In February 2004, Bhutan and Nepal too joined the forum. Now its current membership includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. It was decided at the first BIMSTEC Summit held in Bangkok on July 30-31, 2004 to rename BIMST-EC as BIMSTEC, an acronym for “Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.” The chairmanship of BIMSTEC rotates among the member countries; Thailand is the present Chairman. Although a young grouping, BIMSTEC countries have had close cultural, social and commercial ties throughout history. The immediate priority of the grouping is consolidation of its activities and making it attractive for economic cooperation.
BIMSTEC has identified six sectors of focussed cooperation :
i) trade & investment;
iii) transport & communication;
The BIMSTEC countries have agreed to establish a Free Trade Area (FTA). A Framework Agreement covering not only trade in goods, but also in services, investment and related economic cooperation (customs, standards, trade finance, e-commerce and business visas) was signed in Phuket on February 8, 2004 by the member countries except Bangladesh, which signed the Agreement subsequently on June 25, 2004, as a founding member.
The First BIMSTEC Summit had agreed to promote sustainable and optimal energy utilization through development of new hydro-carbon and hydro-gas, inter-connection of electricity and natural gas grids and renewable energy technologies.
At the Summit, the Prime Minister of India has extended invitation for hosting a Ministerial Conference on Energy Cooperation in the year 2005 to provide an impetus to collective efforts of BIMSTEC countries in this area. The Conference was held on 4th October, 2005, New Delhi, India.