- Envoys of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation called for the speedy conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement within the group comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
Summary of the news
- PM will join a summit of leaders from BIMSTEC countries in Kathmandu on August 30-31.
- BIMSTEC is yet to finalise and conclude the FTA which was negotiated in 2004.
- The envoys pushed for the need to expedite the BIMSTEC-FTA to boost intra-regional trade from its present level of 7% to 21%.
- They pushed to enhance the visibility of BIMSTEC in a region where already a few other regional cooperation groups like ASEAN, SAARC, and SASEC are in place.
- The envoys also spoke about the need for the upcoming summit to promote security issues including “terrorism and violent extremism” in the region.
- The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the areas of the Bay of Bengal.
- This organization came into being in 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
- BIMSTEC is a sector-driven cooperative organization.
- It started with six sectors—including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheriesfor sectoral cooperation in the late 1997.
- Later in 2008, it expanded to embrace nine more sectors—including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change.
- It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.
- Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
- Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
- With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
Objectives of BIMSTEC
- To harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation in different areas of common interests by mitigating the onslaught of globalization and by utilizing regional resources and geographical advantages.
Significance of BIMSTEC
- The regional group constitutes a bridge between South and South East Asia and represents a reinforcement of relations among these countries.
- BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
- The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy.
- In the last five years, BIMSTEC Member States have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.