitors as well as the entry to tourists from third countries. With Nepal government establishing an immigration office, Nepalis can get passes to visit up to Kyirong. Earlier, only residents of Rasuwa were allowed to go there.

Traders and trade experts said the alternative route will help increase trade between the two countries.”It could increase the inflow of imported goods and minimise import costs,” said trade expert Bijendra Shakya. According to Shakya, there should be an improvement in the infrastructure connecting the customs point in order to utilise the bilateral trade potential. The construction of the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Rasuwagadhi is expected to facilitate trade with the northern neighbour. The Chinese government had agreed to construct an ICD in the area. During the bilateral talks held in Kathmandu last month, the Chinese side agreed to construct the infrastructure including a quarantine facility, warehouse, customs office, inspection and security, bank, restaurant and medical facility in the border area. According to the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, the Chinese side had agreed to construct all the facilities except the parking yard. Jib Raj Koirala, joint secretary at the Commerce Ministry, said they were holding talks with the Chinese side to develop roadway along Galchhi-Dhunche-Rasuwagadhi to make the most of the new link. “If the infrastructure is developed, it could be a more convenient route for trade with China than the existing Tatopani route,” he said.

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