Written by Mekong Institute  

Regional cooperation and integration is making headway and the Mekong Region is rapidly moving towards a new operating environment. The Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) are part of several cooperation frameworks, notably ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and the Ayeyawady Chao Phraya Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS). The setting up of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 20I5 will establish ASEAN as a single market and production base with a free flow of goods, services and skilled labor. Simultaneously, ASEAN has liberalized trade and investment and integration among ASEAN under AFTA. This has resulted in the implementation of The Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) system which reduces Tariff rates of all imported goods between ASEAN members to zero (2010 for the six old members 2015 for the four new members). ASEAN has also liberalized its trade and investment with China, Korea and Japan (ASEAN + 3) and then with India, New Zealand and Australia (ASEAN + 6). AEC as well as AFTA are envisaged to address development disparities and to accelerate the integration of the new ASEAN members, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam, into the regional community.   

In 2010, the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong (FLM) has agreed on the importance of close cooperation among donors and the Mekong Countries to enhance effectiveness, mobilize resources, and promote synergy of regional assistance programs aimed at supporting inclusive, sustainable, and environmentallyresponsible growth. They noted the importance of effectively managing sustainable and equitable development in the Mekong region and discussed challenges affecting these countries in a variety of sectors, including the environment, public health, social development, livelihood, food security, education, and infrastructure. With this, they acknowledged the importance of conducting assistance programs in the Mekong Region in a transparent manner and agreed to continue discussion to develop a sustainable and effective cooperation mechanism among parties.

1. HanRiver Declaration of Establishing the MekongROK Comprehensive Partnership for Mutual Prosperity The Republic of Korea (ROK) has long been providing Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in the Mekong Region. With its plan to double its ODA in the region by 2015, ROK wants to contribute in Mekong Countries in areas where it can have the greatest impact, preventing duplicity and ineffectiveness in its regional efforts, and underlining the importance of local ownership in these efforts.

In October 2011, ROK hosted the first Foreign Ministers Meeting between ROK and the five Mekong Countries in Seoul and all six Governments have agreed to set forth The MekongROK Comprehensive Partnership for Mutual Prosperity(the Partnership) with the following objectives: We shared the view that the Partnership should aim to promote friendship and cooperation between the Mekong region countries and the ROK in a wide range of areas,and thereby:

deepen the ASEANROK Strategic Partnership established at the I3th ASEANROK Summit held in October 20I0, Hanoi, Viet Nam

contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region

narrow the development gap within ASEAN, accelerate the ASEAN integration and expedite the process of ASEAN Community building scheduled for the year 20I5

enhance regional cooperation and community building in East Asia with ASEAN playing a driving force1To move forward, the Foreign Ministers Meeting has tasked the Senior Officials to come up with plan of action to implement the vision set forth in the Declaration.

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