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China joins hands with neighbors to elevate subregional development

Updated: Dec 21,2014 10:32 AM     Xinhua

Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec 20, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

BANGKOK — China and its southeast neighbors will soon embark on a series of major cooperation projects after Premier Li Keqiang wrapped up his fruitful visit to Thailand on Dec 20.

Major Bilateral Projects

China eyes deeper cooperation with Thailand and hopes for a more balanced bilateral trade and economic relationship, Li told reporters after meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Dec 19.

The two governments have agreed to kickstart mutually beneficial cooperation on agro-product trade and railway.

With the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on farm produce trade cooperation, Li said China has agreed to double its purchase on the basis of the volume the two sides agreed upon last year, and expects the new initiative to empower both countries to resist risks of international market fluctuations and help improve the livelihood of Thai farmers.

“Only China has such a big market and a huge purchasing power which could consume the big agricultural production of rice, rubber and others of Thailand,” said Li.

In addition, China and Thailand inked a MoU on railway cooperation, agreeing to jointly build Thailand’s first standard-gauge railway lines with a total length of more than 800 km, which has been approved by the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand.

The project is estimated to cost some $10.6 billion, and will connect northeast Thailand’s Nong Khai province, Bangkok and eastern Rayong province.

“This is the expansion, extension and further confirmation of the previous agreement that the Chinese and Thai governments reached last year,” said Li, while urging the two sides to speed up preparation for the railway project and lay a solid basis for the beginning of construction at an early date.

The new railway will also benefit neighboring countries if being extended to other places of the region, Li said.

Premier Li Keqiang (L) meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec 19, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese standards, equipment and manufacturing capacity will all be used in building the Thai railway, which helps China export its manufacturing capacity to the rest of the world, Li said.

For his part, Prayut said Thailand and China are friends sharing weal and woe, and his country highly values its relations with China.

Bilateral cooperation on railway and farm produce trade is of vital significance to Thailand, and is conducive to regional inter-connectivity and development, said Prayut, adding that Thailand will cooperate closely with the Chinese side to facilitate the implementation of relevant cooperation agreements.

Thailand, he said, will take the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties next year as an opportunity to elevate its relationship with China to a new height.

Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec 20, 2014.[Photo/Xinhua]

Upgrade of subregional cooperation

Li also attended the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation here on Dec 20.

While addressing the summit, Li announced that China will offer five neighboring countries opportunities of sharing with the Mekong River funds and production capacity aid to help better infrastructure connectivity, poverty reduction and production capacity.

The offer includes $1 billion for infrastructure inter-connectivity, $490 million in grant for poverty alleviation and 10 billion dollars in special loans, Li said.

In addition, China promised to invest 16.4 million dollars to dredge waterways along the Mekong River and prevent natural disasters, said Li.

Premier Li Keqiang (3rd R) poses for a group photo with other regional leaders during the fifth summit of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec 20, 2014. [Photo/Xinhua]

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.

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 dollars 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 on Dec 19, are aimed at improving people’s livelihood in the subregion, particularly farmers’ life, said Li, adding that China will offer training programs for 3,000 people in the coming three years to the GMS countries for professionals of agriculture and health.

On a broader scale, Li said, the GMS economic cooperation, with a total trade volume of 150 billion dollars 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, adding that China also welcomes the rest of the world to participate in the GMS development.

Thailand was the last stop of Li’s three-nation tour, which also took him to Kazakhstan and Serbia.