Trade & Investment


Trade and Investment was one of the initial six sectors of BIMSTEC cooperation as identified by the 2nd BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 19 December 1998. Bangladesh acts as the Lead Country for this sector.

The initial vision for BIMSTEC economic cooperation, as articulated in the 1st (Special) Ministerial Meeting held in Bangkok on 22 December 1997, had three major pillars: i) close public-private partnership to promote economic cooperation; ii) identification of sectors, sub-sectors and projects for economic cooperation, and iii) elimination of non-tariff and tariff barriers through government-to-government negotiations.

Trade and Investment Sector has a well developed institutional mechanism to conduct its activities: i) Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM); ii) Senior Trade and Economic Officials’ Meeting (STEOM); iii) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) and its Working Groups; iv) BIMSTEC Economic Forum; and v) BIMSTEC Business Forum.

Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM)

The Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM) consists of the Trade/Economic Ministers of the Member States. To date, five TEMMs have taken place:

  •  First Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM       – 07 August 1998, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Second Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM   – 27 April 2000 in New Delhi, India
  •  Third Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM      – 15 Feb 2001, Yangon, Myanmar
  • Fourth Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM     – 7 March 2003, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  •  Fifth Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM       – 7 Feb 2004, Phuket, Thailand

The Sixth Meeting of BIMSTEC TEMM is scheduled to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. At the 17th Session of the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Kathmandu on 07 Feb 2017, the Delegation of Bangladesh stated that the dates for the Fifth BIMSTEC Senior Trade/Economic Officials Meeting (STOEM) and the Sixth BIMSTEC TEMM will be notified upon completion of the [1]three agreements and one protocol related to BIMSTEC FTA under negotiation.

Senior Trade/Economic Officials’ Meetings (STEOM)

The Senior Trade and Economic Officials’ Meeting (STEOM) is an operational body comprising Senior Officials of the Trade/Commerce Ministry and representative from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Member States. Tasks belonging to the STEOM are the negotiation of the BIMSTEC FTA, cooperation in the Trade and Investment Sector and the preparation for the TEMM. STOEM reports to the TEMM. To date, the Senior Trade and Economic Officials of BIMSTEC countries have met four times:

[1] Trade in Goods; Agreement on Dispute Settlement Procedures and Mechanism; Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters; Protocol to Amend the Framework Agreement on BIMSTEC FTA.  

  • First STEOM         – 26 April 2000, New Delhi, India
  • Second STEOM    – 14 February 2001, Yangon, Myanmar
  • Third STEOM        – 6 March 2003, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Fourth STEOM      – 2004, Bangkok, Thailand

The Fifth Meeting of the Senior Trade and Economic Officials is scheduled to be hosted by Bangladesh. At the 17th Session of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Kathmandu on 07 Feb 2017, the Delegation of Bangladesh stated that the dates for the Fifth STEOM and the Sixth BIMSTEC TEMM will be notified upon completion of the ongoing negotiations to conclude a number of Constituent Agreements of the BIMSTEC FTA.

Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) and FTA Negotiations

  The Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area was signed in Phuket, Thailand on 08 February 2004 and came into force on 30 June 2004. Article 2 of the Framework Agreement outlines the following areas to be covered by the “Comprehensive Free Trade Area (FTA)”:

  • Progressive elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in substantially all trade in goods
  • Progressive liberalization of trade in services with substantial sectoral coverage
  • Establishing an open and competitive investment regime that facilitates and promotes investment within the BIMSTEC FTA
  • Establishing effective trade and investment facilitating measures, including, but not limited to, simplification of customs procedures and development of mutual recognition arrangements
  • Establishing appropriate mechanisms for implementation of the Agreement

Article 10 of the Framework Agreement provided for the establishment of BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee (BIMSTEC TNC) to carry out the program of negotiations as set out in the Framework Agreement. Accordingly, the BIMSTEC TNC was created in 2004 (under the permanent Chairmanship of Sri Lanka) which has since held 20 rounds of negotiations, the last one held in Khon Kaen, Thailand on 07-09 September 2015. While TNC itself focuses on negotiations on the Agreement on Trade in Goods, pursuant to Article 10.2 of the Framework Agreement, it has created a number of Working Groups to assist in the negotiations:

  1.     Working Group on Rules of Origin (17th meeting held in Khon Kaen, Thailand on 07-09 Sept 2015);
  2.     Working Group on Trade in Services (7th meeting held in Khon Kaen, Thailand on 07-09 Sept 2015);
  3.     Working Group on Investment (7th meeting held in Khon Kaen, Thailand on 07-09 Sept 2015);
  4.     Working Group on Legal Experts (17th meeting held in Khon Kaen, Thailand on 07-09 Sept 2015);
  5.    Working Group on Customs Cooperation (1st meeting was held on 10-11 May 2018 in New Delhi, India);
  6.    Working Group on Trade Facilitation (1st Meeting is proposed to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2018)

The TNC is currently engaged in the negotiations to conclude the following Constituent Agreements/Protocols which would form integral part of the BIMSTEC FTA:

  1. Agreement on Trade in Goods of the Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC FTA
  2. Agreement on Trade in Services of the Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC FTA
  3. Agreement on Investment of the Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC FTA
  4. Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters for the BIMSTEC FTA
  5. Agreement on Rules of Origin and Operational Certification Procedures for the BIMSTEC FTA
  6. Agreement on Trade Facilitation for the BIMSTEC FTA
  7. Protocol to amend the Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC FTA

The 21st Meeting of the BISMTEC TNC is scheduled to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in mid-2018, when a number of Constituent Agreements of BIMSTEC FTA are expected to be finalized. It is hoped that these Agreements, in particular the Agreement on Trade in Goods would be ready to be signed by the next Trade and Economic Ministers’ Meeting (TEMM), in order to trigger the operationalization of the BIMSTEC FTA.

Private Sector participation in BIMSTEC Economic Cooperation

BIMSTEC Business Forum (BBF) and BIMSTEC Economic Forum (BEF) are the two forums that allow active participation of the private sector representatives meet and discuss various issues related to their interest. In the BBF, private sector representatives from the BIMSTEC Member States meet and discuss various issues. Results from the BBF are submitted to the BIMSTEC Economic Forum (BEF) where the private sectors have an opportunity to discuss freely with representatives from the public sector. The BEF reports the outcome of its Meetings to the STEOM.

The BIMSTEC Business Forum (BBF) was formed by the representatives of private sector of BIMSTEC Member States at a meeting organized by ESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand in March 1998 to enhance private sector cooperation among the Member States of the BIMSTEC region in identified sectors, sub-sectors and projects. BBF held seven (7) meetings between 2003 and 2016, the last meeting held in New Delhi, India on 21 July 2016. The Eighth Meeting of the BIMSTEC Business Forum is proposed to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2018.

Current Members of the BIMSTEC Business Forum (BBF) are as follows:

Country Member
Bangladesh The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)
Bhutan Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)
India The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM)
Myanmar Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI)
Nepal Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI)
Sri Lanka National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL)
Thailand Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand

The Second BIMST-EC Ministerial Meeting held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 19 December 1998 emphasized on the need for establishing a BIMSTEC Economic Forum (BEF) to promote Government-Private sector cooperation among the Member States. Accordingly, the process of formulation of BIMSTEC Economic Forum was initiated by Bangladesh through a Preparatory Meeting on the formation of the BIMST-EC Economic Forum which was held in Dhaka in November 1999. Later, the Economic Forum met formally for the first time in New Delhi, India on 03 July 2000. Both the Government Officials (from the Foreign Ministry as well as the Trade/Economic Ministry) and Private sectors (Members of the BIMSTEC Business Forum) from each of the BIMSTEC Member State are the participants of the BEF. BEF have held six meetings. The Sixth Meeting of the BEF held in Bangkok, Thailand on 24 February 2011 agreed that the Seventh Meeting of BEF will be held in Bangladesh back-to-back with the STEOM and TEMM.

 

(Last updated on 13 May 2018)