For a prosperous Mekong

The new 10-year strategic framework for economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is a new chapter in cooperation and development for the areas along the Mekong River. It will also contribute to the healthy momentum in bilateral ties between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The document, endorsed at the Fourth GMS Summit held in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday, sets out eight priorities for cooperation, namely economic corridor development, infrastructure linkages, energy, telecommunications, tourism, agriculture and the environment.

Compared to 1992 when the subregional cooperation program was started by Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank, the blueprint for the next decade embodies the subregion's ambition to cooperate in a broader range of fields and its vision for meeting the challenges ahead.

The past two decades have witnessed "golden development" in the subregion. By the end of 2010, the GMS member states had launched 227 cooperative projects in nine areas including transport, energy, telecommunications, environment and agriculture with a total investment of $14 billion.

These initiatives have brought real benefits to the people in the area and contributed significantly to local economic growth and poverty reduction, paving the way for a prosperous, integrated and harmonious subregion.

Such initiatives are the result of reciprocal cooperation based on mutual respect and equality. Today, the GMS countries are not only better connected via land, sea and air, but also more committed to regional development and prosperity.

We believe the GMS's pragmatic, action-oriented and result-focused approach will help cement the broader picture of China-ASEAN ties and inject new vitality into bilateral cooperation.

The bilateral trade volume between China and ASEAN now stands at $300 billion a year. China is ASEAN's largest trading partner, while ASEAN is the third largest trading partner of China. The two sides are working to increase the trade volume to $500 billion by 2015 under the framework of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which was officially launched at the beginning of 2010.

Against the backdrop of the global economic recession, the robust economic and trade cooperation between China and Southeast Asian countries is good news to all. Their economies are highly complementary and greater cooperation has great potential that will help them brace up to the uncertainties in world economic landscape.

Earlier this month, in an unprecedented commitment to the security and stability of the Mekong River, China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand launched joint patrols on the "golden waterway". The four countries, all members of GMS, have vowed to safeguard shipping and crack down on cross-border crimes on the river.

This endeavor highlights the deepening cooperation in a full spectrum of fields within the framework of GMS and beyond, which promises good prospects for mutual benefits.

(China Daily 12/22/2011 page8)

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