As growing trade and investment linkages in Asia and the Pacific have helped to improve the region’s overall resilience to global economic and trade policy uncertainties, countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) need to make swifter progress in streamlining trade through multilateral agreements that cut red tape, according to a new report.
According to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Asian Economic Integration Report 2017 (AEIR) released yesterday, for the GMS region – an area that includes Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Yunnan province in southern China – the greatest obstacle to increasing trade is the lack of implementation of the Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Agreement (CBTA).
“As regional transport networks expand, tourism grows, and agricultural and industrial trade integrates across the region, the greatest challenge will be implementing the GMS CBTA fully,” the report said, adding that it hoped that a CBTA would be implemented by 2019.
On transport facilitation, trade measures will also need to accelerate in areas like sanitary and phytosanitary systems to support intra-GMS trade in agriculture, food and forest products, the report added.
While hard infrastructure has remained a main stumbling block for the region, the ADB noted that the $19.1 billion in bilateral and multilateral investment made as of the end of 2016 has reaped some benefits for the GMS region.
However, the report noted that there is still a $6.4 billion near-term financing gap for infrastructure spending.
“Greater participation and investments from the private sector – in the form of public private partnerships – can help close the gap,” the report said. “This will require the GMS governments to strengthen PPP policy frameworks, bidding, and risk allocation to attract private sector investment.”