Statement by Hon. Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal at the “Myanmar-Nepal Friendship and Business Opportunities” programme jointly organized by Myanmar-Nepal Friendship Association and Myanmar-Nepal Chamber of Commerce
Yangon, 19 October 2019
Mr. President, Myanmar-Nepal Friendship Association
Mr. President, Myanmar-Nepal Chamber of Commerce
Friends from Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you today. I have had similar privilege before but this one is special. Because our meeting is taking place on the occasion of the state visit of Rt. Honourable President of Nepal to Myanmar. It is a unique gathering, a perfect combination of business and friendship associations, both playing an important role in cementing friendly ties between our two countries. This certainly gives me an added pleasure.
Although Nepal and Myanmar formally established diplomatic relations six decades ago, both countries have maintained contacts for a very long period of time. Our ancient land links, marital associations, cultural similarities, deep respect towards each other, and practice of Buddhism have brought us closer. Myanmar nationals of Nepali origin have further strengthened our relations as a bridge. The friendship association has immensely contributed in nurturing people to people contacts which remains at the core of any bilateral relationship. I would like to see them working proactively to promote understanding, good will and cooperation between our two countries. Buddha’s eternal teachings of love, compassion and empathy influence daily life of the people in both countries.
Nepal had opened its Consulate in 1949 in Yangon, well before we established formal diplomatic relations in 1960. The establishment of diplomatic relations further cemented the bilateral relations.
Beyond the bilateral domain, Nepal and Myanmar are active members of BIMSTEC and Asian Cooperation Dialogue. This gives them an opportunity to collaborate to advance common interest within the framework of regional cooperation. We are of the view that countries in Asia should work together based on Oriental values and norms to contribute to development and prosperity for the entire Asian continent.
Talking in the multilateral context, even broader opportunities are there for them to work together in various multilateral forums such as United Nations, NAM, G-77. Today’s world where basic tenets of multilateralism are under attack, solidarity and unity among developing countries is essential to overcome the challenges of contemporary world and ensure a just, fair and rules based international order.
Let me reflect on the bilateral relations.
President Rt. Honourable Bidya Devi Bhandari is on a state visit to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar at the friendly invitation of His Excellency U Win Myint. This is the first ever visit by a president of Nepal and by a head of state of Nepal in nearly four decades. This visit assumes a special significance in the context of far reaching changes that our two countries have undergone in recent years. Our two countries have started the exchange of high level visits in recent years. I recall with pleasure the official visit of His Excellency Myint in August last year. We also had the privilege of welcoming the State Counsellor Her Excellency Aung San Suu Kyi in November. In one year alone, we have been able to conclude three important bilateral instruments in the fields of trade and investment, tourism and culture. These instruments carry immense importance in furthering economic and cultural ties between our two countries. We already enjoy strong political relationships.
Lumbini, birth place of Lord Buddha and fountain of Buddhism as well as world peace, is a sacred place for Buddhist around the world. Thousands of Buddhist pilgrims including from Myanmar visit Lumbini every year. Lumbini is more than a religious site; it is also a cultural treasure of humanity listed under the UNESCO heritage sites. I am happy to note that the Government and the People of Myanmar have contributed for the development of Lumbini. I would add one more fact in this connection; the pagoda built by Myanmar in Lumbini has remained a centre of attraction for Buddhist pilgrims from Myanmar and the world. It would be my remiss if I fail to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by former Secretary-General of UN, U Thant, who hailed from Myanmar, for his for galvanizing international support for the development of Lumbini.
To facilitate tourists and other people, a new international airport is on the verge of completion. Once in operation the airport will greatly facilitate international travel to and from Lumbini. This will help realize the objectives of visit Nepal year 2020. This is only one dimension. Nepal has to offer a lot of unique things ranging from natural beauty as manifested by majestic Himalayas, flora and fauna to rich cultural treasures. Cultural diversity is our asset and peaceful co-existence is our way of life. We would like to welcome our friends from Myanmar to visit Nepal as our tourism products intend to meet the expectations of tourists of all kinds and for all purposes.
With the successful promulgation of Constitution in 2015 and elections at all three levels of local, province and federal, we have a stable government in Nepal after decades. Now the Government has concentrated its focus on socio-economic transformation with clearly defined objectives of improving people’s standard of living and achieving higher and sustainable economic growth.
The overarching national aspiration that has guided our development vision and action is “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali”. We intend to become middle income country by 2030 and achieve the SDGs by the same deadline. With the Government economic policies and constant hard work of the people, we have achieved 7.1 percent economic growth in the last fiscal year and we are likely to maintain this rate for the current fiscal year.
Nepal and Myanmar both are developing countries. We have common development challenges. We have a combined population of 83 million, which could be a big market. Our policies are liberal and our visa regime is also liberal. Therefore, I would like to urge the business community of Myanmar to visit Nepal and explore the opportunity for business.
The Government of Nepal is steadily and determinedly working towards building a business-oriented, investment-friendly environment in Nepal through various policy, structural, and legal reforms and introducing new market-friendly incentives and policies to make Nepal a profitable business destination. Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act has been thoroughly revised and updated and the Public Private Partnership and Investment Act has been promulgated to provide a sound regulatory framework for investment. Laws pertaining to intellectual property rights are under consideration for revision.
Nepal has trade and investment cooperation agreement with Myanmar. The Nepali businessmen are keen to work with the businessmen from Myanmar. Nepal’s Federation of Cottage and Small Industries (FNCIS) and Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the promotion of business between two countries.
The Government has opened almost all sectors for foreign direct investment. The negative list is very short. Our two countries have the advantage of huge markets in our neighbourhood. Moreover, regional forums like BIMSTEC offer a promising future for expanding trade and investment opportunities in the region.
Being an LDC, we have preferential access to some of the international markets.
We have untapped natural resources. We also have huge demographic dividend with 57 percentage of working age population. Every year over 500 thousand youths enter into job market. We have educated and trained working population. Combination of both makes investment in any sector in Nepal highly profitable. Hydropower and infrastructure development, agriculture, tourism, information technologies, manufacturing, mines and minerals have been identified as priority areas for investment.
Other incentives related to investment such as tax, foreign exchange, repatriation of capital, import, visa, land acquisition, company registration are quite attractive and the government has installed a one stop service to facilitate visa process in a time bound manner.
Disposable income of locals is increasing rapidly due to remittances from abroad, creating new local markets for products as well as new pools of talent within the labor market.
We successfully organized Investment Summit in March, 2019 and Infrastructure Summit in September, 2019. I recall the participation of His Excellency U Thaung Tun, Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations at the Investment Summit. Both the summits witnessed active participation from many countries. Investment Summit saw investors pledging to finance several mega projects. The later summit saw extensive discussions focused on the global and regional megatrends, including climate change, and their relevance to the local context, issues surrounding infrastructure project delivery, financing modalities, and opportunities for cross-border economic cooperation and investments.
We understand that protection of your investment and reaping eventual profit is your priority. The Government of Nepal is fully committed and capable to protecting foreign investment with assured profit. We have formulated laws to protect your investment.
We have robust institutional set up that looks after investment in Nepal. Nepal Investment Board, chaired by the Right Honorable Prime Minister is a dedicated organization that looks after major investment projects. Similarly, the Department of Industry and Industrial Promotion Board have further strengthened existing investment mechanism.
As we look towards the future, I am confident that our common values and shared interests will continue to unite us. Our close relationship has only strengthened with time. We value cultural similarities that exist between our two countries. We value trade and business which are the bases of our economies but we also value our friendship and trust between our two nations and people. Let those values never diminish.
As our two governments have expressed strong determination to work together for enlarging the scope of economic cooperation, it is but natural that we expect our business communities to match the spirit and take concomitant efforts to realize the vision set forth by the government. My job here today is to appeal to the business communities of both countries to forge collaborative partnerships in realizing potentials that our two countries offer.
I would like to thank the organizers once again for this opportunity to address you all in this platform,