Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
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Bay of Bengal Initiative for
Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
|-||Chairmanship|| Burma (Myanmar)
(since November 2009)
|Establishment||June 6, 1997|
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia. These are: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
On 6 June 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok and given the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation). Myanmar attended the inaugural June Meeting as an observer and joined the organization as a full member at a Special Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok on 22 December 1997, upon which the name of the grouping was changed to BIMST-EC. Nepal was granted observer status by the second Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka in December 1998. Subsequently, full membership has been granted to Nepal and Bhutan in 2004.
In the first Summit on 31 July 2004, leaders of the group agreed that the name of the grouping should be known as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.
BIMSTEC priority sectors
BIMSTEC has Fourteen priority sectors cover all areas of cooperation. Six priority sectors of cooperation were identified at the 2nd Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka on 19 November 1998. They include the followings:
- Trade and Investment, led by Bangladesh
- Transport and Communication, led by India
- Energy, led by Myanmar
- Tourism, led by India
- Technology, led by Sri Lanka
- Fisheries, led by Thailand
After the 8th Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka on 18–19 December 2005, a number of new areas of cooperation emerged. The number of priority sectors of cooperation increased from 6 to 13. The 7 new sectors were discussed in the 1st BIMSTEC Summit and there has been various activities to enhance those co-operations ever since. The sectors are as follows,
- Agriculture, led by Myanmar
- Public Health, led by Thailand
- Poverty Alleviation, led by Nepal
- Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, led by India
- Environment and Natural Disaster Management, led by India
- Culture, led by Bhutan
- People to People contact, led by Thailand
- Climate change, led by Bangladesh
BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship of BIMSTEC has been taken in rotation commencing with Bangladesh (1997–1999), India (2000) Myanmar (2001–2002), Sri Lanka (2002–2003), Thailand (2003–2005), Bangladesh (2005–2006). Bhutan asked for the skip. So it's turned to India (2006–2009). In November 2009, Myanmar hosted the 12th Ministerial Meeting and assumed BIMSTEC Chairmanship. The 13th Ministerial Meeting also chaired by Myanmar, which was held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on 22 January 2011.
Nepal formally took over the new Chairmanship as on 4 March 2014
Cooperation with Asian Development Bank (ADB)
The ADB has become BIMSTEC's development partner since 2005, to undertake a study which is designed to help promote and improve transport infrastructure and logistic among the BIMSTEC countries. So far, ADB has already finished the project so called BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistic Study (BTILS). The final report of the said study from ADB has already been conveyed to all members and being awaited for the feedback. Other fields of cooperation will be designed later on.
At the Sixth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting on 8 February 2004 in Phuket, Ministers endorsed the setting up of a Technical Support Facility (TSF). As reflected in the Ministerial Joint Statement, this Technical Support Facility would "serve the BIMSTEC Working Group (BWG) and to coordinate BIMSTEC activities, including those of the BIMSTEC Chamber of Commerce, for a trial period of the two years". The decision by the Ministers was based upon the recommendation proposed by BIMSTEC Senior Officials who met in Bangkok during 17–19 September 2003. On this particular item, the SOM had with them a draft report prepared by Mr. David Oldfield, an ESCAP consultant, on “Towards Setting up a BIMSTEC Technical Support Facility and Permanent Secretariat: Considerations and Options”. The report recommended that a TSF should be set up in Bangkok and would initially serve just the BWG during the trial period of 2 years.
Since the Establishment of the Permanent Secretariat is awaited to consider in the 2nd Summit, which was held on 12–13 November 2008 in India, Thailand had already extended the contract of the BIMSTEC Centre for another year from June 2007 - May 2008. So far, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand had recently extended the contract for another year from 1 June 2008 – 31 May 2009.
BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement
BIMSTEC member countries agreed to establish the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement in order to stimulate trade and investment in the parties, and attract outsiders to trade with and invest in BIMSTEC at a higher level. All members, except Bangladesh because of domestic procedure, became signatories to the Framework Agreement in the 6th Ministerial Meeting, as witnessed by the Prime Minister of Thailand and BIMSTEC’s Foreign Ministers.
Bangladesh later joined the Framework Agreement on 25 June 2004. The Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) was set up and had its 1st Meeting in Bangkok on 7–8 September 2004. As stated in the adopted Terms of Reference, Thailand would be the permanent chair of TNC although the host country shall be rotated. The chair and each country’s chief negotiator act as TNC’s spokespersons, while TNC’s chairperson will report the result via STEOM to the Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting. TNC’s negotiation area covers trade in goods and services, investment, economic cooperation, as well as trade facilitations and also technical assistance for LDCs in BIMSTEC. It was agreed that once negotiation on trade in goods is completed, the TNC would then proceed with negotiation on trade in services and investment.
- Asian Clearing Union
- Asian Development Bank
- Asia Cooperation Dialogue
- Mekong-Ganga Cooperation
- See for a detailed historical account of the founding and evolution of BIST-EC and BIMST-EC e.g. Michael, Arndt (2013). India's Foreign Policy and Regional Multilateralism (Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 145-163.