Even as several industries are struggling to cope with the industrial unrest, American Chamber of Commerce-India has shown interest to invest in Nepal<br>DEBESH ADHIKARI

Aug. 9, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-4 Aug. 05-2011 (Shrawan 20,2068)<BR>

Uncertain politics continues to steal news headlines and keep foreign investors at bay. Yet, a delegation of the American Chamber of Commerce in India has sounded a positive note in the midst of worries about the growing industrial unrest and worsening economy.

A delegation from the American Chamber of Commerce in India completed a three-day visit recently. The trade mission, the first by a U.S. business organization in 13 years, explored investment and trade opportunities in Nepal.

A US Embassy press release said, “This important visit demonstrated the renewed American interest in Nepal’s economy. Building on the recently-signed U.S-Nepal Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the Embassy hopes to expand the economic ties between the United States and Nepal.”

Nine U.S. companies took part in the delegation, including Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Rockwell Automation, Monsanto, and Bell Helicopter.  The delegates met with the Prime Minister, senior government officials, political leaders, private sector companies, and U.S. Embassy officials.

Addressing a press conference, the business leaders said that they would study to see which areas would offer them advantage.

“Time has come to stop looking at Nepal from the lens of conflict and start looking beyond political issues and start rebuilding; time has come to change,” said American ambassador to Nepal scott H. DeLisi at the press meet.

To explore the various business propositions, Aniruddha Lahari, the vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce in India, and his team recently visited Nepal.

Lahari said, “I and my team members have been able to facilitate the chance of exploring Nepal, Nepal is not a land free of challenges and obstacles, but the business propositions, viable and strong ones, can succeed here.”

Lahari and his team met prime minister Jhalanath Khanal, cabinet ministers , political leaders, senior bureaucrats and local investors.“ We received positive vibes from all the people we met and that has led to a sense of satisfaction,” Lahari said.

There are diverse business opportunities for foreign investors in Nepal. The naturally blessed land has various unexploited areas which can be attractive to any foreign investor. Sectors like hydropower, transportation, IT, and tourism offer big opportunities and are preferable investment sectors, said Lahari. Besides, the government is already in talks with American Embassy on the possibility of American investments in various sectors.

When asked about the scope of foreign investments, Lahari answered, “The initial investments will be primarily focused to tap the domestic market but in the course of time the markets in India and China can also be capitalized.”

But foreign investment, especially from India, is not well received and supported by various political parties to make Nepal an ideal investment destination. In the past, various issues have put foreign investment in jeopardy. The instant strikes and bands do not help the investment climate get any better.

The recent attempt to sabotage the Indian company GMR (the developer of Upper Karnali Hydropower project) by Maoists has raised a few eyebrows in the international business arena, sending negative messages to the potential foreign investors. But the government’s decision to protect the site by using armed personnel mitigated the situation. Regarding this incident, Lahari said,“It was an unfortunate incident which has given the wrong signals, but this isolated event shouldn’t be generalized and it does not reflect the overall foreign investment situation in Nepal,” adding, “We have been assured by the government to provide security to the investments and to take care of the labor issues and strikes but assurance only is not enough, the government has to demonstrate their commitments.”

Despite all the uncertainties in the country, Lahari assured he would convey positive impressions about Nepal as a potential investment destination to his colleagues and investors in US, India and other nations. This has raised hopes for the advent of the foreign investments.

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