Trade was one of the important sectors that were discussed during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister.
According to the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, rather then diving into specifics, the government made a more general request to India’s External Affairs Minister.
Lyonpo said that Bhutan and India have free trade agreements, however, despite the accords, trading has been challenging due to a slew of non-tariff barriers, including quality, sanitary, pricing differentials, and a variety of other factors.
“So what we requested was two things: to remove all non-tariff barriers and to remove all time bound extensions, and give us a perpetual extension because this falls under our free trade agreement,’ Lyonpo said.
Prior to the pandemic, when the border was not closed, everything took place informally and unofficially. There was only one product officially permitted to be exported from Bhutan, and that was asparagus; no other commodity was permitted to be exported; similarly, fertilizer is prohibited for export by India, but Bhutan was importing; and all of this occurred as a result of the pandemic.
Lyonpo said that many trade issues have risen, which the government believes is a good thing because it provides them the opportunity to resolve them once and for all.
“If all of these issues are resolved, there will be predictability and no harassment in the future,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo stated that there was no time to explain and address each issue individually, and the External Affairs Minister was only here for one day, but they assured that they will support and everything would be resolved.
Meanwhile, Economic Minister Loknath Sharma said there are major problems with export of potato, ginger, and areca nut.
Lyonpo said that the export permit for potatoes was extended until June 2022, and we must address it before it expires. The restriction on ginger and areca nut was implemented last year.
“I’ve been traveling because this matter is dear to my heart, and because these are our farmers,” and further he said that farmers are either unable to get the right prices or unable to sell their produce.
“I was in Assam and West Bengal because we wanted to leave no stone unturned. I spoke with everyone in the trading sector, from customs to the Chief Minister, to ensure that our trade would not suffer. This was especially crucial because we could not meet with them for two years because of the pandemic,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo said he had anticipated for an announcement to be made this time during the India’s External Affairs Minister’s visit.
“I had previously come to discuss this with the Commerce Minister, and they had informed me that they would absolutely address this by the end of April. And it was the end of April when we revisited, and I was really hoping that this would be announced, but they couldn’t because the Minister was only here for a short time, the Foreign Minister as well as the Prime Minister has taken it very well.”
Lyonpo added that they have also agreed to resolve the potato and ginger export issues. “I hope it to be resolved soon as they have stated that it will be done soon,” Lyonpo added.