Julius Pranevicius has recently been appointed as non-residential ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to Nepal. Based in New Delhi, he is looking after the diplomatic relations of his country with three South Asian Countries- India, Bangladesh, and Sri-Lanka- along with Nepal. In his exclusive tete-a-tete with the editor of ceotab.com, Nirjal Dhungana, he divulged his views on some vital economic aspects between Nepal and Lithuania. Excerpts:
1) How is the trade relation between Nepal and Lithuania going on?
The trade volume between the two countries appears to be low. But, over the last three years, it has largely been growing. In 2016, the total trade turnover stood at 187,000 euros which rose to 1.5 million euros a year later. Though the annual trade declined to 584,000 euros in 2018, it is sure to again witness a rise this year. According to the data of the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, from January to June in 2019, the trade volume between the two countries has already amounted to 953,000 euros.
The major items exported by Lithuania to Nepal include cotton, felt, non-woven fabrics, yarn, furniture, bedding, and mattresses. Similarly, Nepal has been exporting products like knitted or crocheted clothing, essential oils, coffee, tea and spices to Lithuania.
2) What measures can be taken to further boost the trade volume between the two countries?
There are indeed immense potentials to strengthen their trade ties. Lithuania Consulate has already been opened in Nepal with a major objective to help bolster the export/import business between the two countries. In my view, Nepal shall leverage this platform to diversify its exportable items to Lithuania. Such items could well be pashmina, textiles and handicrafts along with dairy products and grains.
As Lithuania is a member of the European Union (EU), Nepal shall look upon it as a gateway to the huge European markets having 500 million customers. If the Himalayan nation comes up with a visionary policy realizing this fact, it can go a long way in boosting the trade volume between the two countries.
Similarly, the exchange of high-profile visits between the two countries is also important to explore more trading possibilities. So far, there has been no such visit.
3) How do you see the prospects of bilateral cooperation between Nepal and Lithuania?
Of course, the prospects of the two countries collaborating and cooperating with each other are simply bright. E-governance, aviation and employment could well some of the viable areas in which they can work together. A South Asian country like Bangladesh has successfully accomplished the IT project related to e-governance by collaborating with us. Lithuania is also ready to work together with Nepal to execute such projects here in this country.
Lithuania has one of the most sophisticated aviation sectors in the world. There is a trend of people from various Asian countries visiting it for acquiring advanced aircraft pilot training. Nepal can also send its interested citizens to Lithuania for such training. This could help Nepal to bolster its aerial connectivity both at the domestic and international levels.
As far as the area of employment goes, around 100 Nepali migrant labourers are estimated to have flown to Lithuania by receiving work permits. But the possibility of more such workers going to this labour destination is simply high.
The reason is that the economy of Lithuania is growing so fast that it is facing the shortage of labourers in construction, industrial and service sectors. In fact, we are looking to absorb migrant workers from other countries like Ukraine, Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka to fulfil such shortage. In this light, Nepal can also carry out a homework to export its manpower to Lithuania in an organized way.
4) What is your view about attracting tourists from Lithuania in Nepal?
Around 4,000 tourists from Lithuania are visiting this country every year. Nepal, no doubt, is a naturally beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage. So, the possibility of it attracting more Lithuanian travellers is simply high. To tap into such potential, the Nepali authorities need to take certain concrete initiations. One such initiation can be the marketing of the tourism products of Nepal in Lithuania as well as in other European countries. Similarly, another one might well be conducting direct air flights from Kathmandu to other major cities of Europe. These steps are almost sure to help Nepal achieve the target of attracting 2 million foreign tourists in 2020 as per the Visit Nepal Year campaign.