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GMS Calls for Close Regional Cooperation

Ministers of countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program at the 12th GMS Ministerial Conference will call for intensifying joint efforts in key sectors that are crucial for successful regional economic cooperation, said China's Finance Minister Jin Renqing.

These sectors include transportation, energy, human resources development and trade facilitation, according to Jin, who is also chairman of the ministerial meeting. The meeting will be held in Dali in southwest China's Yunnan Province from Wednesday to Friday.

GMS covers the countries through which the Lancang River (called Mekong outside of China) flows, namely, China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The GMS Economic Cooperation Program was launched in 1992 and is coordinated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The six nations have picked nine sectors in which to cooperate. The sectors are transportation, energy, telecommunications, the environment, human resources development, investment, trade, tourism and agriculture.

"Since its inception, GMS Economic Cooperation has yielded many substantial results," Jin said.

So far 11 key programs have been launched and about 100 investment and technology assistance projects have been implemented.

About US$2 billion from various funding channels has been mobilized for GMS projects. The funds include US$800 million in ADB loans, US$250 million in co-financing and US$60 million in technical assistance from ADB and other development agencies.

Participants in the 12th GMS Ministerial Conference will review the progress of the work in key sectors of GMS cooperation and the progress of the work proposed at the GMS Summit held last year in Phnom Penh, Jin said.

They will also hold meetings with representatives from development assistance agencies of some developed countries and international organizations, according to Jin. The aim is to introduce GMS projects to them and to seek their funding support.

Jin said China, as the host, will table five proposals for further GMS cooperation at the ministerial meeting. They are:

Accelerating the trade facilitation process

Strengthening cooperation in mineral resources exploration

Encouraging private sector's participation in GMS cooperation and encouraging cross-border private investments

Stepping up cooperation in the health sector and building a common epidemic disease monitoring and prevention system in GMS countries

Improving efficiency in GMS cooperation

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) consider their work within the GMS framework as a significant part of the cooperation between the two sides.

"China attaches great importance to GMS cooperation and intends to make GMS a model project for the China-ASEAN free trade zone," Jin said.

So far, China has been playing an active role in projects such as the Kunming-Bangkok Road Project and GMS human resources development. China provided 50 million yuan (US$6 million) in assistance and 199 million yuan (US$24 million) in interest-free loans to support the construction of the Laos section of the Kunming-Bangkok Road.

China has also signed the Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Goods and People and the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Power Trade.

(China Daily September 15, 2003)

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