Address by Mr. Zhang Yesui, Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China at the opening ceremony of the First Task Force Meeting for the Preparation of the Second GMS Summit
Your Excellency Mr. Sok Chenda,
It is a pleasure for me to address the opening ceremony of the First Task Force meeting. May I now take this opportunity to extend to all of you the warmest greetings from the Chinese Government. I welcome you all to Beijing and to the first Task Force Meeting for the Preparation of the Second GMS Summit.
With approximately 2.3 million square kilometers and a population of some 240 million inhabitants, the Lancang-Mekong Subregion is now one of the world's most dynamic areas for economic cooperation. The GMS countries have great potentials for stronger economic and social development, because of its abundant natural and human resources and rich cultural heritage. For years, all countries of the Lancang-Mekong Subregion have benefited from the river's richness and vitality.
With shared destiny, the GMS countries have come together and engaged in mutually beneficial cooperation over the past decade. A wide range of collaborative projects among member countries in various fields have been, or are being implemented, most of which have been very fruitful and successful. Among all mechanisms of the Lancang-Mekong River area, the Program of Greater Mekong Subregional Economic Cooperation (GMS) is the most pragmatic and dynamic. Since its inception, GMS has carried out around 100 projects in all GMS member countries in nine key sectors, such as transport, power, telecommunications, tourism, environment, human resource development, trade and investment. It is a project-based and members-driven process, which aims at promoting sustainable and equitable growth and development. By such an approach, GMS has made tremendous contribution to the overall development of the Subregion and has enhanced its competitiveness in the rapidly globalizing world.
The success of GMS cooperation lies in the joint efforts of riparian states for common prosperity, and has further enhanced the trust and friendship among us. The principle of consultation on an equal basis, mutual benefit and step-by-step approach has guided the GMS cooperation and has formed the basis for future endeavor. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been an active facilitator and participant of GMS program, has been providing strong financial support to GMS cooperation. Up to now, about 1 billion US dollars has been mobilized for the implementation of GMS projects. Our appreciation goes to the ADB for its contributions to the GMS process. The first GMS Summit in Cambodia in 2002 was of historical importance. For the first time ever, the Leaders of GMS member countries resolved to map out together the blueprint for future course of the Subregion in a coordinated and integrated way. Many concrete outcomes were achieved at the Summit and we are happy to see that further progress has been made in key areas of cooperation since then.
China attaches importance to the cooperation within the GMS framework, through which we have enhanced trade and economic relations with other GMS countries and strengthened our partnership with the ADB. At present, China is actively pursuing a scientific development strategy, which features a comprehensive, integrated, human-centered and sustainable approach to development. We are also implementing the strategy to develop the country's west. We will continue to develop good-neighborly relations and partnerships with our neighbors, and to actively take part in and make our due contributions to subregional cooperation.
The Second GMS Summit offers an important opportunity to further promote the GMS cooperation and achieve more substantive outcomes on the basis of the first Summit. We feel honored to host this important event and for this purpose, have established a preparatory body headed by H.E. Mr. Tang Jiaxuan State-councilor. After consulting with GMS countries and ADB, we propose to hold the meeting in Yunnan province, early July 2005. We will work closely with all GMS member countries and the ADB to ensure that we shall have a smooth preparatory process that will culminate in a successful Summit.
The Task Force is the principal preparatory body for the Summit and is an important platform to discuss key preparatory work. I wish to take this opportunity to highlight a few possible deliverables of the Summit we have in mind for your discussion.
First, we need to recognize the importance of the early and full implementation of the Framework Agreement for the facilitation of Cross-Border Movement of Goods and People. This Agreement is an important milestone in the GMS process. When implemented, it will go a long way towards leveling the playing field in the Subregion by enhancing connectivity, so that we could take full advantage of the vast potentials in our respective countries. Implementation of the agreement requires finalization and adoption of the Annexes and Protocols. Work is already underway, but we need to speed up the process so as to finalize the text of the remaining Annexes and Protocols in time for them to be signed at the Summit.
Second, energy is an important component of our cooperation. This has acquired additional significance and urgency given what has happened recently on the world oil market. The challenge requires much more than short-term solutions. We have to address the gaps between supply and demand on a long-term basis. Within our Subregion, we have already had the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Regional Power Trade (IGA), which was signed at the first GMS Summit. One further step would be the early conclusion of the Subregion Power Trade Operating Agreement (PTOA). We understand that there is still much to be done regarding both the ratification of IGA and the study of PTOA. However, given the significance of PTOA, we urge member countries to make every effort to speed up the discussion and negotiation on PTOA. It will be a major deliverable to our Leaders, if we could agree on the final draft prior to the Summit.
Third, the first GMS Summit has called on members to work out an action plan on GMS trade and investment facilitation. During the past two years, we have worked to facilitate trade and investment by streamlining custom procedure, increasing administrative efficiencies, etc. However, we need to follow our Leaders' instructions to formulate a pragmatic, forward-looking action plan on trade and investment facilitation, because it is of crucial importance for the economic cooperation and integration of our region.
Fourth, we hope that we can continue to push forward the GMS flagship programs including the construction of GMS High-Speed Optical Fiber Backbone Network. Access to affordable telecommunication services is a powerful enabling tool for those in our Subregion that are stricken by poverty. Concrete steps on progress like this not only make sense economically, but also lend themselves towards equity and social cohesion.
The above-mentioned initiatives and projects are just part of what we must do to translate our Leaders' vision and instructions into action. I am confident many more ideas will emerge from your discussions over the next two days. What is more, for these ideas to bear fruit eventually, we need firm political commitment, strong partnerships and effective cooperation.
With our concerted efforts, I believe what we start today will eventually produce tangible results and deliverables for the Summit next year.
Finally, I wish this meeting a success and all of you a pleasant stay in China.