Six countries agree on Mekong cooperation system
Updated: 2015-11-12 23:42
By WANG QINGYUN(chinadaily.com.cn)
A new cooperation system covering the Mekong river was announced by China on Thursday in an effort to bring more practical benefits to the region.
The river is known as the Lancang in China.
The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism was announced by Foreign Minister Wang Yi after a meeting of the foreign ministers of China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
The meeting, co-chaired by Wang and Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, ended in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province on Thursday.
All six countries agreed at the First Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers' Meeting to start the new mechanism.
They set out five priority areas for the system — interconnectivity, production capacity cooperation, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources cooperation and cooperation on agriculture and poverty reduction, Wang said.
"An important aim of the mechanism is to share the burden of development in the region, help the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to narrow the gap between its members, and support the construction of the ASEAN Community," he said.
More than 70 projects are up for approval to become the mechanism's "early-harvest" projects, according to Don, who joined Wang at a news conference on Thursday.
It was also agreed at the meeting that the leaders of the six countries should meet next year and there should be a Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism foreign ministers' meeting every year, Wang said.
Don said the new mechanism is different from other cooperation frameworks for the region.
"It's cooperation among the countries of the Mekong — it's not cooperation among the countries of the Mekong plus one external power," he said.
Wang said the mechanism will develop together with others such as the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program and ASEAN Mekong Basin Development Cooperation.
He said the new mechanism doesn't counteract other cooperation mechanisms in the region. Instead, they promote and collaborate with one another.
"Both China and Thailand have taken part in many other mechanisms concerning the Mekong. But now we need a ‘baby' of our own — the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism that we started today," he said.
"Our cooperation needs to be more solid, specific, practical, comply with the public's wishes and bring more concrete benefits to people in the six countries."
The idea for the new mechanism dates to November last year when Premier Li Keqiang attended the 17th ASEAN-China Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
He announced that China was willing to respond positively to a Thai proposal and explore setting up a dialogue and cooperation mechanism in the Mekong-Lancang region under the ASEAN-China framework.
Lu Jianren, chief researcher at the China-ASEAN Research Institute at Guangxi University, said the new mechanism will help to narrow the development gap between ASEAN members, which is a major challenge to establishing the ASEAN Community.