Development, Trade and Foreign Affairs

Mekong Cooperation

Mekong river is one of the world longest rivers, flowing through Yunnan province of PRC, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and then discharging into the South China Sea. It is not only a significant waterway, but it also provides a great potential natural resources for enriching various of agricultural crops, fisheries as well as energy supplies recently. Although the Mekong region reserves a vast valuable natural resources, almost of the countries of Mekong region are least developed countries, namely Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. There are two reasons that possibly help to explain these, ideology conflict and political difficulties. Although it is true that there are number of challenges, but there are a wide range of concrete efforts to arise this region by making up the Mekong cooperation to serve as a catalyst for unifying Mekong countries and improving living standard of people of the Mekong.

Cambodia has been actively engaging with various platforms of sub-regional cooperation, including Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), Mekong-Japan Cooperation, Mekong-Korea Cooperation, Mekong-Ganga Cooepration, Lower Mekong Initiative, and recently Mekong-Lancang Cooperation.

This sub-region cooperation is not that simple. This Mekong sub-region cooperation is way beyond the water resource management itself. It has primarily emphasized on variety of potential sectors. For instance, in GMS program, they have undertaken their attentions on transport, energy, agriculture, environment, trade, investment, tourism, telecommunications and development of economic corridors. In Mekong-Japan Initiative, there are at least three significant pillars, such as Comprehensive Development in the Mekong region (develop infrastructure, promote public private sector cooperation, and assists developing harmonised economic rules and systems), Environment (reduction of green house gas emission, adoption of negative influence by climate change by expanding financial and technical assistance, providing assistance to overcome vulnerability for the cross-border issues), and Expansion of Cooperation and Exchanges (promote exchanges on parliamentarians and political parties, tourism by the joint efforts of private and public organizations and supports the protection of cultural heritages). Similar approaches have been done through other sub-regional cooperation.

In this connection, the cooperation for economic development between the Mekong sub-region countries and its development partners has become more complex like noodle. This sub-region becomes so attractive to the regional and global economies because of three crucial reasons. Firstly, the Mekong sub-region now is at peace, stable and secure for investment, business and trade. Secondly, after 1990s the countries of the Mekong have been rapidly modernizing and developing. There are more available rooms for change and improvement in terms of economic development. Thirdly, the sub-region is actually part of ASEAN Economic Community that will be further fully integrated as a single market and production based after 2015.

However, to make the sub-region continuously prosperous, narrowing the development gap among the Mekong countries, sub-region connectivity (both soft and hard infrastructures), and inclusive development must be addressed. In this sense, the policy and the institutional reform are the key to tackle challenges for least developed countries in order to effectively and efficiently run the market-based system that is generous with investment, production and distribution of supply and demand. Additionally, good governance, rule of law and transparency also play a core important role to properly and securely accelerate system to function as well in this sense. Differently, looking into the Mekong countries, PRC and Thailand are way more advanced economise and after by Vietnam. Their difficulties are way more to overcome the value-added chain by upgrading technology, skills and ability.






Researcher and Trade Economist

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