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Aid for Nepal

An interesting suggestion from a reader here:

Dear Ambassador,

Forgive me. I am just a random UK citizen and I realise this is a difficult and busy time for you and Nepal. So I will brief. I have just read Carole Cadwalladr’s piece in the Guardian. I think she’s dead right but she left out one point. Increased trade is the key to the long term development of Nepal. Thus I propose that you ask, hint, suggest (as well as welcoming well meaning offers of relief) that you sieze the opportunity of the current sentiment to ask the British government/ political parties to abolish all tariff barriers and quotas between our countries.
I will be suggesting this in other quarters, if any of your staff have figures for the current restrictions on trade the EU provide please ask them to email me.

With great repect.


I expect that there’s not really much in the way of EU tariff barriers on products from Nepal. As a very poor place it will have exemptions from pretty much everything. And the horrible textiles controls have pretty much gone these days. except, of course, for food, which is one place where a poor rural country might be able to do well. But trade is, in the medium term at least, the way that poverty is beaten so it’s a good idea to remove whatever restrictions do exist.

14 thoughts on “Aid for Nepal”

  1. I donated some money last night.

    But yes, the trade part is crucial.
    A few weeks back my MD had a business meeting with a young Nepalese man who trades from his home country. The Nepalese man ordered thousands of pounds of product from us to sell to tourists in his home country.
    The product was ready for shipment to Kathmandu on Monday, but after what happened over the weekend we were unsure whether the shipment would go ahead after all (it did).
    In the longer term, the Nepalese man will take products from us and then he will resell in his own country and to customers in India. For this to work he will need to hire people in his country to deal with his customer orders.
    So jobs created, even if just a few, for local Nepalese (hopefully) people.

    Anyway, for the record, if this earthquake had happened in Pakistan, I would have not donated. There. I said it.
    But Nepal is such a harmless country. A donation to Nepal was something I also felt was a worthy thing to do, even just as a back handed thankyou to the contribution of the Gurkhas to our armed forces

  2. What does Nepal have that is worth buying? I thought their biggest export was soldiers (UK) and police (Singapore).

    OK, there is tourism, but Nepal is not the cheapest place to visit due to it’s remoteness. Everyone keeps banging the trade drum as a way to reduce poverty but people never seem to ask if a country really has enough to trade that would do the job.

    Of course, for remote countries with sod all in resources there is always the finance industry. Imagine if Nepal developed itself as an off shore finance centre. Imagine the reaction of the Guardian readership. And that Ritchie bloke who seems to be at war with this blog.

  3. Nepal generates a big chunk of change from flogging Everest/other Himalayan climbing permits at $12k a pop – and then there’s the well paid work for the Sherpa crews – some of whom have now set up their own Expedition firms to compete with the pricier western companies. Of course, (was there ever any doubt) The Guardian and other hippies have been complaining mightily that all those dreadful white skinned moneybags are offending Goddess Gaia by traipsing up the side.

    Interesting to note that the northern side of the mountain (the Chinese side) has a fraction of traffic the Nepalese side gets. Partly, this is due to the fact that’s its a tougher climb and needs real mountaineering experience, but mainly becuase the Chinese authorities just aren’t that bothered. They’d rather millions visit the Great Wall rather than hundreds try and do Everest.

  4. I expect that there’s not really much in the way of EU tariff barriers on products from Nepal. As a very poor place it will have exemptions from pretty much everything.

    Yeah, that’s right (src). I checked a load of processed goods, and Nepal has zero import duty. And if zero on manufactured goods, it’ll certainly be zero on raw materials.

    I’m not sure about non-tariff barriers, as the information is harder to find, but it is worth noting that non-tariff barriers can be more distorting to trade than tariffs for a variety of reasons.

    Oddly, Germany is Nepal’s major trading partner within the EU, with the UK coming second (src).

  5. Yeah, the major problem is that Nepal’s only competitive advantage is a big, fuck-off set of mountains which are notoriously hard to reach but also sodding dangerous. Even if the tourist numbers multiplied tenfold (and you can imagine what that would do to the trash left at Everest base camp and above), they’d still be dirt poor. Shame, because they are lovely people, worked with loads on Sakhalin. They worked as scaffolders, and were as hard as nails.

  6. SBML

    “Trade not Aid”

    I like it.

    Whereas Dave prefers to commit to an EU that restricts our ability to negotiate the former, whilst committing 0.7% of GDP to the latter…

  7. So Much for Subtlety

    Even if Nepal got its act together, it would still be screwed. After all, it shares borders with only two counties. One is China. The other is India. So transport is expensive and has to pass the grubby little sticky hands of whatever Indian civil servants need to pay their children’s school fees.

    However since over throwing its monarchy, Nepal has been run by Maoists. Which has not been as bad as you might expect. But has not been good either.

  8. What @SMFS said. Even if you could set up some kind of manufacturing in Nepal, getting it out would probably be the hardest bit.

  9. Tim Newman, have you ever met a scaffolder of any nationality that wasn’t hard as nails?!

    Heh, no. Now I think about it. 🙂

    I think I met one who could read *and* write though, and there was a rumour that there was one on another platform who didn’t have a criminal record…

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