Thailand, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam have discussed cross-border transport facilitation at the Third Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on East – West Economic Corridor (EWEC) Development.
The meeting, chaired by Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, took place in Bangkok on 20 May 2015. Also participating in the meeting were the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, and the representative of the Asian Development Bank (ABD).
The meeting also focused on how to address the remaining challenges to further boost trade, investment and people-to-people contacts, as well as improving the well-being of people of the four EWEC countries. Enhancing EWEC connectivity will also facilitate ASEAN becoming a community by the end of 2015.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting noted with satisfaction significant progress on infrastructure development along EWEC and its extensions, such as the improvement of the First Thai – Myanmar Friendship Bridge at Mae Sot – Myawaddy and the road from Myawaddy to the Foot of Dawna Range (Thingannyinaung), the construction of a new road between the Foot of Dawna Range (Thingannyinaung) and Kawkareik, and the upgrading of the Tak – Mae Sot Highway.
Thailand is also working closely with Myanmar on the construction of the First Thai – Myanmar Friendship Bridge. As for software connectivity, it ratified all the remaining Annexes of the Greater Mekong Subregion Cross-Border Transport Agreement (CBTA) on 30 March 2015.
Moreover, Thailand proposed the idea of establishment of cross-border economic zones between Thailand and neighboring countries to promote ASEAN as a single production base and strengthen value chains among ASEAN countries.
The meeting agreed to convene a Joint Thai – Lao – Viet Nam Task Force Meeting, to be hosted by Thailand. The joint trilateral meeting will discuss the preparation of implementing the extension of Route No. 9 (linking Thailand, Lao PDR and Viet Nam) to Bangkok, Vientiane, Ha Noi, Laem Chabang Port, and Haiphong Port, The discussions will also touch on the issues of the incorporation of Route No. 12 – another important route among the three countries – in the GMS CBTA, the setting-up of scheduled passenger routes between northeastern Thailand, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam, and the Single Stop Inspection at Mukdahan – Savannakhet Border Checkpoint.
It was also agreed that the joint trilateral meeting would discuss how to address the concerns of Lao PDR as a transit country, such as cost recovery for road maintenance and economic development model along the connectivity routes. In addition, Thailand, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam also discussed the extension of software connectivity to the EWEC part in Myanmar at Mae Sot – Myawaddy border checkpoint, the promotion of economic activities and tourism along EWEC and its extensions to make it truly an economic corridor, as well as how to increase the role of the private sector, ADB, and other development partners in EWEC development.