GMS Countries Meet to Further North-South Economic Corridor Development

KUNMING, PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Senior officials from five countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) along with  private sector representatives will meet here on 19-20 May to discuss priority issues and further advance development of the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC).

The officials will include senior representatives of key central ministries, and governors or equivalent from provincial authorities of provinces along the NSEC in the People's Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The two-day meeting is being organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

Continued development of the NSEC requires addressing improvements in physical infrastructure and facilities, logistics, human resources, policies and regulations, institutional factors, and information exchange to enhance the corridor’s competitiveness and the integration of economic activities among provinces along the NSEC in the five countries.

Several infrastructure projects improving transport links in NSEC have been completed over more than a decade. These investments were established through the joint efforts of GMS countries under the Cross-Border Transport Agreement and more recently, the Program of Action on Transport and Trade Facilitation to spur movement of goods, people, and vehicles along the corridor. Although these activities have helped establish an operational transport corridor, more is needed to transform the NSEC into a dynamic, fully-fledged economic corridor serving as a magnet for investment and an engine for development of the provinces involved.

"Improved physical connectivity in the corridor can lead to increased mobility of people, goods, services, and information across borders only if it is complemented with supporting software addressing bottlenecks in policies, rules and regulations, systems, and procedures," said Pradeep Srivastava, Senior Regional Cooperation Specialist in ADB’s Southeast Department.  "Economic corridors will be an expansion of key transport corridors to enhance economic activities and benefits, contributing to the vision of the ASEAN Economic Community".

"Mekong countries have achieved significant economic growth and poverty reduction results in recent years," said Michael Wilson, AusAID Minister-Counsellor for Mekong and Regional Programs. "Close cooperation to continue improving the region’s competitiveness will be essential if the GMS is to sustain this progress."

Australia is a key partner for economic integration in the GMS. Through AusAID, Australia is providing more than $346 million for critical infrastructure and trade projects across the GMS. This will help increase economic integration, access to markets, and basic services as well as providing employment opportunities for poor people in the subregion. Australia will also continue to work closely with governments, other donor partners and civil society organizations in the Mekong to assist communities affected by the construction of new transport corridors, to access fair compensation and services, as well as re-establish viable livelihoods.

NSEC development is one of the flagship programs under the GMS Strategic Framework which was endorsed by the leaders of the GMS countries. Under the GMS Economic Cooperation Program which is being assisted by ADB, member countries have agreed to create economic corridors linking the subregion to major markets with certain points serving as centers for enterprise development.

The GMS is made up of Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (PRC, specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

The NSEC consists of the Kunming-Bangkok (Western) Subcorridor and the Kunming-Ha Noi (Central) and Nanning-Ha Noi (Eastern) Subcorridors. The former covers Yunnan (PR China); Louang Namtha, Bokeo, Oudomxay (Lao PDR); Shan State (Myanmar); and Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Lamphun, Lampang, Tak, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Uttaradit, Phrae, Ayutthaya, and Bangkok (Thailand).

For the Kunming-Ha Noi and Nanning-Ha Noi Subcorridors, the provinces covered are Yunnan and Guangxi (PR China); and Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Phu Tho, Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Vinh Phuc, Lang Son, Bac Giang (Viet Nam).

At the NSEC Symposium, participants will discuss actual cases of cross border investment and cooperation in contract farming, in agro-industry and joint promotion in tourism. They will also discuss the potential for trade and investment.

Other issues tabled for discussion are the role of provincial authorities in NSEC development, mechanisms for promoting networking and cooperation, development of cross-border economic zones, and the role of local business associations.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members - 48 from the region. In 2010, ADB approvals, including cofinancing, totaled $17.51 billion. In addition, ADB's ongoing Trade Finance Program supported $2.8 billion in trade.