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. The member countries of this group are: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.BIMSTEC provides a unique link between South Asia and Southeast Asia bringing together 1.3 billion people - 21 percent of the world population, a combined GDP of US$750 billion, and a considerable amount of complementarities. A study shows the potential of US$ 43 to 59 billion trade creation under BIMSTEC FTA. The organisation was formed in Bangkok, Thailand, on 6 June, 1997. Initially, its name was BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation). At that time, Myanmar was an observer, but later joined the organization as a full member at a special ministerial meeting held in Bangkok on 22 December, 1997. Consequently, the name of the organisation was changed to BIMST-EC. Nepal was granted observer status by the second Ministerial Meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh in December 1998. Later, full membership has been granted to Nepal and Bhutan in 2003. During the first summit in Bangkok on 31 July, 2004, the organisation's name was changed to its current name.
Background of BIMSTEC
On 6 June 1997, a new sub-regional grouping was formed in Bangkok and given the name BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, 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 2003. During the First Summit in Bangkok on 31 July 2004, the groupingâ€™s name was eventually changed to the â€˜Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperationâ€™, or BIMSTEC.
BIMSTEC covers a population of approximately 1.3 billion and the trade value between Thailand and other countries in the group exceeded US$3 billion in 2003. The forum is unique as the only link between South Asia and Southeast Asia, bridging South Asiaâ€™s Look East policy with Thailandâ€™s Look West policy. BIMSTEC can also be considered as a mechanism to promote opportunities for trade, investment and tourism between Thailand and South Asia.
BIMSTECâ€™s objectives stretch from creation of economic and social prosperity based on equality, to enhancement of mutual benefits in economic, social and technological aspects. They also involve intra-regional assistance in the form of training, research and development as well as beneficial cooperation in the areas of agriculture, industry, expansion of trade and investment, improvement in communication and transport, for the purpose of improving living standards and cooperation with other international organisations.
BIMSTECâ€™s Working Mechanism Can be mainly divided into 6 levels:
â€¢Â Â Â Expert Group Meeting: the Lead Countries of the 6 priority sectors of cooperation and 15 sub-sectors are to host expert group meetings of their responsible sectors regularly and report the result to the BISMTEC Working Group in Bangkok (BWG) via respective Embassies to Thailand. The result will then be further reported to the SOM.
â€¢Â Â Â BIMSTEC Working Group in Bangkok (BWG): is attended by the Director-General or Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs and the Ambassadors of BIMSTEC member countries to Thailand or their representatives, as well as representatives from other concerned agencies. The meeting takes place monthly at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow up and push forward progress in each cooperation sector, as well as to study prospects and policies of cooperation before reporting to the SOM. In this connection, the BIMSTEC Center, located at the Institute for Trade Strategies, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, has been established as a pilot project to support works the BIMSTEC Working Group.
â€¢Â Â Â Business Forum and Economic Forum: are the 2 forum under the Trade and Economic Senior Officialsâ€™ Meeting (STEOM) that allow active participation of the private sector. In the Business Forum, private sector representatives from the BIMSTEC member countries will meet and discuss various issues. Results from the Business Forum will be forwarded to the Economic Forum where the private sector will have an opportunity to discuss freely with representatives from the public sector from the member countries. The Economic Forum will then report outcomes of its meetings to the STEOM.
â€¢Â Â Â Senior Officialsâ€™ Meeting: is divided into the areas of trade and economic affairs (STEOM) and foreign affairs (SOM). Permanent secretaries of trade and economic affairs, and that of foreign affairs will the delegation to their respective forum. Tasks belonging to the STEOM are the negotiation of the BIMSTEC FTA, cooperation in the Trade and Investment Sector and its 15 sub-sectors, which are to be reported to the Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting. On the other hand, the SOM is assigned to monitor progress of the remaining sectors, which will be reported by the BWG, then forward to the Foreign Ministerial Meeting. Click here to view Reports of the 7th SOM/ 4th STEOM.
â€¢Â Â Â Ministerial Meeting: Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting monitors the progress in the Trade and Investment Sector as well as the FTA policy, while the Foreign Ministerial Meeting acts as prime mover determining the overall policy as well as recommendations for the Leadersâ€™ Summit. BIMSTEC ministerial meetings, however, had been limited to the vice foreign ministers level until the 5th Ministerial Meeting in Colombo in December 2002.
â€¢Â Â Â Leadersâ€™ Summit: Sri Lanka Prime Ministerâ€™s opening remark of the 5th Ministerial Meeting proposed that time has come for BIMSTEC to have its Leadersâ€™ Summit, an idea agreed by other member countries. The first Leadersâ€™ Summit was consequently held in Thailand on 31 July 2004. The meeting was the important catalyst to materialise the progress of cooperation which reflects political commitment and support of the top-down process, in order to push forward BIMSTEC at a policy level.
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