The area known as the Mekong Center – Thailand, Vietnam and Laos – is gradually coalescing into a single economic zone. It could become Asia's hottest region. Here's why:
Vietnam is the second-fastest growing economy in the world, behind China.
Thailand, Vietnam and Laos are functioning as a single economic region, thanks to highways and other infrastructural creations over the past decade – and to a powerful new spirit of cooperation among the three countries.
Over the past several years, roads and highways connecting Thailand, Vietnam and Laos have made it economically efficient to ship goods between the countries overland.
Previously, a real manufacturing connection was unthinkable due to the cost of shipping by air or sea. Now a plant in northern Thailand can ship directly to places like Da Nang by road.
It may not seem like much, but this has connected a region that heretofore was three distinct if not rival countries, all three bordering one another.
The total population is 155 million, about half that of the United States, teeming in a land mass of 1,072,255 sq km – slightly less than two states of Texas side by side.
The advantages are numerous. A company can have two factories share product inventory, parts, design and other supplies. If there are production problems, including plant shutdown, there is back-up production capability.
Trading house Mitsui & Co sees the region as having the collaborative potential that many talk about with ASEAN, but with real practical benefits that the formal organization has only discussed.