Mekong Ministers Meeting to Review Subregional Cooperation Plan Amid Financial Crisis

News Release | 18 June 2009

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Ministers from six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) nations will meet in Cha-Am, Petchburi province in Thailand tomorrow to review ongoing efforts to forge closer links amongst the six countries.

At their Third Summit in March last year, the leaders of the governments of Cambodia, People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam drew up a Plan of Action that sets out initiatives to achieve closer cooperation in key areas.

The plan is part of the GMS Economic Cooperation Program, designed to strengthen transport, trade and tourism links, boost competitiveness, improve access to social services, increase energy access and security, and protect the environment in member countries.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a lead supporter of the Program, which began in 1992. Since its inception the GMS has become one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

At tomorrow's 15th GMS Ministerial Conference, senior government ministers will be exploring how transportation, trade, energy, telecommunications, agriculture, tourism and environmental programs can be advanced amid bleak economic conditions around the world.

"The Conference aims to strengthen the GMS Program's responses to the key issues facing the subregion in the face of a challenging global economic environment," said Arjun Thapan, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

Key topics for discussion will include the Road Map for Expanded Energy cooperation, which focuses on energy efficiency and renewable energy for mitigating climate change, and a Human Resources Development Strategic Framework that sets forth measures to support safe labor migration, improved communicable disease control, and the promotion of education and skills development.

The GMS Program has had many notable milestones since its inception, including the opening in December 2006 of the Second Mekong International Bridge, the last component of the East-West Economic Corridor - a 1,500 kilometer stretch of upgraded roads that cuts across four of the six GMS countries.

Other major achievements include the finalization and signing of all the annexes and protocols of the Agreement for the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Goods and People.

Since the start of the program, exports from GMS countries have quadrupled from $37 billion in 1992 to $211 billion in 2007. Annual tourist arrivals have more than doubled from 10 million in 1995 to about 26 million in 2008, and foreign direct investment into the GMS has increased from about $3 billion in 1992 to over $20 billion in 2008.