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Mekong Nations Commit to Tackling Poverty

Six countries sharing the Mekong River renewed their commitment to achieving a sub-region free from poverty Tuesday by issuing a joint declaration and signing four co-operative deals.

Transportation, power trade, IT and animal disease control were the focus of the agreements, but leaders from the six countries said real progress depends upon the broadening of partnerships between public and private sectors.

According to Rajat M. Nag, director of the Mekong Department of the Asian Development Bank, a supporter of the program, there will be a minimum financial shortfall of between US$10 billion to US$15 billion over the next 10 years on sub-regional infrastructure construction.

"A lot of money has to be found from the private sector and therefore public and private partnership is very critical," he said.

China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam are the member countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Speaking at the opening of the one-day Second GMS Summit Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao called for an advancement of trade and investment facilitation.

Wen also announced that China has decided to expand the range of products eligible for preferential tariffs from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar as of next year with the aim of raising the level of intra-regional trade co-operation.

He also proposed the establishing of a GMS health forum to co-ordinate and promote health co-operation.

During the two-hour closed door summit, the six prime ministers vowed to step up efforts to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in the sub-region by enhancing co-operation fields including disease control, environmental protection and agricultural development.

Leaders also agreed to complete major transport links along the East-West corridor by 2008 and along the North-South and Southern Coastal corridors by 2010 to promote greater transport efficiency.

Wang Xiaolong, a senior official with China's Foreign Ministry, said all GMS member nations have agreed to work together to explore the Mekong's potential for power generation without impacting heavily on higher or lower reaches of the river.

Wang said China understands the concerns of other GMS member countries and has made commitments to ensure sound resource development and environmental protection to avoid any negative impact on downstream countries.

The third GMS Summit will be held in Laos in 2008.

(China Daily July 6, 2005)


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