Speech delivered by Her Excellency Ms. Alaina B. Teplitz,
Ambassador of the United States of America,
Nepal-US Relations and Partnership in Democracy and
August 10, 2016
[Abstract of the address: Ambassador Alania Teplitz expressed that the United States wanted to see in Nepal institutionalized democratic development and value. Ambassador Teplitz also said that Nepal might be a place where foreign, and particularly American, investments could pay off. For that lots of things needed to be done.]
By addressing the trainees, Ambassador Teplitz said the following:
Diplomacy has a long arc in the history of relationships. We remain; we don’t give up year after year. We are the stewards of bilateral relations between countries.
We work with our counterparts to bring and establish changes or deepen bilateral relations.
In 1990, the United State’s official stance was to support democracy and economic liberalization. We were trying to improve the social and economic development and we have been doing just that ever since.
As an example of our social and economic development cooperation with Nepal, consider the number of Nepalese students studying in the US – the 2nd largest from South Asia.
At the time of King Gyanendra’s rule, US wanted to strengthen democracy, civil society and to provide developmental assistance to the people. The total value of US foreign assistance since 1951 is nearly US$ 1.9 billion..
After the conclusion of the peace process, the conflict ended. During the time of the election of the 1st CA and the constitution drafting process our policy was helping a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society. We provided voter and civil education to over a million people – as an example.
When the Constitution was promulgated, we congratulated the people.
We have gotten more specific but our foreign policy looks like it was in the 1990s – support democracy, enhance prosperity and ensure stability.
Diplomacy in the twenty-first century is about fostering connections among people – people at all levels of society and all parts of the country. We want to share with them our values.
‘Bridge by personal contact’ – this is what strengthens relations. Question: How can we have ‘strong and principled’ democracy in Nepal?
Answer: The United States wants to see in Nepal as an ally and partner with institutionalized democratic procedures and values. We want Nepalis to eliminate extreme poverty. We spend time to develop capacity to manage disasters. We work with organizations outside of government. We work with many partners in such areas as human rights, freedom of expression, etc. The US government trained thousands during the Constitution Drafting Process. We work to improve economic outcomes—trade connections and foreign investment.
The US is the 2nd largest destination for Nepali exports after India. We want to improve economic ties. As present US FDI is UIS$ 60 million, putting US in 4th position after India, China and South Korea. Sixty-six items made in Nepal will have duty free access.
In June this year The Economic Specialist led 15 businesses to International Franchise Expo in New York. As a result of connections, several Nepali businesses are in talks with US companies to expand in Nepal as a result of connections made at the Expo. So, the United States will persuade business, but not lead it.
Nepal might be a place where investment pays off – but much work needs to be done.
Technical Assistance to Nepal:
Over the last 70 years, US created mutual benefit providing development assistance and economic growth, and facilitating educational exchanges.
Interaction with Trainees
Question: What are the possible priorities of President Obama’s pivot to Asia? Is the AIIB an anti-Bretton Woods Institution?
Answer: Our relations with our Asian partners are developing rapidly; that is his pivot.
In terms of AIIB, it is better to have more money pumped. Countries need to look carefully at the packages but more money can’t be bad.
Question: Is something wrong with the practice of democracy in Nepal?
Answer: There is nothing wrong with democracy in Nepal. There are political ups-and-downs. Bettering institutions, making them accountable might come with time. We believe having a democratic form of government helps creating an enabling environment so that private sector steps in.
The economy needs to be elevated to top priority. Real changes need to be made to laws. Real changes and authority need to be given to Planning Commission and Investment Board to promote investments. Trust needs to be increased between private sector and political establishment. It is Nepali investors and foreign investors who see an opportunity. Virtual products Nepal can have advantage in – software products, back-office work. Business environment has to be strengthened.
You should strive to make the economy the common theme that unites actors Question: Do mega projects and infrastructure development help to create jobs?
Answer: Will mega-project lead to job growth except temporarily? The US invested in infrastructure early. Recently, however, we focused on developing human capacity, policy development and a proper regulatory environment to enable other actors to invest.
We are trying to enable investment to be possible in the hydro sector, for example. We are, through MCC, trying to look at how Nepal can help transmission of power. The regulatory environment is another challenge. There needs to be an effective regulatory authority here in Nepal.
I challenge the idea that big infrastructure is the only way to move ahead. Having right policies and stable political environment is crucial because if politics consumes everything, then people don’t want to do other things.
Understanding economics and global interactions is a crucial part of global diplomacy.
We have humanitarian concerns but we also look at mutually beneficial commercial opportunities. Nepal has a lot to offer with a Business community that has a lot of capital and entrepreneurial spirit but a government enabling environment is really necessary.
Question: How do you prioritize your investment and how do you monitor it?
Answer: We develop strategies depending on the needs developed by the Government of Nepal. We cooperate on education, health, agriculture and food security all identified by the Government. A lot of our development aid is now in the Far West.
We don’t want to duplicate what others are doing.
We spend a lot of time designing our programs so that we are sure we are hitting the right places that we think will be most productive and whether our programs are in the space that the government should be in.
We want to help people add value locally so that they can create more jobs.
We choose to work through implementers that fit in with our private-sector vision. We implement no program without the go-ahead of the Nepal government.
All our programs have performance measures. We monitor them periodically. Question: Does US look at Nepal through India’s lens?
Answer: The world is interconnected but we do not look at Nepal through India’s eyes. We also look at the region of South Asia and all the countries in it. We look at our own interests and own
perspectives and adjust our programs correspondingly. We have a growing relationship with India but that is not to the detraction of Nepal, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
Our aspiration is that South Asia as a whole can be more interconnected. We see an opportunity for our businesses if such regional linkages can develop.
We have an interest in international peacekeeping in Nepal. We have an interest in Nepal being able to keep its peacekeeping capabilities.
India and the US might be doing the same things, but not necessarily for the same reasons or motives.
We might also work with Nepal in crosscutting global issues like controlling smuggling in international wildlife contraband, climate change, counter-trafficking in persons, etc. Multiple layers of relationships have to be nourished and invested in.
Increasingly, the world is getting more complicated and our diplomacy has to reflect that.