The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Thursday promised to work with countries in Northeast Asia to boost development along the Tumen River.
The decision to get more involved in the Tumen River Area Development Program (TRADP) opens the door for the five member countries to devise and decide the future of the Tumen program, said UNDP senior official Khalid Malik.
He made the remarks Thursday at the seventh meeting on TRADP, which was attended by vice-ministerial officials from member countries.
The TRADP is an ambitious project by China, North and South Korea, Mongolia and Russia to create a free-trade zone in Northeast Asia. The TRADP is being touted as the “future Rotterdam” of Northeast Asia.
The countries and the UNDP envision a 20-year project and a price tag of more than US$30 billion to transform the Tumen River area into the transportation and trading hub of Northeast Asia.
Since the UNDP first began looking at the Tumen River in December 1991, six meetings have been held to coordinate activities.
“The TRADP has provided an effective platform for cooperation between all member countries,” said Vice Minister of Commerce Wei Jianguo Thursday at the meeting.
If the six countries continue to work together, the economic advantages could benefit all. Not least among them would be direct links between seaports in Russian and North Korea with the old industrial base in northeast China, said Wei.
“The Development Program of the Tumen River Area is at the core of regional cooperation in Northeast Asia and an important component in revitalizing the old industrial base in China,” Wei added.
The Chinese government has been working to reinvigorate industry in the area, which is currently dominated by large and medium-sized state-owned enterprises.
Wei said that international cooperation along the Tumen River will involve three basic steps.
From 2005 to 2010, cooperation should focus on such infrastructure projects as railways, ports and roads to link member countries. Tourism and trade should receive priority in this period.
From 2010 to 2015, China, Russia and the North Korea should build a sub-regional economic, technological and trade zone.
Meanwhile, bilateral cooperation should be expanded between China and Mongolia, North and South Korea, Russia and North Korea, and Japan and North Korea.
From 2015 on, all member countries should work toward building a free trade zone in Northeast Asia.
While full development of the Tumen River area is still far from what the UNDP anticipates, Wei called on all members to have confidence and be patient.
Wei predicted that the program will develop rapidly in one or two years.
(China Daily July 9, 2004)