BANGKOK — China will offer five neighboring countries sharing with it the Mekong River funds and production capacity aid to help better infrastructure connectivity, poverty reduction and production capacity, Premier Li Keqiang announced on Dec 20.
The offer includes $1 billion for infrastructure inter-connectivity, $490 million in grant for poverty alleviation and $1.6 billion in special loans for China’s production capacity export, Li said.
In a speech to the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation held in the Thai capital, Li said that infrastructure inter-connectivity, particularly transportation facilities, is vital to boosting economy and development.
The Chinese and Thai governments have agreed to build Thailand’s first standard-gauge railway lines with a total length of more than 800 km, which is estimated to cost some $10.6 billion.
Li voiced the hope that the high-caliber, high-quality and cost-effective new railway lines would benefit neighboring countries if extended to other places in the region.
The GMS Economic Cooperation Program, which was launched in 1992 by six countries along the Mekong River — Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is aimed at pooling joint efforts to improve regional infrastructure, enhancing trade, investment and economic growth.
In addition to railway cooperation, China also promised to invest $16.4 million to dredge waterways along the Mekong River and prevent natural disasters, said Li.
Calling for innovation in GMS economic cooperation, the Premier said China expects to export its high-level production capacity in such industries as electricity, telecommunication, steel and cement to neighboring countries, especially those on regional transportation routes.
China is going to finance infrastructure inter-connectivity and industrial production capacity exports by offering special loans as well as allowing currency swap in cross-border transactions and participation of private enterprises, Li said.
China will also provide $490 million in aid next year to finance subregional poverty alleviation efforts, he said.
Such efforts, together with the farm produce trade cooperation agreed by China and Thailand Friday, are aimed at improving the people’s livelihood in the subregion, particularly farmers’ life, said Li, adding that China will offer 3,000 opportunities in the coming three years to the GMS countries for training professionals of agriculture and health.
On a broader scale, Li said, the GMS economic cooperation, with a total trade volume of $150 billion in 2013, will further enrich China’s partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
China stands ready to cultivate stable, peaceful and friendly relations with its ASEAN neighbors, he said.
China also welcomes the rest of the world to participate in the GMS development, Li said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand, host of the summit, said the theme of the summit, committed to inclusive and sustainable development in the GMS, is the most suitable for the current situation.
The GMS countries should strengthen inter-connectivity between each other, increase competitiveness and build a community of common destiny.
Thailand is the last stop of Li’s three-nation Eurasia tour. Before arriving in Bangkok, he traveled to Kazakhstan for an official visit and a prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and later visited Serbia and attended a leaders’ meeting of China and Central and Eastern European countries there.