As stipulated in the Bangkok Declaration of 1997, one of the major objectives of BIMSTEC is to create an enabling environment for rapid economic development in the region. In BIMSTEC's early days, promotion of intra-regional trade and investment dominated the activities of the organization. A robust institutional mechanism comprising Trade/Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM), Senior Trade/Economic Officials' Meeting (STEOM), and Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) Meeting together with its various Working Groups was put in place to pursue trade and investment related cooperation among Member States. Side by side, BIMSTEC Business Forum (BBF) and BIMSTEC Economic Forum [BEF) were established to allow private sector inputs in BIMSTEC's trade and investment related activities.
BIMSTEC's economic cooperation agenda saw a major breakthrough with the signing of the Framework Agreement on BIMSTEC Free Trade Area on 08 February 2004, which envisioned liberalization, promotion and facilitation of trade in goods and services, investments as well as broader economic cooperation. The BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) was also set up with the task of negotiating the constituent agreements of the BIMSTEC FTA.
Institutional Mechanism of the Sector: Trade, Investment and Development Sector of BIMSTEC has a well-defined institutional mechanism to carry out its function.
BIMSTEC Free Trade Area (FTA):
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)”:
Constituent Agreements of BIMSTEC FTA:
The BIMSTEC Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) was set up with the task of negotiating the constituent agreements of the BIMSTEC FTA. TNC has several working groups under which it is mandated to negotiate the constituent agreements of BIMSTEC FTA. Following agreements are now currently under negotiation:
Private Sector Engagements:
BIMSTEC Business Forum (BBF): The BBF was formed by the representatives of private sector of BIMSTEC Member States 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 8th BBF is proposed to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
BIMSTEC Economic Forum (BEF): The BEF was formed in 1998 to promote Government-Private sector cooperation among the Member States. BEF held 06 (six) meetings between 1998 and 2011 and the last meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 24 February 2011. The 7th BEF is proposed to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Other activities/ Publications:
Sub Sector: Blue Economy
The inclusion of Blue Economy as the sub-sector of Trade, Investment and Development Sector of BIMSTEC led by Bangladesh has been approved by the 19th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting held on 09 March 2023. The Inter-Governmental Expert Group to develop an Action Plan on Blue Economy has been proposed by Bangladesh and Member States have been requested to nominate representatives for the expert group.