Delivered by David Shark,
Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
Thank you, Chair.
The United States welcomes the participation of the delegation of Nepal, headed by Mr. Lal Mani Joshi, Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, in the WTO’s first review of that government’s trade policies and practices. We greatly appreciate the reports prepared by the Nepalese Government and the WTO Secretariat and circulated for WTO Members’ consideration prior to this meeting. These reports have helped outline Nepal’s economic policies and highlight the impressive steps taken by Nepal to secure the benefits of an increasingly open trade and investment regime. We also thank Ms. Christine Hochstatter for her observations as the discussant during this important milestone in Nepal’s WTO membership.
The United States recognizes that acceding to the WTO can pose particular challenges for LDCs and remains committed to working closely with LDCs, as it did with Nepal, to maximize the benefits of the WTO accession process for a country’s economy. As the first LDC to go through the full WTO accession process and complete it, Nepal met those challenges head-on and used the results of the negotiations to enhance its investment climate. The obligations undertaken by Nepal in its accession package reflected its desire to establish greater predictability and openness in its market through its commitments to WTO Members. This includes binding virtually all of its tariff lines; expanding market access for imports, including for agricultural products; and scheduling meaningful services commitments, including in financial services, telecommunications, and professional services that make it clear that Nepal welcomes foreign service suppliers that can help improve its business infrastructure.
Nepal undertook these market access obligations to promote economic development by ensuring the availability and greater affordability of goods and services needed by the Nepalese people. These obligations and other economic reforms have contributed to the diversification of Nepal’s exports and its steady economic growth in the past several years. For example, recognizing the economic benefits of opening trade in telecom services, Nepal made several specific commitments on telecommunications, including signing the Reference Paper on basic telecommunications. These commitments, along with generally positive legislative initiatives, appear to have contributed to impressive results for Nepalese consumers. As the Secretariat highlighted, Nepal’s telecommunications network has grown considerably over the last few years, with considerable increases in cell phone subscribers and Internet users since accession.
The United States has a long history of economic engagement with Nepal, and we were particularly pleased to be able to advance that engagement by signing a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Nepal in 2011. This Agreement establishes an ongoing mechanism for us to discuss trade and investment issues of mutual interest in order to further strengthen the bilateral economic relationship.
Nepal’s accession protocol outlined a number of steps Nepal would need to take in subsequent years to bring its trade and investment regime more in line with WTO rules. Nepal has made significant progress on these steps, including the use of valuation methods prescribed by the Customs Valuation Agreement, the adoption of laws designed to base SPS measures on international standards, and the preparation of standards legislation with a view to implementing the TBT Agreement. The United States commends Nepal on this concrete demonstration of its commitment to the rules-based system of the WTO.
Equally important, however, Nepal has not simply been content with trying to implement WTO rules. Instead, Nepal has engaged in a serious examination of trade and investment policy tools, including through its Nepal Trade Integration Study (NTIS), in order to determine how those tools could best contribute to the country’s economic development goals. In so doing, Nepal has emphasized the central role played by the private sector rather than the State in economic growth, and has accordingly pursued liberalizing policies that are designed to create greater opportunities for the private sector. Additionally, the United States would like to highlight, in particular, the actions taken by Nepal to streamline customs procedures and adopt other trade facilitation measures, which have already led to a reduction in documentary requirements. We also acknowledge the work Nepal is doing to further automate its customs procedures, with the aim of facilitating investment in Nepal.
That Nepal has taken such positive steps in the face of serious difficulties – as a landlocked country, struggling with armed conflict, and establishing new governmental institutions – is a testament to the determination and resolve of Nepal. We encourage Nepal to continue to make the most of trade and investment policy tools, enshrined in the multilateral framework of the WTO, to help improve the lives of its people. We also encourage Nepal to continue working with the Secretariat to meet its notification obligations.
We appreciate that Nepal has expressed its commitment to working through the challenges it continues to face in developing a high standard trade and investment regime. Whether in regards to public procurement practices, the investment climate, GSP, standards and conformity assessment, or IPR protection and enforcement – or, indeed, any other area of trade and investment policy – the United States stands ready and committed to work with Nepal, bilaterally and with other Members through the WTO, to address those challenges.
In closing, the United States appreciates this opportunity to participate in this discussion and looks forward to exploring Nepal’s trade and investment regime with the delegation from Nepal and other Members. We thank Nepal for its answers to our written questions and look forward to reviewing them. We also look forward to continuing our work with Nepal and our trading partners to strengthen the global economy and the multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO, allowing trade and investment opportunities to expand. We wish Nepal a successful review.