Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of Czech Republic
Vojtěch Filipis the Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of Czech Republic. He was in Nepal last month for a four-day visit leading a high-level legislative delegation. The delegation was here to define the steps to create a new legal framework regarding the bilateral relationship between Nepal and the Central European nation. Besides this, the high-level visit also looked into various aspects of bilateral trade between the two countries to find ways to expand areas of cooperation. In an interview with Sanjeev Sharma of New Business Age, Filip expressed his views on the possible areas of economic cooperation, ways of removing the impediments and further strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Excerpts:
How has your visit been to Nepal?
For me it is important that the visit match the objective and the purpose that is defined for us. And it is also important that all the members of the delegation share this opinion. There are no unsettled issues between Nepal and the Czech Republic as we have a very friendly relationship.
The objective of the visit was to define the steps that will help us achieve a new legal framework for our relations. In January last year we concluded an agreement between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic and the Ministry of Finance of Nepal. And on the basis of this agreement a joint inter-governmental commission was established that will evaluate how we can promote and expand our relations. And we agreed during this visit that the commission shall meet before the end of the year and the meeting shall take place in Prague. The objective of the meeting will be to establish a new contractual framework for the protection of the investment and avoid double taxation. It will be very important for the Czech companies that want to come and invest in Nepal or want to establish joint ventures here.
We also want to promote our relations in the area of tourism. Of course tourists don't have the same requirements as businesses, but visitors also want to have a stable environment. Meanwhile, we also gathered new information related to the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Education. In order to boost the relations in these areas, we also need a new contractual framework for social security and health care provisions for our citizens and Nepali citizens to benefit from health care services. At all levels we found an understanding with all the representatives.
What major achievements do you see after the establishment of bilateral relations between Nepal and Czech Republic in 1993?
The bilateral relationship between our countries is even older dating back to the 1950s during the time of the former Czechoslovakia. The major achievements of our bilateral relations are the promotion of our commercial exchanges, increase in Nepali exports to the Czech Republic and vice versa. We import items such as textiles and clothing products, tea and some food items from Nepal and export machineries to your country. We can see that there has been an increase in the export of Czech mechanical engineering products to Nepal. The Skoda car brand is one such example sales which has boosted in the recent years. Another example is the short distance L-410 aircraft manufactured in the Czech Republic which are being used to increase regional connectivity in Nepal.
We have also been providing humanitarian assistance to Nepal. We sent a large rescue team last year in Nepal when the country was hit by the terrible earthquake. We do have a number of non governmental agencies helping the authorities to promote social projects. Today we have dozens of Nepali Students studying in the Czech Republic and this is a completely new milestone in our bilateral relationship.
Businesses of both countries need to be able to strengthen the existing ties and to establish new ones. Believe me, we the Czechs are open minded people. Definitely we are interested in increasing our economic presence here, but we are equally interested in having more products of Nepali origin and thus to expand consumers choice in the Czech Republic.
How can we expand trade between the two countries?
The major obstacle is the non-existence of the bilateral agreement between Nepal and Czech Republic. In this sense, it is a challenge for the parliament and also for the concerned ministries. Once we have the agreement on protection of investment, we will be able to increase the investment. That means there will be more jobs for the people and more Nepalis and Czechs will be visiting each other’s countries. For that purpose both nations need to sign an agreement on social security and healthcare.
Both countries have to be ready to invest in time to better understand each other’s priorities. It is very important that we on both sides do have companies which are keen to work together which is our major asset. Now, it is also about transparency and predictability of the economic environment in which they operate. It is important that we are able to increase contact at all levels including the inter-parliamentary, government to government and business levels. It is important to put in place a mechanism that would help us identify the areas in which both countries are ready to work together. We need to interconnect the economic needs of Nepal on the one side and the potential and capacity of Czech-based companies on the other.
What are the possible areas where the two countries can collaborate?
There is enormous potential in tourism in Nepal that has not been utilised. Czech citizens would certainly love to see the Himalayas and the scenic beauty across the country. It is a positive indication that the arrival of tourists in Nepal is increasing every year. Nevertheless, for Nepal it would mean a challenge in providing guides for Czech tourists who come here.
Another area of collaboration could be in textiles production where Nepal really is a power. A lot of textiles produced here are imported by the Czech Republic. On the other hand, the Czech Republic is a major producer of state-of-the-art textile machinery which is recognized all over the world. It will be up to our Ministry of Industry and Trade to make sure that there is an agreement between the businesses of the two sides regarding the supply of Czech machineries to the Nepali producers and import textiles to Czech Republic. This will be a good example of the kind of cooperation which will be beneficial for the two countries for a win-win situation.
Hydropower and energy sector is another potential area of collaboration. We have companies that are capable of producing different kinds of resources for hydropower, thermal and renewable energy.
Similarly, food processing industry is another possibility. Nepal has the potential but what is needed is to add value and not to export raw materials or commodities, but process the agricultural products here. And then there are environment related technologies like water treatment where we can collaborate. Czech Republic made technology is in high demand all over the world when it comes to water treatment plants, for instance, or technologies for air treatment for thermal power stations.
Your visit coincides with Nepal's anniversary of its new constitution. As a parliamentarian how do you analyse this political development in Nepal?
I had the opportunity to discuss with both those who are in favour of the constitution and those who are critical about some parts of it. Also, I can understand the critics of the constitution to some extent. Our opinion is that stability is the major problem in Nepal.
We adopted a new constitution when Czechoslovakia was divided into two countries in 1993. The constitution adopted 23 years ago is still valid. A constitution is the fundamental law of each country and it has to define the powers but also has to think about the future. For instance, it took us four years to establish the Second Chamber of the Parliament, 10 years to establish the Supreme Administrative Court in the regional authorities. We have major discussions on the implementation of the constitution during every tenure of our parliament.
What I can wish for Nepali politicians is that they certainly need the courage to implement the new constitution, nevertheless, not to forget about the major barrier which is stability. And, this is something they have to keep in their minds whenever they negotiate about the implementation of the constitution.