Working Together to Write a New Chapter of Sub-regional Cooperation
– Speech at the Sixth GMS Summit
H.E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
Vietnam National Convention Center, Hanoi, 31 March 2018
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
Prime Minister Hun Sen,
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith,
Vice President Henry Van Thio,
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,
Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We meet in a year of special significance. This year marks the start of another 50 years for ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up for China. It is a good time to take stock of what we have achieved under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) economic cooperation program in the past 25 years.
In the last quarter-century, our six countries, nurtured by the same river and same paddy fields, have cooperated with and supported each other, sought development paths that suit our national conditions, and advanced toward peace, stability and prosperity. We have actively participated in economic globalization, worked together to mitigate the Asian and global financial crises and emerged as a strong driving force for Asia’s economic growth. With joint efforts, we have improved the well-being of our people, lifted hundreds of millions of them out of poverty and enabled them to lead a better life.
As we meet today, all our six countries are showing a strong momentum of growth. The GMS and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) are advancing side by side, and the Belt and Road Initiative is providing a strong boost to sub-regional cooperation, all of this gives us added confidence in the future of our cooperation.
Our six countries share common mountains and rivers. Our interests are connected, so are our destinies. With a joint desire to achieve development and prosperity, we must seize the opportunities that come our way and take concrete action to break new ground in the development and cooperation in our sub-region.
First, we need to foster stronger growth. As the world economy is shifting from old to new growth drivers, GMS countries can and must make new strides in tapping new sources of growth.
While maintaining our traditional competitive advantages, we must move up the value chain and strengthen our core competitiveness. We need to advance the building of cross-border economic cooperation zones and new industrial parks. We need to deepen industrial capacity cooperation to bolster the real economy. We also need to leverage our late-comer advantage in developing the digital economy and the sharing economy and in building platforms for cross-border e-commerce. We can only make our growth more energized and efficient by riding the wave of innovation and change.
Second, we need to support openness in our practical cooperation. Openness has been essential to the development of our sub-region. Without it, we could not have accomplished so much; to secure greater development in the future, we also need to expand openness.
We must continue to drive trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, support the multilateral trading system and promote an open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization that benefits all. We need to act with a greater sense of urgency to bring to an early conclusion the RCEP negotiations to lead the way for the regional free trade architecture and to foster a sound external environment for sub-regional development. We also need to improve the business environment to energize market entities and enable factors of production to flow more smoothly and efficiently.
China has long been an advocate of an open world economy. China is committed to win-win cooperation in opening-up and firmly opposes trade protectionism. Protectionism harms others without benefiting oneself; it is a one-way street that leads nowhere. The right approach to address trade disputes is to conduct consultation in line with international rules and as equals.
Third, we need to improve our network of connectivity. For GMS cooperation to come this far, our priority in infrastructure connectivity has proven a major contributing factor. Physical connectivity provides a solid foundation for development in our sub-region. It also represents an important area for future growth.
China will work on the China-Laos railway, the China-Thailand railway, the China-Myanmar land-water transportation facility and other key projects to enhance our infrastructure network. We should also enhance the synergy between the development of transport corridors and that of economic corridors to fully leverage their role in boosting the economy and improving people’s lives. China will work with other GMS countries to further harmonize policies, regulations and standards and implement the Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement, as these efforts will help us strengthen the weak links in institutional connectivity and build an all-round and multi-dimensional connectivity network.
The Greater Mekong sub-region, once an important area along the ancient Maritime Silk Road, is now where the Silk Road Economic Belt connects with the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This puts the GMS countries in a solid and unique position in the Belt and Road cooperation.
We GMS countries are natural partners in and primary beneficiaries of the Belt and Road Initiative. Following the principle of consultation and collaboration for shared benefits, we could synergize GMS cooperation and the BRI and realize interconnected development through coordinated actions. As the host of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation next year, China welcomes fellow GMS countries to the Forum where we can further advance our wide-ranging cooperation and share in the fruits of such cooperation.
Fourth, we need to deepen our partnership. As a Chinese saying goes, good neighbors are well-wishers for each other. It serves the common interests of all GMS countries to forge a closer partnership for common development and shared prosperity. This is an overarching principle that we shall continue to follow.
It is important that we treat each other with respect and as equals and deal with sub-regional affairs through consultation. We must stay development-oriented and pursue win-win and all-win outcomes in cooperation. We must uphold inclusiveness and mutual trust to ensure that our development and cooperation are not affected by turns of events. This way, we could jointly create an enabling environment for the development of our sub-region.