The leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion are currently meeting in Laos to discuss ways to deepen economic co-operation. The six nations -- Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam -- on Monday agreed to develop further road, rail and power links between their countries, hoping closer integration would boost trade and development.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, center, accompanied by Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, left, during a welcome ceremony in Vientiane
The Prime Ministers of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos have vowed to sustain and deepen their economic cooperation at their Vientiane summit, co-hosted by the Asian Development Bank.
On Monday the leaders of Laos, China and Thailand inaugurated a new highway in Laos, the final link in a 6,500 km overland route expected to boost trade and tourism from Singapore to Beijing. Route 3, a 230 km long road in northern Laos, will cut the travel time from Bangkok to Kunming in southern China to little more than one day. Several other highways are nearly complete across the area united by region’s largest river, the Mekong.
Infrastructure a top priority
During the summit, the leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion -- or GMS -- have underlined their commitment to extend transport links, including a rail line joining China’s southern city of Kunming to the commercial hub and port city of Singapore.
The GMS have also said that its six members have been in the process of building new power generation and transmission facilities and have laid down the foundations for a future sub regional trade and power market.
The members have also endorsed a new Plan of Action for the next five years. The ambitious plan worth over 20 billion dollars includes devoting more resources to rural development, implementing new bio fuel and rural renewable energy development initiatives, as well as intensifying efforts to protect forests in order to reduce environmental risks.
Cooperation in all fields
Improving cooperation in education, health and labour; enhancing the prevention and control of communicable diseases in border areas; and harmonizing trade procedures, and facilitating border crossing formalities are also part of the new plan.
The bloc was established in early 1990s to promote economic and social development and cooperation within the six countries linked by the Mekong River.
Since its inception, the GMS has developed into one of the fastest growing regions of the world, with an average growth rate of over 6 percent in recent years. Over the past 15 years, approximately 10 billion US dollars in investments have been made in various projects. Annual tourist arrivals have also risen dramatically, from 10 million in 1995 to over 22 million in 2006, according to statistics from the Asian Development Bank.
The Summit is the highest forum in the GMS Program. The first GMS Summit was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2002, while the second one was held in Kunming, China in July 2005. The leaders have agreed to hold the next Summit in Myanmar in 2011.