VIENTIANE - A meeting of the Friends of Asean Mekong Region or CMLTV Business convened in Vientiane yesterday as part of the Asean Business and Investment Summit 2016.
The meeting was attended by Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of Cambodia Somdet Hun Sen, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Asean economic ministers and Asean business leaders.
During the event President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of the Asean Business Advisory Council, Mr Oudet Souvannavong, described the Mekong Region as an important sub-region within Asean.
It has a combined population of 235 million, average per capita income of US$2,927 and an average growth rate of 5.8 percent, making the Asean Mekong Region truly an emerging economy with many capacities and diversities.
The Mekong Region has a growing and relatively youthful population and its shared borders with countries of similar but distinct cultures and an exotic environment open the door to tourism as well as integrated regional trade, investment and business, particularly in manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, communications, technology and agricultural food industries.
While most countries are suffering from the effects of the global economic downturn, Asean Mekong countries are doing surprisingly well by slowly building up together to become one of Asean's New Growth Areas.
Such prosperity will not only benefit the five countries but also add value to Asean and its solidarity. The coming into being of the Asean Economic Community in this sub-region is expected to build an economic bloc and move Asean forward at a more even pace, on the basis of self-reliance and shared prosperity.
Asean-BAC is taking the initiative to promote and enhance sub-regional economic development to hasten economic integration. It is important that sub-regional areas such as the Mekong Region, the BIMP EAGA or the East Asean Growth Area, which have different geographical and economical situations, are growing in the same path.
For the Mekong Region, in-land connectivity and economic discrepancy are challenges for economic development, so leveraging the gap between Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is one of the objectives of Asean economic integration.
In the view of the private sector, to be able to leverage the economic gaps of the economies in the Mekong Region there is a need for stronger and faster economic integration through the development of sub-regional value chains that foster cross-border exchanges and intra-regional investment.