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Mekong nations look for bridge over ‘ASEAN development gap’

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Commerce ministry under-secretary of state Pen Sovicheat speaks at a press conference in July. AKP

Mekong nations look for bridge over ‘ASEAN development gap’

Giving equal momentum to development remains the major topic that the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) nations – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) – will discuss at the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ (AEM) Meeting, slated to kick off on September 14 in Siem Reap town.

Pen Sovicheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said on September 11 that he had not yet received an agenda for the CLMV meeting, but it was likely to focus on equal development between ASEAN member states.

“As we all know, of the 10 ASEAN members, six are regarded as highly-developed nations, whereas CLMV’s development is considered limited,” he said.

The spokesman said that over the years, CLMV have discussed providing equal momentum for development to ensure that ASEAN-wide economies are resilient.

“One of the economic goals we have is to reduce the development gap so that all ASEAN member states will develop at an equal pace. This will strengthen the entire bloc against environmental threats and risks associated with global conflicts,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, explained that the CLMV mechanism has been established to promote development in the newest ASEAN members.

“There are gaps between the old and the new, in terms of economies, human resources and digital technology. This mechanism is designed to enable the newer members to catch up with the more established ones,” he said.

Phea added that development in the CLMV nations has many benefits for the whole of ASEAN, along with building infrastructure to serve trade and the economy. ASEAN’s external partners have also been very involved in helping the countries of the Mekong Basin.

In September last year, Cambodia virtually hosted the 7th GMS Summit, where the Kingdom launched a response plan towards a post-pandemic recovery.

At the summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen outlined the response to Covid-19 and a 2021-2023 economic recovery plan, focusing on short- and medium-term joint efforts. This included protecting the region’s most vulnerable households as well as improving cross-border trade and investment.

The GMS summit is held every three years, with the 8th scheduled for 2024 in China.

CLMV cooperation covers nine key sectors, including trade and investment, agriculture, industry and energy, transportation, communication, technology, tourism, human resources, health and regional economic relations.


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