The Business to Government (B2G) Dialogue on Cross-Border Trade Facilitation (CBTF) in the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) was held in Mukdahan province, Thailand on August 8, 2018. With over a hundred delegates from both public and private sectors, the dialogue served as a platform to resolve issues and challenges as well as propose solutions and recommendations toward smoother and more efficient CBTF among the provinces of Mukdahan, Thailand, Quang Tri, Vietnam, and Savannakhet, Lao PDR.
Respective local government leaders and officials from the three provinces, including Mr. Panthong Srakupanth, Vice Governor of Mukdahan; Mr. Nguyen Quan Chinh, Vice Chairperson of Quang Tri; and Mr. Thonekeo Phouthakayalath, Vice Governor of Savannakhet, underscored the key role of CBTF to the overall development of the border provinces. In his opening speech, Mr. Phouthakayalath quoted the “Three Opens” of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulit: “Open the door [to investment promotion]; Open the heart [to cooperation for development]; and Open the way [to trade facilitation].” While barriers may exist, the officials acknowledged that an open and constructive dialogue is imperative in ensuring that efforts lead toward complementary implementation of CBTF.
Earlier this year, the RLED-EWEC Project conducted workshops and meetings among private sector representatives in the concerned provinces to develop an action plan aimed at accelerating CBTF. The 10 recommendations, of which one is shared, four being joint, and five are separate proposals, were presented at the dialogue to further synthesize areas of priorities. After considerable assessment and dialogue process, all parties mutually agreed on resolutions including ensuring transparency of border fees and charges; reducing the border infrastructure fees for agricultural cargoes; lessening barriers for trade (overtime fee and additional weighing cost); simplifying procedure allowing private-owned car operation between Quang Tri and Mukdahan for tourism promotion; optimizing and synchronizing SSI/SWI procedures; and proposing to discontinue inappropriate inspections (incoming non-timber trucks shall be exempted) at Baan Dong check point in Savannakhet.
“This is only the beginning. The B2G Dialogue’s outcome indicates the commitment of all three provinces to establish seamless collaboration for CBTF,” said Mr. Nguyen Hung Cuong, Director of the RLED-EWEC Project. Likewise, MI Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath expressed appreciation for the delegates’ openness, willingness, and active involvement in the dialogue. He asserted Mekong Institute’s continuous support and commitment to the three provinces in pushing CBTF forward.