Kathmandu: The first EU-Nepal Business Forum that brought together more than 250 participants ended on Tuesday, with proposals to continue regular exchanges to follow up on ideas discussed at the two-day forum.
Addressing the closing session, Nepal’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ramesh Rijal conveyed the government’s commitment to mitigate short-term challenges that could result for businesses from the country’s graduation to a middle income country.
“We look forward to support from Europe to assist us in making a smooth and irreversible graduation,” Rijal said. “We have been continuously reforming trade and investment policies and are always open to suggestions from stakeholders.”
The closing session on economic diplomacy was addressed by ambassadors of EU Member States and trade representatives, both in-country and those based in New Delhi, India.
“This was an unique opportunity to show European unity and strength in support of Nepal,” said Nona Deprez, Ambassador of the Delegation of the EU in Nepal, who had chaired the closing session.
Dr. Thomas Prinz, German ambassador to Nepal, proposed having more focused meetings to follow-up to take stock of actual fulfilment of commitments. He added that it was important to meet regularly to ensure that the momentum created by the event was not lost.
“This has been an excellent platform for sharing information and experiences, and networking,” said Riina-Rikka Heikka, Finnish Ambassador to Nepal, who added that Finland has various tools to support businesses such as the Finn Fund and business matchmaking, Finn Partner.
“There have been many ideas, we see potential in ICT, education, water sanitation, clean tech, agro-bio technology and circular economy,”she said. “We need to convene more often on these different themes.”
The Austrian Ambassador Katharina Wieser travelled to Nepal with the Austrian trade representative to continue engagement with the Nepali business sector.
“The challenge is to continue engagements to resolve challenges identified and secure political commitment to deal with the challenges,” she said. “There was broad agreement on what needs to be done, we should continue this exercise.”
Other speakers at the closing session were two Belgian trade commissioners Guillaume Arnoud R. De Bassompierre and Babette Desfossez, and Allessandro Liberatori, trade commissioner at the Embassy of Italy, New Delhi.
Liberatori said Italy was interested in expanding engagements in Nepal and the forum provided the opportunity to understand what Nepal could offer to Italian businesses.
Guillaume Arnoud R. De Bassom Pierre, the Wallonia Belgian trade representative, added that Nepal suffered from an “image deficit” and should be more on the radar of the 175 Belgian companies with investments in India. “We can work to interest those companies about what can be done here, and will also increase the number of trade and investment exchanges”.