The Tatopani border point with Nepal’s northern neighbor China, which had been closed under various pretexts, partially reopened from February 9. Before that, the checkpoint had been completely closed for 20 days. The Chinese government had completely shut down the checkpoint from January 7 to 27 for the reconstruction of the Miteri Bridge.
Six goods-bearing containers arrived at the dry port of Larcha in Bhotekoshi village municipality between noon and evening on February 9 after the Tatopani checkpoint came into partial operation, informs Lal Bahadur Khatri, chief of customs office at the dry port. According to Khatri, six containers stuck at the Miteri Bridge since the border closure arrived at the port. “From there, the goods were loaded into six containers with Nepali number plates and dispatched to their destinations,” Khatri adds. So far, the border is open only one-way, from China to Nepal. Export of Nepali goods to China has not resumed, including at the Rasuwa port.
According to Khatri, at least 20 containers will enter the country daily from Khasa with the border’s reopening. “The Chinese side is also positive about increasing the number of containers it exports to Nepal. The checkpoint will be fully functional from February 14,” Khatri says, adding that the Chinese side has made internal preparations to send 40 containers of goods daily. With only 48 trolleys at the customs office in Larcha, the Nepali side has made arrangements to receive only 20 containers a day.
Tatopani is the main trade border point connecting Nepal and China. The Rasuwa checkpoint has been opened as an alternative to the Tatopani border, which has been blocked time and again under various pretexts. The import from China is worth over Rs 20 billion a year while export is worth only around Rs 3 billion, with the Tatopani border acting as the main trading route. According to Naresh Katuwal, president of the National Federation of Nepali Entrepreneurs, the number of containers arriving in Nepal daily via Tatopani is insufficient. “The entrepreneurs have been facing this problem for the past 3-4 years,” Katuwal says. “Even though the Tatopani checkpoint is operational, we have been unable to bring enough containers.” The federation has asked for import facilities for at least 25 to 30 goods-bearing containers a day.
Bachchu Poudel, president of the Nepal Himalayan Cross-Border Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says China has implemented a ‘quota system’ at Tatopani. According to Poudel, the containers with fresh goods are still stuck in China and only the containers carrying backdated orders have arrived.
Poudel says Chinese control over bilateral trade will remain in place until Nepali containers reach the Khasa market without any hindrance. According to him, the checkpoint will again be affected for the next three weeks with the approach of the Chinese new year. China has been closing its borders every year during its lunar new year.