Photo credit: The Korea Herald
TRADE, ECONOMY, AND INVESTMENT
Mekong-Korea cooperation spearheads sustainable development
(24 December 2018) The Korean government stands ready and willing to share its insights and experience with Mekong countries as Korea seeks greater cooperation with the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), said Korean second vice foreign minister Lee Tae-ho in a speech at the 6th Mekong-ROK Business Forum held in Seoul recently. The forum, which carried the theme “Promoting Co-prosperity Through Eco-friendly Innovation Among SMEs in Mekong Countries and Republic of Korea”, was hosted ahead of the inaugural Mekong-ROK Summit and ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit next year. According to the Korean government, the country’s imports from the Mekong region increased from US$7.7 billion to US$22 billion from 2010 to 2017, while Korea’s exports to the region rose from US$17 billion to US$56 billion during the same period. Further, capital from Korea to the Mekong region rose from US$1.3 billion to US$2.9 billion during the period, while Mekong countries’ investments in Korea rose from US$4 million to US$11 million.
Rail link to boost connectivity between Thailand and Laos in the works
(23 December 2018) Thailand intends to develop a double-track railway to link Nakhon Ratchasima and Laos’ Pakse, said Thai transport minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith. According to the minister, the Thai government is keen on developing transport linkages over its northeastern provinces, whether through rail or air transport development. The ministry is also working on improving logistics systems that affect the tourism industry. Further, several railway and road projects, as well as bridges linking Thai-Lao provinces are also on the cards.
Laos’ exports expected to continue rising in 2019
(21 December 2018) The Lao government expects the country’s exports to continue on an uptrend and reach US$5.5 billion in 2019, based on projections in a report by the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The report also noted as at November, the country was only able to achieve 78% of the year’s targeted US$5 billion export value. Only US$3.9 billion worth of goods were exported in the first nine months of 2018 and it is unclear if the country will meet this year’s export target. Further, the government has lowered the GDP growth forecast, citing widespread flooding which affected productivity.
Cambodia’s exports up 4% in 2018
(24 December 2018) Cambodia’s exports increased by 4% to reach US$11.2 billion in 2018, according to its Commerce Ministry’s annual report. Speaking at the ministry’s annual conference, commerce minister Pan Sorasak said that the growth was driven by increases in the exports of apparel, agricultural and industrial products. He added that Cambodian products were shipped to 147 countries around the world this year, and that the export volume accounts for around 60% of the country’s GDP. Further, according to another senior ministry official, Cambodia’s key exports are garments, footwear, bicycles, rubber, rice, cassava, pepper, palm oil and cashew nut. On the import side, the country imported goods worth US$13.7 billion this year, up 5.7% from 2017.
Thailand calls for Mekong neighbours to intensify SEZ collaboration
(21 December 2018) The Thai government urged its four neighbouring countries — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam — to intensify joint efforts in developing special economic zones (SEZs) in order to seize all opportunities that the ASEAN single market presents. According to Thai industry minister Uttama Savanayana, Thailand is working hard on its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme, which it envisions as the region’s manufacturing hub encompassing 44 special service promotion zones. The minister added that the Thai government aims to connect the corridor and SEZs with initiatives under other partnerships such as the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Thailand presently has 10 SEZs, Cambodia has 38 SEZs, Laos has 15 SEZs, Myanmar has 20 SEZs, while Vietnam has 18 SEZs, 292 special service promotion zones and three technology industrial parks.
About Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Programme was launched by the Asian Development Bank in 1992 connecting five developing ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region. The region has some of the most robust economies sharing the Mekong River Basin thanks to its reform and liberalisation. The subregion is growing at a faster pace than the whole of East Asia and the Asia Pacific as the GDP growth rate for 2017 was at 6.4 percent, according to the World Bank. The population at the subregion as of 2016 is at 340 million while the GDP at PPP is at US$3.1 trillion in 2016. In 2015, trading within the region was at US$444 billion.