KUNMING, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Mekong countries today took a major step forward to opening their borders by agreeing to implement trade facilitation measures, including single-stop inspection at key frontiers.
During the Summit of Leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), Thailand signed separate Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) to facilitate cross-border movements starting in 2006 at Aranyaprathet-Poipet and Mukdahan-Savannakhet borders, respectively.
Cambodia and Viet Nam also signed an MOU to start similar arrangements for their border crossing at Bavet-Moc Bai by mid-2006. Implementation of these facilitation measures will complement those already started on 30 June at the Dansavanh-Lao Bao border between the Lao PDR and Viet Nam, based on an MOU signed last March.
The borders are along transnational road corridors being upgraded under the GMS program, which ADB has assisted since inception in 1992. These corridors include the East-West Corridor that stretches from the South China Sea to the Andaman Sea, the North-South Corridor from Kunming to Bangkok, and the Southern Corridor from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City. These economic corridors will promote increased connectivity and competitiveness, and a greater sense of community in the GMS.
"Addressing 'software' issues, such as cumbersome formalities and transshipment of cargo at the border, is essential to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and maximize the economic benefits of improved transport networks," says ADB Vice President Liqun Jin. "The MOUs signed today will enable the implementation of the GMS Cross-Border Transport Agreement at strategic border crossings to accelerate cross-border trade and investment in the GMS," he added.
The Agreement, which entered into force among the six GMS countries in 2003, calls for the implementation of cross-border facilitation measures, such as single-stop inspection, exchange of traffic rights, and provision of visas. It has 20 annexes and protocols, which contain the implementing guidelines. With four annexes and protocols to be signed during the Summit, and 12 already signed over the past two years, the remaining four annexes and protocols are expected to be finalized and signed by the end of 2005.