Following the milestone signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in April on the cooperation of projects under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) initiative, Mekong Institute (MI) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), Thailand hosted an Inception Workshop on June 21, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand. The workshop officially launched the LMC projects to be carried out by MI and initiated discussions on the next steps and actions for implementation.
Representatives from the Embassy of P.R. China, Ministry of Commerce/Industry and Chambers of Commerce/Industry from the six LMC countries, and Asian Development Bank attended the Inception Workshop. The group, together with MOC of Thailand and MI, comprises the Project Steering Committee (PSC).
Ms. Auramon Supthaweethum, Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, Ministry of Commerce of Thailand, welcomed the guests and noted that the meeting formally takes forward the work on the LMC projects since the MoU signing between the Embassy of P. R. China in Thailand and the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand. MI Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath explained that while MI takes the lead as implementing agency, the projects are regional initiatives and will need high-level representatives from the public and private sectors of the six countries to ensure its ownership and action. He further added that the PSC will “give direction to the project…and can help in linking [MI] with the people in-charge in their respective countries.”
In his opening remarks, Mr. Li Hong, Permanent Representative of P.R. China to the UNESCAP, further remarked on the importance of collaboration among the countries in the Lancang-Mekong region. He said, “China is a close neighbor of the five Mekong countries. Its policy directions and economic performance extend impacts to the region.” The LMC mechanism, he added, features the “principles of shared aspiration and prosperity through joint collaboration.” “It is important for us to work together to ensure the full implementation of these projects,” he emphasized.
On April 18 this year, MI and MOC of Thailand signed a MoU designating MI as the implementing agency of the four development projects supported by the Government of P.R. China under the LMC Special Fund. The four projects are as follows: Joint Development of Cross-Border Economic Zones, Upgrading Border Facilitation for Trade and Logistics Development; Lancang-Mekong Business Forum; and Action Research on Rural E-Commerce Development in Lancang-Mekong. The projects are geared toward promoting technical exchanges, enhancing human resource skills through training, boosting business linkages through trade events, and creating online platforms that will allow for improved business information flow and networking among small and medium enterprises and other trade actors in the Lancang-Mekong region.
Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, Director of MI’s Trade and Investment Facilitation Department, described that through these initiatives, Thailand and MI will be addressing five of the LMC’s priority areas on connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources, and agriculture and poverty reduction. He likewise explained that the multi-year initiatives will integrate training activities, research and policy discussions.
The workshop, chaired by MOC of Thailand and MI, presented to the PSC the projects’ work plan, cooperation mechanisms and roles and responsibilities of the PSC members. One of the major points raised in the meeting was the importance of conveying the benefits of the project to the representatives of the working groups of the countries to ensure full and proper cooperation during implementation.
The four LMC projects will be implemented regionally in Cambodia, P. R. China (Yunnan Province), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand in 2-5 years beginning May 2018.