China and its five neighbors along the Mekong River signed a
collective agreement in Beijing yesterday agreeing to work together
in setting up a modernized and effective transportation network.
The joint proposal, signed by officials from Greater Mekong
Sub-region (GMS) nations, lays out details for improved highways
and simplified cross-border procedures.
The Transport ministers from China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand,
Cambodia and Vietnam signed the final four annexes and protocols of
the GMS Cross-Border Transport Agreement, a program which eases
methods of cross-border trade and transport. This
signing thus rounds out the previously established the GMS
Cross-Border Transport Agreement.
According to the pact, the six countries pledge to take down
non-physical barriers across borders, creating single-stop customs
inspections, making visa assistance for cross-border trade more
readily available, and reducing vehicle searches at border
crossings. A further commitment has been made to improve the
sub-regional transportation infrastructure, relying not only on
internal funds but also on help from the Asian Development Bank
"Improving transport infrastructure and lowering trade barriers
is crucial to the economic development of the Mekong sub-region and
for reducing poverty," said Arjun Thapan, director general of the
ADB's Southeast Asia Department. "This agreement is a crucial
instrument for advancing trade, investment, tourism and access to
The transport initiative forms a wing of the GMS Economic
Cooperation Program that began in 1992 and aims to establish a
prosperous, integrated and harmonious sub-region by working on the
three alliterative areas of connectivity, competitiveness and
The program prioritizes projects across nine sectors deemed to
be the most essential: transport, energy, telecommunications, the
environment, agriculture, human resources, trade facilitation,
investment and tourism.
Since 1994, ADB has provided US$1.232 billion in loans for
transport infrastructure projects., namely seven highway,
expressway and railway projects in southwest China's Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Weng Mengyong, vice-minister of communications, spoke of the
Chinese government's full commitment to work within the GMS
framework which has so far marked some veritable results.
For example, the Kunming-Bangkok Highway Laos section was
completed in June 2006, a full year ahead of schedule. The
247-kilometer stretch of road, previously only usable in dry
conditions has been converted to an all-weather surface. This
success should be followed by the completion in 2007 of the 401-km
long Chinese section of the Kunming-Hanoi-Haiphong Highway.
As the 12th longest river in the world, the 4,880-km Mekong
River is the major river in Southeast Asia. It originates in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China before winding its way
through Yunnan to Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and
(China Daily March 21, 2007)