The BIMSTEC region has an important neighbour, China, which is ready to help in a variety of ways. Infrastructure is one of them. The sub-region will need to reach consensus on its relations with China. All BIMSTEC countries work with China, including India. Some members, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, have lobbied for China to be a member, but others oppose it. China is already a member of the BRICS. BRICS Bank, the Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), can be a source of infrastructure financing for BIMSTEC. IIA Navigator This IIAs database – the IIA Navigator – is managed by the IIA section of UNCTAD. You can browse THE IIAs that are completed by a given country or group of countries, view the recently concluded IIAs, or use advanced research for sophisticated research tailored to your needs. Please mention: UNCTAD, International Investment Agreements Navigator, available in investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/ BIMSTEC trade negotiations were conducted under the aegis of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC). The framework agreement for a free trade agreement was concluded in 2004 and includes: (i) tariff concessions for trade in goods; (ii) customs cooperation; (iii) trade in services; (iv) investment cooperation; and (v) dispute resolution.

It was agreed to deal first with trade in goods, followed by trade in services. BIMSTEC member countries have agreed to implement the BIMSTEC Framework Agreement for the Free Trade Area to boost trade and investment in the parties and attract foreigners to higher-level trade with BIMSTEC. All members, with the exception of Bangladesh as part of the internal procedure, were signatories to the framework agreement at the 6th Ministerial Meeting, as witnessed by the Prime Minister of Thailand and the foreign ministers of BIMSTEC. BIMSTEC is one of the least integrated regions in the world, although the member countries are bordering, with the exception of Sri Lanka, which is an island. Bangladesh and India share a 4,096 km border and the two countries have taken various trade promotion measures that have increased trade flows. India and Sri Lanka signed a free trade agreement in 2005. India and Thailand have also entered into a free trade agreement. There is an open border between Nepal and India. There is no visa between Bhutan and India and the countries of northeastern India have an unfenced border with Myanmar. For India, BIMSTEC is already a sub-region with few barriers to trade and investment, but trade in the region has not yet reached the optimum level. For India too, the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is the key to penetrating further east; the project plays a leading role in the government`s “Act East” policy. It is hardly surprising that India is interested in signing BIMSTEC-FTA by the end of 2017.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) has recently gained momentum because of the many obstacles that have hindered the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) since 2016, due in part to problems between India and Pakistan. This letter examines the possibilities of a stronger trade and investment relationship between BIMSTEC countries by accelerating the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA). Such an agreement has been under development since 2004. While such a free trade agreement does not easily promote trade and investment in the short term, it could replace the troubled SAFTA by strengthening cooperation and improving trade relations and economic prospects in the region. While BIMSTEC countries completely eliminate import duties in their trade between them (Rahman and Kim 2016), benevolent benefits are expected from Thailand, India and Bangladesh. The largest increases will be in India, Thailand and Bangladesh. However, Sri Lanka and Nepal are expected to suffer activities and others will also lose due to trade diversion and the impact of unfavourable terms of trade. [viii] Infrastructure and connectivity are key elements in facilitating trade at the front lines