Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations (as of July, 2014)
- The initiative to establish Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIST-EC) was taken by Thailand in 1994 to explore economic cooperation on a sub regional basis involving contiguous countries of South East & South Asia grouped around the Bay of Bengal. Myanmar was admitted in December, 1997 and the initiative was renamed as BIMST-EC. The initiative involves 5 members of SAARC (India, Bangladesh Bhutan, Nepal & Sri Lanka) and 2 members of ASEAN (Thailand, Myanmar). BIMST-EC is visualized as a ‘bridging link’ between two major regional groupings i.e. ASEAN and SAARC. BIMST-EC is an important element in India’s “Look East” strategy and adds a new dimension to India’s economic cooperation with South East Asian countries. A free Trade Agreement among the member states of BIMSTEC is being negotiated.
- The 2nd BIMSTEC Summit was hosted by India in New Delhi on 13 November 2008. It was preceded by the 11th Ministerial Meeting and the 13th Senior Official’s Meeting on 11-12 November 2008. The 2nd Summit took place four years after the 1st BIMSTEC Summit which was held in Thailand.
- The Summit was attended by the Chief Adviser of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, H.E. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, H.E. Jigmi Y Thinley, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar, H.E. Thein Sein, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Nepal, H.E. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, H.E. Somchai Wongsawat.
- At the conclusion of the 2nd Summit, the leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress that has been made in the negotiations for a FTA in trade in goods and called for its early conclusion. The leaders welcomed the establishment of the Centre for Energy and the Centre for Weather and Climate in India and the BIMSTEC Cultural Observatory in Bhutan. They also expressed concern at the threat posed by terrorism to the region and expressed satisfaction at the finalization of the BIMSTEC Convention on Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking.
- The BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) has held 19 sessions of negotiations. The negotiations are spread over the areas of (i) tariff concessions on trade in goods, (ii) customs cooperation, (iii) services and (iv) investments.
- The 3rd BIMSTEC summit was held from 1 – 4 March, 2014 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. In the Summit Declaration, the Leaders directed the BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) to expedite its work for the conclusion of the Agreement on Trade in Goods by the end of 2014, and to continue its efforts for early finalisation of the Agreement on Services and Investments.