New Concept of Mekong Region Development

1. Three Visions

   The Mekong region, in which all the new member countries of ASEAN are located, is pivotal for furthering ASEAN's integration. The region possesses potential for economic growth and is essential for the stability and prosperity of the whole of Asia, as it is adjacent to other ASEAN countries, China and India. Recent progress also spotlights the Mekong region: ASEAN is placing even more emphasis on the cooperation for the region, as shown in the Initiatives for ASEAN Integration (IAI), and is undertaking the process of economic integration involving the region. With the above in mind, Japan will, in close consultation with ASEAN countries, cooperate for the Mekong region development in line with the following three visions:

1)   Reinforcing regional integration;
Japan will contribute to strengthen ASEAN's integration and relations among the countries in the Mekong region through well-balanced development of the region.
2)   Attaining sustainable economic growth;
With a view to vitalizing the economic potential of the Mekong region for the whole of Asia, Japan will, in addition to economic cooperation, support facilitating trade, investment and the exchange of people in the region to achieve region-wide sustainable economic growth.
3)   Harmonizing with the environment;
Recognizing the natural richness of the Mekong region, Japan will pay due consideration to orderly development and environmental conservation.

2. Three Expanded Dimensions of Cooperation

   Based on the aforementioned visions, Japan aims to expand the dimensions of its cooperation for the Mekong region development through an integrated approach of economic cooperation and trade-investment facilitation measures:

1)   Expanding Approaches;
Japan and ASEAN are expected to explore broader approaches to the Mekong region development to promote trade, investment and the exchange of people in the region, in addition to the conventional means of economic cooperation. In this vein, Japan will extend its support to the countries of the Mekong region toward achieving economic integration so that they can fully benefit from the ongoing processes such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area and Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
2)   Expanding Actors;
Japan and ASEAN recognize that various actors including local governments, the private sector and NGOs can enhance the efforts of ASEAN, inter alia, of the Mekong countries on the Mekong region development. Furthermore, cooperation with international organizations and mechanisms such as the Asian Development Bank will also be strengthened.
3)   Expanding Areas of Cooperation;
Japan and ASEAN will place emphasis on software development in areas such as policy planning, legal system building and human resources development in addition to hardware development such as transportation infrastructure. In particular, smoother movement of people and goods, and harmonization of institutions and standards are among the essential elements. Due attention should also be paid to energy situations of the region.

3. Three Pillars of Concrete Action

   In light of the visions and the expanded dimensions of cooperation, Japan will take concrete actions as summarized in the following three pillars:

1)   Enhancing Economic Cooperation;
  • Japan will enhance its economic cooperation for the Mekong region development. Japan's cooperation for appropriate projects with effective impact on the regional development is expected to reach approximately 1.5 billion US$ over these three years.
  • The cooperation at hand includes the following: the promotion of industrialization along the East-West Economic Corridor; construction of the 2nd East-West Corridor on National Route 1 and other parts; improvement of such transportation infrastructures as roads, bridges, ports and railways; cooperation on the electricity sector, ICT and water resource management; and technical assistance to the new member countries through organizations such as the Mekong Institute.
  • Japan will consult and coordinate more closely with the countries and organizations concerned for more effective economic cooperation on the Mekong region development. As part of the effort, Japan plans to send missions for policy dialogue with them at the earliest possible time in 2004.
  • Through such consultation and coordination, Japan will specify priority areas of its cooperation with which concrete projects will be closely aligned. Such areas may include, among others, support to enhance trade-investment and other economic activities, development of infrastructures, and environment conservation.
2)   Promoting Trade and Investment;
  • Japan will promote Japanese enterprises' trade and investment activities in the Mekong region through various measures including: providing overseas investment/export loans as well as trade and investment insurance for the activities in the new member countries; improving the investment environment of the countries of the region through, among others, finance to infrastructure projects and Japanese experts' advice; sending investment study missions from Japanese companies in ASEAN to the new member countries; strengthening communications among Japanese business circles and their counterparts in the region; and networking and facilitating the flow of information by utilizing ICT.
  • While steadily advancing its Comprehensive Economic Partnership with ASEAN, Japan will support the efforts of the new member countries toward the current economic integration process and accession to the WTO by providing assistances in areas such as policy planning, system building and human resources development. Japan also intends to promote economic integration in the Mekong region through, inter alia, smoother movement of people and goods, and harmonization of institutions and standards.
  • Japan will assist in nurturing the private sector of the Mekong region by measures such as: improving policy planning capacity and basic skills of the countries in the region to foster small and medium enterprises; implementing entrepreneurship education program, seminars on human resources development systems and training courses to study skills and know-how on international business for the new member countries; and dispatching roving experts to national chambers of commerce of the new member countries to strengthen their capacity of helping local companies to conduct international business. The measures should be performed with a region-wide perspective and complement each other beyond each country.
  • Japan will actively extend its technical assistance for the new member countries to incubate their own bond markets based on the Asia Bond Markets Initiative.
3)   Strengthening Consultation and Coordination;
  • Japan intends to move its partnership with the ADB and its Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Cooperation Program to a higher plane through utilizing the Japan Special Fund of the ADB for projects of the Mekong region development, holding regular policy dialogues with the ADB, and advancing cooperation of both JBIC and NEXI with the ADB.
  • Japan will further collaborate with international organizations and mechanisms such as the World Bank, UNESCAP, and the Mekong River Commission in areas such as aid coordination, private sector building and water resource management on which each entity has focused and obtained a competitive edge.
  • Japan is poised to enhance its cooperation with ASEAN countries on initiatives such as the IAI and the Economic Cooperation Strategy, as well as through the Japan-Singapore Partnership Program, the Japan-Thailand Partnership Program, and other measures.
  • Japan will review these cooperations with ASEAN on occasions such as the ASEAN+3 meetings, ASEAN-PMC and Initiative for the Development of East Asia (IDEA) in a comprehensive and effective manner. Relevant countries and multilateral organizations may also be involved in such review in an appropriate manner.


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