Remarks by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the Opening Session of
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit
Bangkok, 20 December 2014
Your Excellency General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to come to the beautiful city of Bangkok. I wish to thank the Thai government for the thoughtful arrangements it has made for this meeting. This is the first time for me to attend the GMS Summit and I take it a great pleasure to have exchanges with friends, both old and new.
Currently, the global economic recovery remains sluggish, development of major economies is showing divergent trend and regional hot spot issues keep flaring up. Asia, though faced with the challenge of downward economic pressure, has remained a dynamic region for growth in the world. This is attributable to the peaceful and stable development environment of the region and to continued progress in regional and subregional cooperation. China and ASEAN have established a wide-ranging, multitiered and comprehensive pattern for good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation as well as a community of shared destinies, where we stand by each other in both the good and bad times. Joint efforts are being made to implement the “2+7” cooperation framework reached last year to promote peaceful coexistence, inclusive and sustainable development as well as win-win progress. I wish to reaffirm here that China will remain committed to the path of peaceful development. We will firmly uphold regional peace and stability and firmly support the process of ASEAN integration, and will always take ASEAN as a priority in our diplomatic agenda.
The five countries on the Indo-China Peninsula are important members of ASEAN. China and the five countries are all located on the banks of the Lancang-Mekong River and are connected by common mountains and rivers. We enjoy close cultural links and economic complementarity. For China, the five countries are indeed very close neighbors among all the close neighbors China has in ASEAN. China has always worked to develop relations with other GMS countries on the basis of friendship, mutual respect and equality, and has stayed in communication with these countries at both regional and international levels. China will continue to follow the diplomacy of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness as well as strengthening partnership and friendship with neighbors. China will continue to promote traditional friendship with its five neighbors on the Indo-China Peninsula and work with them to jointly promote regional economic development and make life better for the people. We GMS countries could work together to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation across the board so as to lay a solid foundation for long-term prosperity, stability and development of the subregion.
GMS countries are endowed with superior conditions for closer cooperation, which enjoys strong public support and shows bright prospects of growth. Since the launch of the subregional cooperation mechanism in 1992, heartening achievements have been made in promoting economic integration and advancing social and economic development of countries concerned. In 2013, China’s trade with the five countries on the Indo-China Peninsula amounted to over $150 billion. To deepen development and cooperation of the greater Mekong subregion helps to significantly narrow the development gap among ASEAN countries; it also makes an important part of China’s efforts to build an upgraded version of China-ASEAN cooperation. The Regional Investment Framework Implementation Plan to be adopted at this summit will further identify the cooperation road map for the coming four years, which will cover ten key areas involving business, transport, environmental protection, urbanization, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. China will work with the five countries to build a new framework of deeper cooperation, which will lead us to a new stage of comprehensive development partnership for the greater Mekong subregion. Here, I wish to make the following five proposals.
First, we need to deepen cooperation in infrastructure. GMS countries are all at the critical stage of development. Transport and other infrastructure building will form new growth areas of economic development and employment creation, and connectivity building on the Indo-China Peninsula will provide important guarantee for economic integration in the Lancang-Mekong subregion. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives put forward by China will bring new opportunities for us to deepen cooperation at the subregional level. The MOU signed between China and Thailand yesterday on railway cooperation is important agreement reached between the two sides after two years of hard work. This railway line, the first modern one of standard gauge on the Indo-China Peninsula, will be built entirely with Chinese technology and equipment and will be supported by Chinese funding as needed. It will surely boost development of the Pan-Asia rail links on the peninsula. I am confident that the construction of the railway line will be of high quality and efficient. Parties concerned need to take the establishment of the Greater Mekong Railway Association as the opportunity to develop comprehensive connectivity facilities, including highways, railways and shipping links at the subregional level. At the same time, we need to facilitate the clearance of customs and implement the GMS Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Transport of Goods and People, so as to improve software connectivity. China has always followed the principle of giving equal importance to development and protection to properly use water resources. China will allocate 100 million RMB for pre-stage II dredging of waterways of the Lancang-Mekong River, and China stands ready to share hydrological information with countries concerned to strengthen cooperation in disaster prevention.
Second, we need to innovate in the models of industrial cooperation. China is now the most important trading partner of other GMS countries and mutual investment between us has continued to grow, which makes our interests increasingly inter-connected. As China and other GMS countries all face the urgent task of achieving industrial transformation and upgrading, we could well tap into our advantage of mutual complementarity and move our industrial cooperation to greater depth for common development. Countries on the Indo-China Peninsula boast remarkable geographical locations and abundant natural and labor resources, while the development of major infrastructure projects in these countries needs to be supported by sufficient equipment, technologies and funding. As far as China is concerned, it has an advanced equipment manufacturing industry, including high-speed railway, power generation and telecommunications, excess capacity in the production of steel, iron, cement and other building materials, good experience in construction as well as sufficient foreign exchange reserve. We could therefore make full use of our geographical proximity to build cross-border economic cooperation zones and set up industrial, technological and industry-specific parks in the five countries, particularly in areas along the newly-built railway links. China will encourage its companies to use advanced production capacity and open factories in these five countries to directly help its neighbors raise employment and the level of industrialization, which in turn will help China upgrade its equipment and make it more compatible with international standards as Chinese companies continue to go global. China proposes the establishment of a subregional cross-border e-commerce cooperation platform and wishes to host the GMS Economic Corridors Forum in 2015.
Third, we need to enhance financing support for trade and investment cooperation. China will work with countries along the Mekong River to conduct pilot programs of cross-border trade settlement with local currencies, expand the scale of direct trading of local currencies and support broader business cooperation. Acting in the principles of market operation and sustainability, China will put in $1 billion to support subregional connectivity and other key projects. The $10 billion special loan on China-ASEAN infrastructure development set up by the China Development Bank will support not only infrastructure development but also businesses opening up plants and developing industries in host countries. Countries in the subregion are also welcome to submit requests for projects under the concessional loans provided by China for ASEAN countries. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for which preparations are being made, could provide financing for both subregional connectivity building and industrial cooperation. At the same time, we may explore multiple ways of investment and financing that are good for major local projects cooperation, including the PPP model of joint financing between the government and the private sector, encourage involvement of the private sector and promote joint stock reform of state-owned enterprises, with a view to providing reliable financing guarantee for our practical cooperation in all fields.
Fourth, we need to promote people’s livelihood and the development of social undertakings. To improve people’s lives and eliminate poverty remain the major tasks of the greater Mekong subregion. China will continue to increase support for the development of other GMS countries as its ability permits. In recent years, China has provided some $11 million for 26 subregional cooperation projects within the framework of the poverty reduction and regional cooperation foundation. Next year, China will offer 3 billion RMB of grant assistance to less-developed ASEAN countries, which will be used to primarily support poverty alleviation cooperation for countries on the Indo-China Peninsula. Yesterday, China and Thailand signed an MOU on agricultural products. Expanding bilateral trade in agricultural products will help increase farmers’ income and bring benefits to both countries. China will offer 3,000 training opportunities for countries in the subregion in the next three years to help them train professionals in agriculture, health and other sectors concerning people’s livelihood so as to boost long-term development of these countries.
Fifth, we need to make development in the subregion more open and inter-connected. GMS cooperation is open cooperation. Countries in the region need to increase their input and encourage their development partners outside the region to get on board of such cooperation. We need to continue to bring into proper play the role of the Asian Development Bank and other international institutions to enhance our development capacity. GMS cooperation is also oriented toward inter-connected development. Countries in the subregion need to align their own development agenda with GMS development plans, advance the building of the subregional community, and maintain communication and coordination with the ASEAN community, ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3 and other regional cooperation mechanisms. China will actively respond to Thailand’s initiative of exploring the establishment of a Lancang-Mekong dialogue cooperation mechanism under the ASEAN+1 framework, and will host a foreign ministers’ meeting and a senior officials’ meeting next year. GMS countries need to strengthen unity and coordination, make countries in the subregion more competitive in the global value chain, better protect the environment and promote sustained and sound economic development of the greater Mekong subregion and the China-ASEAN FTA as a whole.
As a Chinese proverb goes, a good neighbor is more precious than gold. China’s development requires a peaceful and stable environment, and China’s development and development of the subregion bring opportunities to each other. The Chinese economy, though faced with the complicated environment and downward pressure since the beginning of the year, has maintained overall stability with sound employment, better economic structure and gradually improved ecological environment. We will continue to pursue steady economic performance, comprehensively deepen reform in all areas, conduct high-level opening-up, follow the innovation-driven development strategy, incentivize the potential of market players, and encourage universal entrepreneurship and innovation by all, so as to maintain mid- to high-speed growth and take China’s development to the mid-to-high level. As it continues to develop, China will not forget its friendly and close neighbors along the river, in particular, the poverty-stricken and less-developed areas. And China will work to deliver even greater benefits to its neighbors for the wellbeing of people in the subregion.
China and other GMS countries are good neighbors and good partners. We drink from the same river and are as close as one family. To deepen cooperation represents the will of the people. Looking ahead, China will make joint efforts with other parties to upgrade both China-ASEAN cooperation and the economic cooperation between China and countries in the subregion, so as to make even bigger contribution to peace, stability, development and prosperity in Asia as a whole.
Thank you very much.