GMS Cross-Border Pact on Hold

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Though all countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) had signed a cross-border trade agreement (CBTA) 14 years ago to enhance the sub-region’s economic connectivity, the CBTA, however, is yet to be ratified in individual Mekong nations for its full implementation. This was revealed last week by a senior official in a government development agency.
 
Sok Chenda Sophea, secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, said Thursday that GMS members, including China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Thailand, had signed the CBTA in 2002.
 
“After signing the CBTA, the six GMS countries had to get the agreement ratified by their individual governments,” said Mr. Sophea, who spoke to journalists after the Eight Economic Corridors Forum.
 
“Harmonizing the varying interests and circumstances of six countries has not been easy and 14 years later this CBTA has yet to be implemented due to complicated national procedures, differing legal systems and a lack of hardware and software to coordinate between the public and private sectors,” he added.
 
But Mr. Sophea pointed out that though the CBTA had been delayed, the cross-border transport facilitation agreement signed by Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in 1999 and later acceded to by Cambodia in 2001 and China and Myanmar in 2002 and 2003 respectively, will be fully implemented in January next year.
 
“This cross-border transport agreement is crucial for facilitating cross-border transport, trade, investment and tourism. In order to further increase and facilitate traffic and promote transport in the sub-region, the six GMS countries have agreed to allow commercial trucks and tourist buses to travel more freely from country to country,” he said.
 
“Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, which form a vast economic area connected by the Mekong River, have agreed to give each country a quota of 500 vehicles under the transnational transport plan to promote regional logistics and tourism,” added Mr. Sophea.
 
The GMS has three main economic corridors ‒ the north and south economic corridor between Southeast Asia and China, the south economic corridor which stretches in the south of GMS and the east and west economic corridor which stretches about 1,300 kilometers from Danang in Vietnam through Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
 
James Nugent, director general of the Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia department said that an economic corridor is a holistic strategy that improves and enhances investments in transport, energy and telecommunications in the GMS.
 
“The cross-border transport facilitation agreement is a highly efficient transport system that moves goods and people around the sub-region through the economic corridors,” he said.

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