Expansive GMS cooperation mooted

September 16, 2021 | 12:26
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Vietnam is playing a crucial role in shaping economic corridors within the Greater Mekong Subregion, which will not only help itself but also other regional nations to woo investment and facilitate trade with the outside world.
Expansive GMS cooperation mooted
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh delivered a speech at the Greater Mekong Subregion Summit

At last week’s seventh Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS-7) Summit hosted online by Cambodia, Vietnam was said to be strategically regarded as a vital position for the region to shape GMS economic corridors.

The six GMS countries consist of Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The connection of the corridors via Vietnam helps the nation maximise its economic benefits from transport connectivity, and boost its trade and investment cooperation with other GMS countries.

Vietnam considers the GMS region as a direct development and security space. All GMS cooperation mechanisms are very important for the country to lure resources from development partners for its own socioeconomic development.

“Vietnam always attaches importance to GMS cooperation and desires to strengthen the traditional friendship and cooperation with our brotherly neighbours, and join hands with you to build a more open, safe, peaceful, and prosperous GMS with inclusive and sustainable development,” stated Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at the summit. “As the founding member of GMS, Vietnam remains committed to effectively contributing to the realisation of GMS shared vision and goals.”

Investment for development

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over many years the GMS cooperation scale has reached $28 billion which has been invested in hundreds of projects with direct investment and technical assistance in agriculture, energy, the environment, health, human resources development, IT, tourism, transport, and many other sectors. Nearly 12,000km of roads, 700km of railways, and nearly 3,000km of power transmission lines have been upgraded.

The GMS is also a cooperation mechanism taking the lead in boosting construction of international east-west and north-south economic corridors.

According to the GMS Economic Cooperation Program which supports the implementation of high-priority regional projects, so far Vietnam has implemented 60 GMS-oriented cooperation projects worth multiple billions of US dollars – more than other regional nations like Cambodia (44), Myanmar (18), Thailand (15), China (seven), and Laos (six).

The projects in Vietnam include the $45-million tourism infrastructure improvement for inclusive growth, the northern mountain provinces transport connectivity project worth $193 million, the Ben Luc–Long Thanh Expressway Project Tranche 2 valued at $591.5 million, and more.

According to the GMS Business Council, which represents the participation of the private sector to contribute to the thrusts of the GMS, in 2018, the GMS adopted the Hanoi Action Plan (HAP), which called for an expansion of economic corridors to boost connectivity between countries. GMS governments also endorsed the GMS Regional Investment Framework 2022 to support the HAP through a pipeline of 227 investment and technical assistance projects valued at $66 billion. The GMS governments encourage development partners and the private sector to meet financing requirements in the bloc.

The projects are focused on sectors such as transport, the environment, tourism, food safety and hygiene, energy, and more, and are aimed at helping the subregion achieve inclusive growth and sustainable development.

These projects are implemented across borders and/or within the member countries. Each project group will have a coordination office, and it is expected that Vietnam will greatly benefit from these projects.

The $66 billion comes from the Asian Development Bank, the six countries, and other stakeholders including private investments.

Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung urged the member states to work together to further cement funding cooperation.

“I believe that we will boost mutual cooperation to effectively implement all action plans and signed agreements, and take advantage of the $66 billion to further boost the socioeconomic development of the six nations,” he said. “We all have actively deployed regional infrastructure development projects, cooperated in exploiting electricity potential, and beefed up agricultural trade and investment.”

Furthering ties

At the GMS-7 Summit last week, Vietnam and other nations jointly agreed on a new cooperative orientation, with the adoption of a plan on responding to COVID-19 and GMS recovery in the 2021-2023 period, as well as a strategic framework on the GMS 2030 economic cooperation programme. Under this programme, leaders have advanced a 2030 vision with a further integrated GMS region with prosperity and inclusive and sustainable development.

To realise the vision, the summit reached consensus on taking advantage of the digital revolution to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the regional economy; improving spatial approach in development with the construction of a network of economic corridors, linking border areas, large cities, and rural areas; promoting energy connectivity, and aiming to form a competitive regional energy market.

Vietnam and the other nations also agreed to strengthen dialogue on policy and regulation, with emphasis on knowledge-based solutions and capacity building, leveraging the potential and capacity of the private sector.

PM Chinh said Vietnam has and will continue working with regional nations to fight against the pandemic and boost economic recovery via trade facilitation and infrastructure development.

“As one of the best solutions to further GSM cooperation, we need to boost the digital transformation in the economies, contributing to creating new growth momentum, fostering economic recovery, and bridging development gaps,” PM Chinh said. “The GMS needs to strengthen cross-border e-commerce based on equality and mutual benefits which can help facilitate exports, especially seasonal products. They also need to increase digital capacities and skills for enterprises, labourers, and people at large.”

Vietnam also proposed that GSM member states need to ensure that there will be no disruption in regional value chains amid the pandemic.

“What is very necessary now is to harmonise and simplify all processes for customs clearance, opening ‘green lanes’ at border gates to facilitate the movement of people and flows of goods,” the prime minister said. “I urge countries to refrain from imposing trade barriers and facilitate the movement of people and essential goods in line with our GMS commitments.”

PM Chinh also urged regional nations to create breakthroughs in infrastructure development, especially in roads and energy.

“We need to pursue the goal to complete the GMS transport, border gate and seaport network, with priorities given to the East-West and North-South economic corridors connecting the region’s major economic hubs, and multimodal transport links between the seaport and waterway transport system with the land and railway network in the GMS. A typical example of which is the Vietnam-Laos cooperation project on developing Vung Ang Port.”

Last month, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien requested support from Lu Xinshe, Party Secretary of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region of China, to facilitate cross-border trade between Vietnam and China by upgrading border gates, restoring customs services at sealed off border gates, and extending the operating hours of customs clearance services at border gates, border crossings, and markets.

Dien also urged China to offer broader access for farm produce and share knowledge on cultivating crops through agricultural experts and business representatives in line with China’s food safety and origin standards. Dien suggested establishing a hotline for updates of import management measures and signing an MoU between the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Guangxi International Expo Affairs Bureau.

PM Chinh also told the GMS-7 that one of the most urgent jobs for all nations now is to curb and push back COVID-19.

“No one can stay safe when many other people suffer. No nation can stay safe when many other nations are focusing on fighting the pandemic. Thus, we have to stay united and effectively control the ongoing pandemic and also jointly formulate a mechanism in responding to other pandemics that can appear in the future,” he stressed. “In the short term, it is necessary to support the nations in access to vaccines and treatment openly and transparently.”

Last month, at the 14th Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Japan vowed to continuously support mutual development through the Mekong-Japan cooperation framework, and help Mekong countries overcome the fight against COVID-19.

Japan has provided approximately 5.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Mekong subregion and also invested around ¥750 million (around $6.78 million) for both cold chain systems as well as oxygen concentrators. Japan has so far donated about three million of AstraZeneca vaccines to Vietnam, where COVID-19 is escalating and the government is trying its best to curb the pandemic.

By Nguyen Thanh

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