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 setup 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 spokepersons, 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.

As for the Agreement on Trade in Goods, 2 Working Groups have been setup to work on some technical aspects, namely the Working Group on the Rules of Origin (WG-RoO) and the Working Group on the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (WG-DSM). Both Working Groups would have their meetings back to back or parallel with the TNC meetings.

Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area
Protocol to the Framework Agreement on BIMSTEC