Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have acknowledged there is much to be done to integrate their transport links and further facilitate trade before the Asean Economic Community (AEC) comes into effect in 2015.

The leaders of the five countries met at the 5th Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Summit in Vientiane on Wednesday to discuss these issues.
During the summit, the leaders of the five countries adopted the Vientiane Declaration of the 5th ACMECS Summit and the Plan of Action for 2013-2015, which outline the key goals to be achieved before the AEC comes into being.

While transport connectivity is considered the key of their cooperation, the leaders have agreed to make full use of existing road transport networks and economic corridors to promote trade, investment and tourism.

The ACMECS leaders will also encourage the development of air linkages between major cities and cultural and natural heritage sites in the five countries, as well as railways and feeder roads to increase business and tourism flow.

However, one of the most important agreements made by the leaders was on the development of banking facilities, such as bank branches and financial services, in their countries to facilitate cross-border trade. They also advocated the use of their national currencies in trade and investment transactions.

Another issue highlighted was the need to accelerate the expansion of one-stop service centres and single-stop inspections as well as simplifying and standardising customs, immigration and sanitary and phyto-sanitary checks at existing border crossings.

The five countries resolved to promote cooperation in joint trade and investment promotion events, trade fairs, and exhibitions, especially in their border provinces.

Concerning agriculture, the leaders agreed to expedite the implementation of the ACMECS rice cooperation mechanism to drive cooperation in rice production in the five countries.

They will also encourage consultation and cooperation between the ACMECS countries and development partners to promote rice production and ensure food security.

The five countries will also encourage the establishment of industrial zones along the ACMECS countries’ borders and other potential areas along the East-West Economic Corridor, North-South Economic Corridor, the Southern Economic Corridor and the “inter-corridor linkages”. These zones will have a focus on green growth and sustainable development and encourage economic linkages and regional value chains.

Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said that since its inception in 2003, ACMECS has continued to make steady progress and has gained new momentum in terms of both quantity and quality. This has made an important contribution to the socio-economic development of the ACMECS countries and the region as a whole.

A number of projects and programmes in ACMECS priority sectors have been implemented, mainly in infrastructure development, such as roads, bridges and airports; human resource development; and logistics. All of these have led to a gradual increase in the volume of trade and investment and the number of visitors to the region, including Laos.

The Sixth ACMECS Summit will be hosted by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in 2014.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 14, 2013)