The 22nd Ministerial Conference on "Greater GMS achievements through stronger and pragmatic cooperation" hosted by Vietnam in September, 2017. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam has actively taken part in developing initiatives for enhanced cooperation within the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) to boost economic growth, strengthen economic connectivity and aid poverty reduction effort in the region.

The GMS comprises of Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi provinces), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. In 1992, the six countries entered into a programme of sub-regional economic cooperation, designed to enhance economic relations among the countries, as an initiative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Priority fields include infrastructure development, energy, telecommunications, tourism, trade-investment, human resources, and the environment.

As of December 2017, about 6 billion USD has been poured into GMS cooperation projects in Vietnam, representing 30 percent of the total value of GMS loans and financial aids. Of the amount, transport accounted for 87 percent, followed by urban development (7.9 percent), agriculture and natural resources (3.7 percent), healthcare and social welfare (2.7 percent), industry and trade (0.4 percent), trade facilitation and transport (0.2 percent).

Substantial progress has been made in terms of transport infrastructure development since 1992 with the formation of vital economic corridors to promote trans-border economic and social activities. Vietnam holds key nodes in three GMS economic corridors – the Southern Coastal Corridor (GMS-SCC) which links Thailand to southern Vietnam via Cambodia, the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) that links Myanmar to Vietnam via central Thailand and Laos, and the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC) with sub-veins linking China and Vietnam. The corridors will help Vietnam reap most benefits from improved transport connectivity and growing trade and investment in areas along them.

Many ABD-funded road projects have been completed and put into use, including HCM City-Moc Bai and Dong Ha-Lao Bao routes operational in 2005; and 244km Hanoi-Lao Cai Expressway, the longest of its kind in Vietnam, in 2014.

Vietnam signed the GMS Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement (CBTA) in 1999 and has ratified all CBTA’s annexes, enabling the reduction of amount of time spent in crossing border for vehicles, goods and passengers and facilitating trade. Since 2012, Vietnam and China have facilitated each other’s vehicles crossing shared borders on the Kunming – Hanoi – Hai Phong and Hanoi – Nanning – Shenzhen routes. The same year, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand roads connecting capital cities of the three countries with two large sea ports – Laem Chabang (Thailand) and Hai Phong (Vietnam) on the EWEC.

In terms of energy, Vietnam has taken part in the Regional Indicative Master Plan on Power Interconnection in the GMS, paving the way for the country to bolster electricity trading and push for the establishment of institutions to ensure power security within the region. By attending meetings of the GMS Regional Power Trade Coordination, Vietnam has got updates on the GMS countries’ markets and energy-related plans and greatly benefited from ADB’s technical support.

The country has played an active role in the GMS’s trade and investment promotion events and enhancing regional partnership in agriculture, tourism, and telecommunications. It has also contributed to the GMS’s effort in controlling cross-border infectious diseases, such as SARS, bird flu, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis which are priorities of the regional cooperation in healthcare.

This year, Vietnam will host the sixth GMS Summit (GMS-6) in Hanoi from March 29-31. Themed “Leveraging 25 years of cooperation, Building an integrated, sustainable and prosperous GMS”, the GMS-6 is expected to draw about 2,000 delegates and 150 reporters.

It aims to celebrate the 25th founding anniversary of the GMS Programme and define cooperation orientations to build a region of prosperity, integration and sustainable development.

For the first time, a business forum will be held within the framework of the GMS-6 as an initiative of host Vietnam, with a view to increasing dialogues between States and businesses and forging links between regional and global enterprises.-VNA