Vientiane, Lao PDR – With support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR, Mekong Institute (MI) and ASEAN-Korea Center organized the 5th Mekong-ROK Business Forum on Tourism, Food and Agricultural Industry in the Mekong Countries and Republic of Korea on October 19 – 20, 2017 at Vientiane, Lao PDR. The forum aimed to provide an opportunity for local SMEs to establish business linkages with Korean businesses through market access, technology transfer, skill, finance, business support, R&D, and product development, etc.
A total of 136 delegates from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand attended the forum. Among them, 63 representatives were from government agencies representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Tourism and Sport, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, Ministry of Planning and Finance, Ministry of Hotel and Tourism, Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry of Banking, ASEAN-Korea Centre, Mekong River Commission, Special Economic Zone and Management Office, and National Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Likewise, 71 business owners from various industries including hotel and tourism, agriculture, logistics, construction, and Information, Communication and Technology from Korea and Lao PDR, also joined the forum.
The chair of the event, H.E. Thongphane Savanphet, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR, warmly welcomed the participants. Mr. Savanphet highlighted the importance of private investment for sustainable development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region especially in the tourism sector. He noted that as an effort to support cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the ROK and the Greater Mekong countries, the ROK government is actively rendering assistance not only in infrastructural development but also in other areas and industries such as tourism, food and agriculture.
Speaking also at the opening ceremony, H.E. Yun Kang Hyeon, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Korea and co-chair of the ceremony, added that the Republic of Korea is committed to enhancing the capacities of businesses in the region through various programs, one of which is the Mekong-ROK Cooperation Fund (MKCF) being managed by the Mekong Institute. The forum has been designed as a platform to learn and share experiences and challenges of SMEs as well as provide an opportunity for Korean and CLMVT businesses to explore partnerships and expand their business for long term sustainability.
The forum sessions covered topics such as promotion of policies for SMEs, particularly incentives and business opportunities in the tourism industry; and opportunities, challenges and ways forward in doing business in Mekong countries. Through the discussions, participants were introduced to current trade and investment trends to prepare them for the growing opportunities in the region. The forum also served as an enabling environment for cooperation among the stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
In parallel with the forum, one-on-one business matching was also held among entrepreneurs of Korea and Laos PDR to exchange information and explore the possibility of expanding their presence in each other’s markets. Eighteen Korean companies and 27 companies from Lao PDR joined the business matching. The participants exchanged information on their business, various production techniques and channels of distribution. Product samples were also given to up-and-down stream entrepreneurs.
A useful resource in the event was the forum website (www.gmsbiznetworks.com), which has drawn the interest of participants as it allowed them to search and access seminar materials and other relevant information. The site can also be used by registered members for sharing and exchanging information for business expansion and other follow-up activities.