Photo credit: The Irrawaddy
TRADE, ECONOMY, AND INVESTMENT
Myanmar and Thailand opens new bridge link on the East-West Economic Corridor
(19 March 2019) Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha officiated a new bridge connecting Thailand’s Mae Sot district in Tak province with Myanmar’s Myawaddy city in Kayin State on March 19, an initiative aimed at boosting cross-border trade and investment between the countries. The 270-metre long bridge also lies on the East-West Economic Corridor — a project under the Mekong-Japan cooperation scheme which includes an initiative (among others) to connect Vietnam’s Dong Ha City with Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone via Cambodia and Thailand. The new bridge is expected to also boost connectivity between Bangkok and Yangon, especially once transportation infrastructure on Myanmar’s side of the corridor improves. According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade between both countries stood at $5 billion in fiscal year 2017-2018.
Thailand and Laos renew power purchase agreements
(19 March 2019) The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and Electric de Laos (EDL) inked the renewal of two power purchase agreements (PPA) that will allow Thailand to continue procuring electricity from Laos’ Nam Ngum 1 and Say-sed hydroelectric plants. According to Thai energy minister Siri Jirapongphan, the EGAT will purchase electricity at a slightly higher rate than before as it takes into account the current costs of power generation. He added that this is the first time that the countries have altered contract terms after 50 years of energy cooperation. Furthermore, the Thai government expects to sign more PPAs with Laos down the road as it plans to purchase up to 9,000MW of electricity from its Mekong neighbour by 2030.
Vietnam and Cambodia boost postal services, telecommunications and ICT cooperation
(15 March 2019) Talks between Vietnamese information and communications minister Nguyen Manh Hung and Cambodian posts and telecommunications minister Tram Iv Tek in Phnom Penh on March 14 culminated in the signing of three cooperation agreements between the parties. Under these agreements, the countries will work together to develop cross-border delivery and postal financial services, as well as continue negotiations relating to modern broadband mobile communication systems, network transfers and television digitalisation. Further, Vietnam will assist Cambodia in the development of cyber security infrastructure.
Vietnam exported US$97.4 million in goods to Laos in the first two months of 2019
(18 March 2019) Vietnam’s exports to Laos saw a 20.26% year-on-year increase in January and February 2019, reaching US$97.4 million. The statistics were published by the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade, who also provided that the country’s key exports to Laos were oil and gas, as well as steel and steel products — which together accounted for 40.84% of the total. This uptrend follows the 14% year-on-year increase in total annual trade between the two countries which exceeded US$1 billion last year. According to Viet Nam News, the Lao government is gradually easing its business regulations and upgrading its infrastructure in order to attract more foreign investors.
Vietnam and Laos share knowledge on building up farming cooperatives
(19 March 2019) Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue met Lao National Economic Research Institute head Bouasone Bouphavanh during a working visit to Hanoi on March 19, where they shared their experiences related to the effective development of cooperatives. Vuong shared that up to 60% of Vietnamese cooperatives are now operating smoothly as opposed to the previous 10%. He attributed this improvement to the government’s new formation strategy that promotes the development of cooperatives “on the basis of economic benefits”, as opposed to utilising rules and regulations to compel farmers to participate in such activities. According to Viet Nam News, Vuong also stressed the need for cooperatives to grow in tandem with restructured agricultural production processes and “new style rural areas”.
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.