Opening statement by ADB Vice-President Stephen Groff at the 7th Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Corridors Forum (ECF) held 11 June 2015 in Kunming, People's Republic of China

I. Introduction

Excellencies, Members of the GMS Economic Corridors Forum, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great honor to be able to participate in this Seventh GMS Economic Corridors Forum. I would like to thank our hosts, the People’s Republic of China, the City of Kunming, and the Province of Yunnan, and especially His Excellency, Gao Hucheng, for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements for our meeting today.

Seventh GMS Economic Corridors Forum returns us to the place where the Forum first started, after completing a cycle of all GMS countries hosting this important event. The Forum’s return to Kunming also responds to the consensus reached at the last Forum, on the need to revisit the original purpose and focus of the ECF: promoting investment, trade, tourism, industrial development, and other economic activities along the GMS corridors. Indeed, in the first cycle of the ECF, the final link in the North-South Economic Corridor was completed, improvements in the Southern Economic Corridor led to over 30,000 new jobs created in the Viet Nam-Cambodia border area, and the extension of the East-West Economic Corridor is now opening new opportunities in Myanmar.

As we initiate a new cycle of the Economic Corridors Forum, we also need to reinvigorate efforts to initiate more concrete and specific undertakings that will transform the GMS connectivity corridors into genuine economic corridors, which are the backbone of GMS cooperation. This will bring a wide range of benefits. Local populations along the corridors will have new employment and livelihood opportunities, and even better access to markets, schools and health services. Economic corridors will also help small- and medium-size enterprises by better connecting them to consumers, suppliers, and financial services. For the subregion as a whole, vibrant economic corridors can serve as key drivers for increasing connectivity, improving competitiveness and building a greater sense of community in the GMS.

II. Significance and objectives of ECF-7

As the main advocate, promoter and overseer of economic corridor development in the GMS, the Economic Corridors Forum will play a key role in shaping the subregion’s future. The Seventh GMS Economic Corridors Forum, in particular, marks a new beginning in this regard. Today’s theme of “fostering pragmatic cooperation” suggests a renewed emphasis on the achievement of tangible results and sustainable outcomes for the subregion and its people.

In this Forum, we will be discussing the nuts and bolts of developing economic corridors, including the preparation of concept plans for specific corridor sections, the critical role of transport and trade facilitation, the catalytic potential of economic zones, and the importance of urban centers and border towns along the corridors. But our starting point today, beginning with the first session, is to revisit the previous strategies and action plans for the corridors, review their implementation status, and discuss some lessons learned.

We will then turn to some new initiatives, with Session 2 describing a pilot program to help prepare concept plans for the development of specific corridor sections. By focusing planning efforts on particular sections of the main GMS economic corridors that have the greatest potential for development, this “bottom up” approach will harness ideas and inputs from provincial and local officials, the private sector, and surrounding communities on how best to promote and attract investment for sustainable development in target areas.

This afternoon we will look at the next steps in facilitating cross border transport and trade measures in the GMS, which is also consistent with GMS Leaders’ mandate from the 5th Summit to formulate a clear, comprehensive and integrated GMS Transport and Trade Facilitation Program.

The remaining sessions will consider emerging areas and platforms for promoting industrial and commercial development along the corridors, including:

  • the development of Special Economic Zones, particularly Border Economic Zones;
  • the development of an effective E-commerce platform among the GMS countries; and
  • the formulation and adoption of an Urban Development Strategic Framework aimed at encouraging and facilitating a coordinated approach to the rational development of urban areas in the GMS.

III. Conclusion

With such a robust agenda, we can all look forward to a very interesting and fruitful meeting today. I am confident that our Forum will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the development of the GMS economic corridors.

Thank you.