Cross-border zone in North could boost trade links

Cross-border zone in North could boost trade links

The government is studying the feasibility of establishing a cross-border economic zone in the Golden Triangle under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation scheme to expand economic links for Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China.

Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Trade Negotiations Department, said the department is scheduled to discuss a location in Chiang Rai for such a zone with representatives of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Thai Industries next month.

"The Golden Triangle area looks like the most appropriate because it borders Thailand, Laos and Myanmar," Mrs Auramon said. "Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts in Chiang Rai province are likely the best choices."

The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework was established in 2015 to promote multifaceted cooperation at the sub-regional level among the six countries along the Mekong River, namely Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The framework's vision is to contribute to the economic and social development of the sub-region, enhancing the well-being of the people, narrowing the development gap, supporting Asean community building and promoting the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as advancing North-South cooperation.

On April 18, the Commerce Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Mekong Institute (MI) for cooperation on four projects under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund, as supported by the Chinese government.

Under the MoU, MI serves as the implementing agency of these multi-year projects that aim to advance trade and economic growth in the sub-region.

The projects are carried out using a blend of capacity development activities, including modular training, action research, business forums and business matching, policy consultations, and online business platform development.

China also agreed to pay US$1.7 million (55 million baht) for three years to help enhance intra-regional economic linkages in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.

Under the cooperation, member countries aim to boost trade to $250 billion (8.09 trillion baht) by 2020 from $220 billion in 2017. Trade growth in the region was 16% year-on-year in 2017.

Thailand had trade worth $109.5 billion with the five countries last year, of which $73.7 billion was with China.

Mrs Auramon said the development of a cross-border economic zone will build connectivity among people, businesses and governments, also helping to increase competitiveness.

Pornthep Inthachai, president of the Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber agreed with a cross-border economic zone in the Golden Triangle.

He said the chamber previously proposed the idea to Yingluck Shinawatra's government, but the proposal was frozen.

Mr Pornthep said that despite the Golden Triangle's notorious image, trade volume among Thailand, Myanmar and Laos is very active and growing.

"The private sector is waiting for a clear policy and commitment from the government for the new special economic zone," he said. "Infrastructure investment, including a high-speed rail network, is needed to support the cross-border economic zone."

Myanmar and Laos already have their own cross-border economic zones through joint ventures with China.

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