Beibu Gulf Rim Can Learn from Mekong and ASEAN, ADB VP Tells Forum

NANNING, PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) offers a possible future model for economic cooperation in the Beibu Gulf Rim, an ADB Vice-President told a forum here today.

“The Asian Development Bank is honored to be a partner in this initiative,” said Geert van der Linden, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, at the opening of a Forum on Economic Cooperation of Beibu Gulf Rim in the PRC’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Organized by the PRC Government and ADB over the past two days, the forum is exploring the potential for economic cooperation in the Beibu Gulf Rim surrounded by Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi, ASEAN and GMS countries. A highly integrated Beibu Gulf Rim will offer vast economic potential for Guangxi and PRC's inland regions.

“As the Beibu Gulf Rim initiative moves forward, it may be useful to look at the highly successful GMS program, which offers a possible model for future efforts,” he said.

“Based on their experience, the ASEAN and GMS countries have much to contribute to economic cooperation in the Beibu Gulf Rim. In particular, Guangxi could serve as a platform to synergize the various regional cooperation initiatives.”

The ADB Vice-President pointed out that ADB has long been involved in regional cooperation initiatives including the GMS Economic Cooperation Program, Central Asia Economic Cooperation Program, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN-China FTA.

“The recent proliferation of free trade agreements [FTAs], including the ASEAN-China FTA, reflects the desire of many countries to further deepen economic integration,” he said.

And East Asian economies are integrating at a rapid pace, he added. Perhaps the best evidence for this is the growth in intraregional trade from less than 35% of all trade in 1980 to 54% in 2003.

While this trend is encouraging, it is important that the process of integration be managed effectively if all countries are to benefit, Mr. van der Linden said. ADB is committed to supporting such efforts, with an emphasis on four key pillars: cross-border infrastructure, trade and investment, money and finance, and the provision of regional public goods and combating regional threats such as avian flu.

“We see regional economic cooperation and integration as an important way to raise investment levels, improve financial stability, generate jobs, and reduce poverty,” Mr. van der Linden said.