BIMSTEC Tokyo Conference [2008/02/06]
BIMSTEC Tokyo Conference, held at the Nippon Foundation
On December 3, 2007, the Third International Conference for BIMSTEC-Japan Comprehensive Economic Cooperation was held at The Nippon Foundation in Tokyo. The conference aimed to promote economic cooperation between Japan and nations in the Bay of Bengal region and to publicize the existence of BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation). In total, 70 people attended the conference, including government representatives, researchers from the member nations and representatives from international organizations. The conference was cosponsored by the Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development (CSIRD) of India, and the Asian Forum Japan.
BIMSTEC is an international organization made up of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand for the purpose of promoting Economic Cooperation. The name BIMSTEC began as an acronym made of the original member countries’ names. With the addition of Nepal and Bhutan, today BIMSTEC has seven members and has changed its official name to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economic Cooperation. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation is supporting BIMSTEC’s economic research activities under a three-year plan, and the December conference in Tokyo was a part of this support.（Photo：U.S. researchers also presented reports）
In his opening address, CSIRD Director B. S. Malik called for greater interest in the nations of the Bay of Bengal on the part of Japan’s political and industrial spheres. He said, “BIMSTEC, founded 10 years ago, now faces the new issues of the environment and climate change. In our relations with Japan, key issues also include population movements in connection with immigration, energy, and technology transfer. Although the path toward a structure for economic cooperation in Asia is a long one, BIMSTEC is playing a crucial role in working toward this goal.”（Photo：Attendees：listen to call for a greater interest in the nations of the Bay of Bengal）
The conference included reports and discussions on five themes, including “Japan’s Economic Cooperation Duty,” “Prospects and Strategies for Comprehensive Economic Cooperation,” and “The Feasibility of a Free-Trade Agreement Between BIMSTEC and Japan.” Arjun Asrani, former Indian Ambassador to Japan and Chair of the India-Japan Forum, led a panel discussion on Asian economic integration, pointing out that, “Trade negotiations between individual countries are not showing much progress, and with industry backing politicians there is little motive for supporting free-trade agreements.” However, one presenter stated that “spreading Japan’s regional focus (which has been to date concentrated on Thailand and India) more widely around the Bay of Bengal would be beneficial to both sides,” while others were of the opinion that Japan should proactively work to promote the transfer of knowledge. This conference was characterized by the mutual understanding that, as Mr. Malik said, “Although our goal is a distant one, we will not stop working toward it.”