Boosting GMS Connectivity Through Cross-Border Agreement

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The International Institute for Trade and Development has advocated for enhanced connectivity within the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), emphasizing the Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement (CBTA) as a cornerstone for promoting seamless transit of people, goods, and services. In a recent research forum titled “Upgrading Thailand’s Gateway and MSMEs’ Export,” Narongchai Akrasanee, a key figure in regional development, underscored the importance of the CBTA in regional economic integration.

Initiated in 1992 with the support of the Asian Development Bank, the CBTA aims to bolster economic ties among the six GMS countries: Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The agreement is pivotal in enhancing economic connectivity, focusing on improved transport links, competitive markets, and fostering a communal spirit.

Narongchai highlighted the critical role of infrastructure development along key economic corridors in the GMS, advocating for enhanced road, rail, and air connectivity to spur regional trade and investment. Jittima Nakamano of Thailand’s Trade Negotiations Department noted the substantial cross-border trade through GMS checkpoints, projecting significant growth in trade value by 2027, aligned with the government’s investment promotion plans.

The strategic goals include bolstering competitiveness, upgrading trade checkpoints, harnessing trade agreements, and fostering investment in border regions. This strategy entails negotiating mutual recognition agreements among GMS countries to streamline transport and trade.

Wimon Punkong of the institute pointed out the underutilization of the CBTA by border officials and businesses, attributing it to regulatory adjustments by member states. The full implementation of the CBTA is expected to enhance transport efficiency, support economic corridors, and boost cross-border trade, investment, and tourism.

To expedite the CBTA’s implementation, Wimon suggested establishing institutional mechanisms for monitoring progress and holding regular joint committee meetings. These meetings could integrate broader regional cooperation frameworks, potentially linking with initiatives like the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy, Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, or Asean-China connectivity.

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