Vice-President Stephen Groff shares his views on regional cooperation between Mekong countries from the 22nd GMS Ministerial Conference in Ha Not, Viet Nam.
I am currently in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, where I am participating in the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program’s 22nd Ministerial Conference.
25 years ago, in 1992, the six countries that share the Mekong River—Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam—joined together in a program to improve economic cooperation between Mekong nations.
ADB is proud to have supported the GMS program since its inception. Working together, GMS nations have made amazing strides. A region once mired in conflict and poverty is now home to one of the world’s true economic success stories. Foreign direct investment inflows have increased ten-fold, and cross-border trade within the GMS has increased nearly a hundred-fold – from just $5 billion in 1992, to over $414 billion today.
GMS countries have also worked closely together to support the development of cross-border transport and energy infrastructure that has powered the subregion’s growth. Today, countries are harmonizing trade and transport regulations – making cross-border commerce even faster and more affordable. GMS nations are also cooperating on programs to enhance tourism, agriculture, and environmental preservation.
As Greater Mekong Subregion nations celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the program, they continue to be guided by what we call the “3 Cs” – connectivity, competitiveness, and community. The success of the GMS program is a testament to the value of countries working together in a spirit of openness, inclusiveness, and mutual respect, with strong commitment to addressing many of the challenges that still confront the subregion’s people.
GMS Ministers recently endorsed a new plan—the Ha Noi Action Plan—that sets forth a path for strengthening links between rural and urban areas in the subregion, thus ensuring more equitable economic growth for all of the region’s people.
Leaders of Mekong nations have also endorsed a new Regional Investment Framework that consists of 222 projects—valued at a combined $64 billion—that will spur new economic development throughout the GMS.
We’ve seen even more progress this week in Hanoi. Ministers extended their strong support for a new strategy that will help build a more seamless and sustainable GMS transport system, one with stronger links to South Asia, and other parts of Southeast Asia.
During these discussions, ministers endorsed a new tourism strategy that will better ensure balanced, sustainable destination development, and they welcomed the progress being made towards the establishment of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office as an inter-governmental organization.
Ministers also welcomed a new strategy for promoting safe and environment-friendly agriculture in the GMS, which will particularly benefit smallholder farmers, as well as and small and medium agro-enterprises.
I hope that you’ve learned a little bit more about the GMS today, and I hope you’ll check back with us in March 2018, when 6th GMS Leaders’ Summit will be held here in Viet Nam.