KATHMANDU - Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Tuesday asked China to provide "easy and more generous" market access to products from the Himalayan country to help narrow its wide trade deficit with Beijing.

The landlocked Himalayan nation of 30 million people has traditionally looked to India for economic support and trade, but Nepal has increasingly been courted by China with transport, trade and transit deals, to New Delhi's unease.

Nepal's imports from China fell to $1.84 billion in 2022 from $2.38 billion a year ago, while exports totalled $5.39 million, down from $8.37 million in the same period, official data showed.

"Nepal's growing trade deficit with China and the apparent gaps in commitment and actual investment of FDI from China" are some of the issues that needed a practical solution, Dahal told a business meeting organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in Kathmandu.

China is among the top investors in Nepal's infrastructure. Beijing accounts for 14% of Nepal's international trade while India holds nearly two-thirds of it, trade officials said.

In 2016, China agreed to allow Nepal to use its ports for trading goods with other countries. Beijing will also help Nepal construct a trans-Himalayan railway network linking Kathmandu with the Tibet region of China.

Dahal said Nepal also sought help from China in improving productive capacity in a range of its products and asked for duty free access for Nepali vegetables, meat products, tea and herbal products to China.

He had requested China to give access to "some 512 tradable Nepali products" to the country's duty-free and quota-free market, he said.

"Trade is the engine of growth and our future prosperity lies in our capacity to produce and trade more," Dahal added.

China allows duty and quota free entry to 8,030 items from least-developed countries including Nepal, officials said.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; editing by Sudipto Ganguly, William Maclean and Sharon Singleton)