MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Strong subregional cooperation is crucial to helping Southeast Asia withstand the challenges of the current global economic downturn and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will this year bolster efforts to cement links, said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda.
Mr. Kuroda was speaking Saturday to regional leaders at the 4th Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit, as well as at the 5th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Summit. Both meetings were in Hua Hin, Thailand.
"Regional cooperation becomes even more important as we seek to pursue joint approaches and pool our resources to cope with difficulties that we all face," he said at the IMT-GT Summit.
ADB will this year conduct further work to help develop three connectivity corridors in that subregion. It will also kick off studies to facilitate trade, improve logistics and streamline customs with a view to enhancing subregional trade and accelerating growth in the participating provinces and states.
ADB expects to unveil a plan later this year to involve other development partners and private investors in IMT-GT, a reflection of ADB's confidence in the region's potential.
BIMP-EAGA has made progress toward improving transport links, facilitating trade and developing economic corridors. Looking forward, the region could become a major player in the regional and global food market.
"To increase productivity in the agriculture sector, increased investment is needed in infrastructure development, technology upgrading, and marketing support," Mr. Kuroda told the BIMP-EAGA Summit. Policies on trade in agriculture products also need to be reformed to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers. ADB will continue its technical and lending assistance to foster development in those areas, he added.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand launched the IMT-GT program in 1993 while the BIMP-EAGA program was launched in 1994. The initiatives seek to expand opportunities for trade and investment in the two subregions to support sustainable economic growth. ADB is a development partner/advisor to the two cooperation initiatives.