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Japan pledges US$6 bn for Mekong

Jul 04. 2015
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By SASITHORN ONGDEE
THE SUNDAY N

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Trilateral pact on development of Dawei also signed at six-nation summit in Tokyo
THE FIVE Mekong region countries and Japan have agreed to adopt the new “Tokyo Strategy 2015” for cooperation between the two sides for the next three years, marking an enormous achievement of the seventh Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting that ended yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha praised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his country’s strong support and long partnership with the Mekong region. 
Thailand, a geographic regional hub and Japan’s production base, also assured Tokyo of more cooperation by pushing for more infrastructure projects to reduce disparity among Mekong countries.
The three-day meeting in Tokyo that concluded yesterday was warmly welcomed by leaders of the five countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
After the summit meeting yesterday morning at the State Guest House, as part of the “Tokyo Strategy 2015” Japan also made a commitment of 750 billion yen (Bt206 billion or US$6.1 billion) in Official Develop-ment Assistance (ODA) to the Mekong region for the next three years. This reflects its deepening |relationship with the region. 
It comes at a time when China is also playing a bigger role in the region.
The “Tokyo Strategy 2015”, which the five Mekong countries and Japan agreed to implement, will be based on four pillars. These are: hard efforts in industrial infrastructure development in the Mekong region and strengthening “hard” connectivity; soft efforts in terms of developing industrial human resources; sustainable development towards the realisation of a green Mekong; and coordination with all concerned partners.
 
Focus on developing infrastructure
The new strategy will replace the three-year Tokyo Strategy 2012, which will expire at the end of this year. 
With demand for infrastructure development in the Mekong region surging, Japan promised to not only promote “quality infrastructure” investment, but also “quantity”. 
The five Mekong countries and Japan also agreed to support a “Proactive Contribution to Peace” that would allow Japan and the international community to make seamless responses for peace and security when any threats occur.
Apart from the new Tokyo Strategy 2015, a trilateral pact was signed by Japan, Myanmar and Thailand on development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone and deep seaport project, on the sidelines of the summit meeting yesterday.
The Thai and Japanese prime ministers also joined a press conference after the Japan-Thailand Bilateral Summit Meeting yesterday about achievable agreements of both sides. 
Prayut said that the summit this time would be an important step forward in cooperation in the region, especially with the Asean Economic Community coming into effect at the end of this year. He said Thailand had given importance to development of connectivity and border trade areas, as well as human resources.
As part of Japan’s intention to support Thailand becoming a centre to drive economic growth in the region, both Thailand and Japan agreed on cooperation to build a high-speed rail line on the Chiang Mai-Bangkok route, as well as a rail system to connect the eastern economic corridor.
Thailand and Japan have discussed cooperation on export of Thai agricultural products to Japan such as processed pork, crude sugar, powder and fruit, which were in high demand in the Japanese market. Discussions took place under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement and the foreign ministers of both nations agreed to prepare documents on cooperation in agricultural products.
Prayut added that both countries would also support business matching and increasing the competitiveness of Thai farmers in producing agricultural products, besides widening cooperation on security. 
 

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