Nepal should focus on signing PTA with India

Stewart Beck, Ambassador of Canada to Nepal and India

Stewart Beck, Ambassador of Canada to Nepal and India, is concluding his three-day Nepal visit on Wednesday. Beck was in Nepal leading a team of businessmen from Canada. Launch of Canada-Nepal Business Executive Committee and identification of investment avenues mainly in hydropower and infrastructure sectors were the main objectives of the visit. Bhoj Raj Poudel of Republica caught up with Beck to talk about the prospects of attracting Canadian investment in Nepal. Excerpts:

Stewart Beck, Ambassador of Canada to Nepal and India
Stewart Beck, Ambassador of Canada to Nepal and India

What encouraged you to lead a business delegation to Nepal at a time when the country is going through a transitional phase and even local investors are shying away from making fresh investment?
Business can happen even when political situation is fluid. I have been focusing on economic development of Nepal. I want investors from Canada to come to Nepal and share expertise they have in different sectors such as aviation and hydropower. To create economic opportunities, we have to focus on developing ties through talks at different levels. The meeting with the business people from Nepal some months ago encouraged us organize a delegation of Canadian investors to Nepal.

Is the visit limited to just taking stock of the situation here?
Canadian companies are trying to explore investment opportunities in Nepal. There are certain things that the Nepali side should do first. The first is to improve security situation. There should be an environment where investors feel secure once they make investment. The second thing is improving governance. There should be regulation in all the levels with sound governance. These are the two things that will be considered by any international investors before actually coming with investment. Nepal should understand that and has to work on that direction. Investors from Canada are really looking for investment avenues.

Do you think that the security situation and governance in Nepal will be improved in the near future?
I think so. Nepal is a young democracy and young democracy goes through these kinds of problems. The formation of council of ministers and setting the timeframe to hold election is positive development. It has actually laid a foundation to be hopeful about the future.

Have you approached the Nepal government regarding providing protection to foreign investors, especially those from Canada?
We have talked about signing the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Nepal. Discussions on signing foreign investment protection agreement between the two countries are also underway. Availability of market is an incentive for investors. Nepal is near from India, which is a very large market. It should explore the Indian market first. For that, Nepal should expedite the process to sign power trade agreement (PTA) with and India.

The process of signing PTA between Nepal and India is in a limbo. Are you thinking about taking steps to make that agreement happen?
This issue has to be dealt with by Nepal and India.

But you can be a facilitator?
Yes, of course we can. I had talked about it in my previous visit as well. It´s a fact that the investors are looking to make investment in Nepal. I think India also realizes this situation. This visit is also a kind of steps toward developing harmonious relationship among the business people from India, Canada and Nepal.
We can definitely create conducive environment for conversation between Nepal and India for working toward signing PTA.

How is your impression about the Indian eagerness to develop hydropower in Nepal and import it? Is India ready to sign the PTA?
India needs energy and it is aware of it. Nepal is rich in natural resources. And I am sure India realizes that Nepal could be its source for energy in the future. I think India has to work on opening up the ways to import power from Nepal in order to achieve double digit growth.

Are Canadian investors interested to put money here if PTA is signed between Nepal and India?
Yes. There should be some basic things like security, governance and certainty of market for investors to come here.

Is Canada going to make any substantial change in its official development assistance?
Though we have closed our bilateral office in Nepal, our multilateral project is running here. The closure of the office was part of our country´s policy. Not only in Nepal, bilateral offices were closed in other countries as well. Nepal is strategically located between two giant countries — India and China. However, there will not be any significant policy change in the near future.

Source : Republica