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Vietnam treasures GMS cooperation
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"The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) cooperation is an important link in the process of economic integration and connectivity of GMS countries, fostering as well as supplementing bilateral and regional cooperation," Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung stated Saturday.

The GMS cooperation has created forums for countries in the Mekong River basin, an important location full of cooperation and development potentials, to strengthen cooperation and coordination to solve such common issues as economic integration, poverty reduction and environmental protection, thus helping reinforce peace, stability, cooperation and development in the basin, the Prime Minister told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Through cooperation among the six GMS members, namely Laos, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, socioeconomic infrastructure, especially transport in the sub-region has improved considerably, accelerating its economic growth and connectivity.

Economic corridors in the sub-region like the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC), the North-South corridor, and two corridors involving such Vietnamese and Chinese localities as Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong and Nanning-Lang Son-Hanoi-Hai Phong will become operational soon.

"These economic corridors are arteries which vitalize the GMS economic development. Through infrastructure development, the GMS cooperation has made active contributions to accelerating poverty reduction, narrowing development gap, and improving life of peoples in the Mekong River basin," Dung stated.

The facilitation of cross-border movement of goods and people via procedure simplification and one-window and one-stop services has slashed cost and time considerably, helping step up development of trade, tourism and investment in the GMS, he said, noting that the time needed to transport a container from Vietnam's northern Hai Phong port to China's Kunming city will decrease to only one day in 2015 from around two days currently and three days and a half in 2000.

However, the implementation of GMS cooperation programs has still seen slow progress, while the sub-region's infrastructure has yet to develop synchronously, and economic development has placed an increasingly bigger pressure on the Mekong River, the Prime Minister said.

To put into play its potentials and advantages, especially those relating to transport, investment, trade and tourism, as well as cement friendly and cooperative relations with other GMS countries, Vietnam has participated in most of the sub-region's cooperation frameworks.

"We attach GMS cooperation projects and programs to Vietnam's socioeconomic development plans as well as plans of our regions and areas to beef up national socioeconomic development and international economic integration," he said.

Vietnam has been building and upgrading many big seaports nationwide such as Hai Phong and Tien Sa to serve Vietnam's development demand and the sub-region's international cargo transit.

The country is actively coordinating with other GMS countries to develop infrastructure of economic corridors such as the EWEC, the Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong, the Nanning-Lang Son-Hanoi-Hai Phong, and the Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh-Bangkok.

Besides transport development, Vietnam has always actively coordinated with other GMS countries in negotiating and signing protocols and annexes of the GMS Cross-Border Transport Agreement (CBTA). It is one of the first countries in the GMS implementing the one-window, one-stop service at the Lao Bao international border gate in central Quang Tri province in 2005.

"Vietnam is actively negotiating with Cambodia and China about implementing this kind of customs inspection at some international border gates," he said.

With the theme "Enhancing Competitiveness through Greater Connectivity", the 3rd GMS Summit slated for March 30-31 in Laos' capital of Vientiane is an important forum for GMS leaders to discuss orientations and measures to foster sustainable development and raise the sub-region's competitiveness via strengthening transport, energy, trade, investment, tourism and environment connectivity, the prime minister said, adding that he hoped GMS leaders would put forth many more practical and feasible cooperation initiatives to make the sub-region's cooperation more and more effective, and balance its economic development and environmental protection.

(Xinhua News Agency March 31, 2008)

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