Trade and Investment Facilitation ,EWEC

Mekong Institute (MI) successfully conducted the provincial consultation workshop on “Enabling Regulatory Environment for Facilitating Cross-Border Trade (CBT) on East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC)” in Thakhek, Khammouane province, Lao PDR on December 13, 2016. The workshop is the second event in a series of consultations under the framework of the the Regional and Local Economic Development Project on “Capacity Development for a More Inclusive and Equitable Growth, Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)” in the six border provinces along the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) of the GMS, funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). 

The consultation workshop was attended by 31 participants representing Provincial Governors’ offices, Departments Industry and Trade / Departments of Commerce, Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Agriculture and Forestry and Quarantine offices, Departments of Transport, Departments of Foreign Affairs, Customs Departments, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Business Associations, and Cross-border SMEs / Exporters and Importers of Khammouane province, Lao PDR, and Nakhon Phanom province, Thailand. 

The consultation workshop provided an interactive platform for the participants of two provinces to validate the result of the study on “Assessment of potentials and opportunities for cross-border trade of agricultural commodities in Khammouane province, Lao PDR, and reflect their views and perspectives on broader issues related to (i) cross-border trade facilitation, (ii) technical cooperation, and (iii) institutional development and coordination mechanism that aimed to identify policy priorities and solutions to creation of an enabling regulatory environment for facilitating cross-border trade between the two provinces. Importantly, the result of this consultation will contribute to the project intervention in the next three years. 

Supporting the objectives of the provincial consultation, the two Vice Governors mentioned the importance of cross-border trade in the context of continued increase in bilateral trade, especially from Thailand, and the current existing informal cross-border trade, and disadvantaged conditions having been facing Lao PDR. The point is that with the development of the special economic zone (SEZ) in Nakhon Phanom, the local authority would promote the development of logistics facilities and services in partnership with the private sector, and hence there would be more activities that could attract investors’ investment in the SEZ. In principle, the Thai and Laotian governments have agreed to sign the MOU on “Cooperation in the Employment of Workers “, so that the SEZ, which has been planned for further investment in 2017, will request more labors from Lao PDR, Khammouane province in particular. In order to share economic benefits and support human resource development to the neighboring province, Thailand will provide vocational and technical training to Lao PDR, particularly Khammouane province. In response to the suggestion of Nakhon Phanom province, the Vice Governor of Khammouane province will consult the central government of Lao PDR on this proposed technical assistance. 

During the consultation, the participants discussed issues on (i) Customs clearance procedures and processes at crossing check points; (ii) Regulations supporting SMEs in import and export businesses and access to cross-border trade channels; (iii) The local area development strategies and policies in order to motivate the private investment in logistics development in both facilities and services to facilitate cross-border trade; (iv) Development of contract farming for agricultural commodities; (v) Development of trade database and information sharing mechanism; (vi) Implementation of regulations on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS), permit issuance, product certification, and inspection procedures for agricultural commodities; (vii) Dialogue of both public and private sectors in order to resolve problems and constraint on cross-border trade; and (viii) Coordination mechanism between Lao PDR and Thailand to boost cross-border trade. 

Providing the way forward upon completion of the consultation workshop, the Director of EWEC Department of MI confirmed the continuity of the project with a focus on cross-border trade facilitation for the project provinces with an aim to reduce transportation costs to enhance cross-border trade flows with an effective regulatory environment and more engagement of the private sector. To this end, the consultations will also be conducted at the national and regional levels seeking the commitments of the countries, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam in January – February 2017, which were agreed and supported by the two Vice Governors and stakeholders of the two provinces. 

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