”Trade With Europe Needs Improved Information System"

With a lot of experience in Nepal-European trade in the hindsight, BINAYAK SHAH, president of European Economic Chamber (EEC), Nepal spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues related to Nepal's trade with Europe. Excerpts:

July 26, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -4 July. 25- 2014 (Sharawan 9, 2071)

What does the European Economic Chamber do?

With the purpose of promoting the investors in Nepal and trade with Europe, our chamber has been providing information on trade, investment, technology transfer and tourism in Nepal and Europe. We are focusing more on promotion side.  Despite huge potentials for promotion of bilateral trade with Europe, we have just materialized a fraction of it.  For Europeans, there is a global market. Nepal’s market is very small. Thus, Europeans have little concern about Nepal. Nepal is also unable to make aggressive efforts to grasp the opportunities available in Europe. Lack of information is one of the reasons behind the present state.

Do you have complete and updated information?

We don’t have any complete information packages to show what opportunities are available in Nepal and what is the legal regime and policy for foreign direct investment. If we want to increase bilateral trade, Nepal needs to feed in the information regularly to Europeans. Similar kinds of information need to be fed to Nepali traders and business communities about the policies of Europe on trade, export and market opportunities available. To increase the bilateral trade and invite European investors in Nepal, we need to make many efforts to disseminate the information.  Our chamber has been doing its best to disseminate the information regularly. 

What kinds of information are required for this?

We need to provide up-to-date information about tariffs, laws, policies on FDI and market opportunities. We need to maintain the flow of up-to-date information to operators of both the countries.  For instance, we need to feed in the information about the current budget and policies and programs immediately to concerned operators. At present, we are providing limited information. However, we are working to expand our information system so that operators from both the sides can obtain updated information as they wish.

Do you have adequate information to feed to those who want to know Nepal’s overall legal situation in FDI?

Our primary objective is to offer such information whenever required. European companies often contact us whenever there is a global tender, such as on telecommunication, electromechanical and construction works. We have been providing related information to Europeans. Similarly, we have also been providing information to Nepalese traders about the opportunities available in Europe. We have also been helping, on the personal basis, Nepalese to find consultants for specific areas.

How well are you addressing the needs?

Our organization is a member-based organization. All the Nepalese who have been doing business with Europe are our members. We have been addressing their requirements. As a bilateral chamber, we also facilitate and provide logistic support to Europeans who come to work in Nepal. Given the present scenario, what we can say is that we will have more role to play in the coming days.

How do you see the state of trade with Europe?

At present our trade with Europe is limited to a few bigger countries. Our trade is now confined to Germany, Italy, England and France. We need to take initiatives to expand our bilateral trade with East European countries which have recently joined the European Union. We need to tap the opportunities available in those countries. For promotion of business and trade, the first and foremost thing is business information. This information needs to be sent to Nepalese Embassies, consulates in Europe and the business organizations under our network. If we disseminate the information through them, we will get a lot of benefits initially. Two weeks ago, I travelled to different parts of Europe to build the network in Germany, Belgium, France and Italy. I talked with different organizations on how to exchange our information and they are very positive.

How do you see Nepal’s prospects?

As world’s fastest economic growth has been taking place in Nepal’s neighborhood, Nepal’s geo-location can attract European investors. Europeans have shown interest to invest in Nepal. If we disseminate the information to them, it will bring a lot of change.  During my visit in Europe, I also met officials of European Business Network, a global European network with members representing European investors around the world. From this year, Nepal also got the membership and we have got a new forum to disseminate information on opportunities available in Nepal.

How possible is to attract European investment in Nepal?

Despite the potential, we are yet to attract FDI from Europe. As Nepal has been passing through a prolonged political transition, investors are in wait and see mood. If Nepal’s political situation improves, more Europeans will be likely to come to invest in Nepal. Basically, political uncertainty is discouraging investors. Currently only a few investors are investing in Nepal. Despite interest, bigger investors are reluctant. Investors have high hope on this government which was formed after the elections of second Constituent Assembly. There are positive impacts. If we can promulgate the new constitution, it will generate new hopes.

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