Mekong economic corridor offers trade openings

Mekong economic corridor offers trade openings

Thailand is being urged to accelerate wrapping up a pact on cross-border transport and invest in infrastructure to make the best use of the East-West Economic Corridor linking Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Thai and foreign investors have also been urged to invest in special economic zones in Laos and Vietnam, following a survey conducted by the Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Japan External Trade Organization, Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association and National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) late last month.

The East-West Economic Corridor is an economic development programme initiated in 1998 by the Ministerial Conference of the Greater Mekong Subregion to promote development and integration of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

The corridor became operational on Dec 12, 2006. It is based on a 1,450-kilometre road starting in the west at the Myanmar port of Mawlamyine and crossing the Thai provinces of Tak, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Phetchabun, Khon Kaen, Kalasin and Mukdahan, the Lao province of Savannakhet and the Vietnamese provinces of Quang Tri and Thau Thien–Hue before finishing at Danang in the east.

The survey showed strong potential for investment in special economic zones in Laos and Vietnam because of low labour costs, attractive privileges and the availability of long-term land rentals.

NESDB secretary-general Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Thais should think about investing in the zones, which offer attractive investment incentives, tax privileges and one-stop services.

Laos operates three economic zones along the corridor. Tha Khek and Savan-Seno are operated by its government, while Phu Kaew is run by the private sector.

Potential investment includes trading, services, hotels, logistics, warehouses, education and public health.

Vietnam has established Lao Bao as an economic zone, with potential industries including tourism, auto parts and agro-industry.

The survey suggested the Thai government develop more facilities in the border provinces of Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom, saying they could link to Laos, Vietnam and southern China.

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