Speech by Premier Li Keqiang at the 7th GMS Summit
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
Beijing, 9 September 2021
Prime Minister Hun Sen,
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to meet you all via video link for the seventh GMS Summit. I wish to thank the Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen for the tremendous efforts made for the meeting.
China and the Mekong countries enjoy geographical proximity, cultural affinity and economic complementarity. As each other's closer-than-close neighbors, we are like one big family and have much natural advantage for cooperation. President Xi Jinping has put forward the vision for building a community with a shared future with neighbors. The GMS economic cooperation program has, since its inception nearly 30 years ago, maintained a momentum of steady development. It has advanced practical cooperation, produced significant outcomes and achieved mature operation in infrastructure development and sub-regional economic integration. Such progress has been an enabling factor for the economic and social development in our countries, the betterment of people's lives, and stability and prosperity in the wider region.
In particular, faced with the COVID-19 challenge, our six countries have stood together in solidarity and rendered each other support in protecting the life and health of our people. The families of the 86 Cambodian children who recovered from their congenital heart disease after receiving treatment in China's Yunnan Province, passed their love by sending 5,021 masks to China to help with the fight against the coronavirus. This became a much-told story in those tough times. China, on its part, has also actively provided medical supplies and technical assistance to and shared anti-COVID experience with the Mekong countries. Meanwhile, we have worked jointly to spur economic recovery, ensure the effective running of the "fast tracks" and "green lanes" for travel and transport, and open up new horizons for economic growth. In the first half of this year, trade between China and the five Mekong countries totaled 192.2 billion US dollars, up by nearly 40 percent year-on-year, and the figure is expected to set a new record for the whole year. Tropical fruits from the Mekong countries, such as durian, dragon fruit and mango, are highly popular among Chinese consumers. And Chinese tangerine and apple can reach shop shelves in Bangkok within three days. Between January and June this year, the New Land-Sea Corridor in Western China, a priority project in our connectivity cooperation, delivered three times more TEUs of goods year-on-year. All this attests to the great vitality and strong resilience of our sub-regional cooperation.
The world today is seeing repeated resurgence and frequent mutations of the coronavirus. The complex and serious situation surrounding COVID response has added to the instability and uncertainty in the world economy. The economies of the sub-region have taken a serious hit. External demand is anaemic. Industrial and supply chains are disrupted. There are new challenges to economic recovery and sustainable growth. In this context, the theme of this year's Summit, "Renewed Strength to Face the Challenges of the New Decade", is a highly fitting one. We need to strengthen mutual political trust, expand areas of cooperation, enhance the quality of cooperation, and jointly foster a more inter-connected, prosperous, sustainable and inclusive sub-region.
To this end, I wish to make a six-point proposal.
First, we need to deepen water resources cooperation to the benefit of all riparian countries. The legitimate rights and interests of all countries in developing and utilizing their water resources as appropriate should be fully respected. Meanwhile, we need to accommodate each other's interests and concerns, and advance cooperation by building consensus. Starting from last year, China has been sharing the Lancang River's whole-year hydrological data with the Mekong countries under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework. China has taken the lead in launching the website of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Information Sharing Platform. China will work with other parties to hold the second Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation and Water Resources Cooperation Forum to strengthen the unity and cooperation between upstream and downstream, and enhance our capacity for integrated river basin management and water resources management.
Second, we need to put life first and join hands to ensure sound COVID-19 response. The pandemic is far from over yet. Hence, stemming the spread of the virus, and protecting people's life safety and health remain our first-order priority. We need to embrace the spirit of science, follow the law of science, and work together for COVID-19 response and vaccine cooperation. China will continue to do its best to provide assistance of vaccines and other medical supplies to the Mekong countries on a priority basis. It is hoped that the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) established by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend urgently-needed funding support in a science-based, open and inclusive manner, to enhance vaccine access for countries in the sub-region. China will also harness the Special Fund for Public Health within the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework for cooperation on COVID-19 monitoring, traditional medicines and communicable disease control.
Third, we need to strengthen trade and investment and jointly bolster economic recovery. Post-COVID economic recovery is both a must for the progress of humanity and a priority task for all countries. We need to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership at a faster pace, and implement well the protocol on upgrading China-ASEAN Free Trade Area to advance open and integrated regional development and inject strong impetus into the development of countries in the sub-region and beyond. China is ready to work with relevant Mekong countries to promote the development and operation of the special economic zones and industrial parks, intensify cooperation on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), border trade and cross-border e-commerce, and deepen cooperation on agricultural trade, quality and safety, and COVID-19 response.
Fourth, we need to advance connectivity and realize coordinated development. Connectivity is an important safeguard for sub-regional economic cooperation and integration. We need to implement the GMS Transport Sector Strategy 2030, fully leverage the exemplary role of the China-Laos railway which will soon become operational, and accelerate the development of the China-Thailand railway, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway and other major projects. These will help link up the regional transportation arteries between the south and the north. By fully harnessing the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor in promoting interconnected regional development, we may foster economic corridors where transportation, logistics, commerce and industries are deeply integrated. We need to explore a policy framework for coordinated and sustainable energy development, advance the building of the Regional Power Coordination Center (RPCC) and strengthen connectivity cooperation on 5G, land optical cable and other information infrastructure. We welcome the active participation of the ADB, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and other financial institutions and development partners in the financing of relevant projects.
Fifth, we need to promote sustainable development and keep improving people's lives. We should speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, enhance cooperation on climate response and environmental protection, and deliver the third phase of the GMS Core Environment Program well. We need to actively explore new modes of tourism cooperation in the context of regularized COVID-19 control, and deepen cooperation on human resources and vocational skills to boost our economic recovery. China will fully tap into the Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund set up under the ADB to support poverty reduction in the sub-region to the benefit of the people.
Sixth, we need to solidify political trust and safeguard the common interests of all countries in the sub-region. We must cherish the good development momentum in the sub-region, keep to good-neighborliness, mutual respect and equality, and accommodate each other's major concerns. We need to continue to uphold multilateralism, promote the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and support the independent choice of countries for development paths that suit their national conditions. We need to continue to advocate openness and inclusiveness, and enhance the coordination among the GMS, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), to bring out the strengths of each framework and build up synergies for development.
Last year, in the face of the changing environment at home and abroad and multiple challenges including the severe impact of the pandemic, China made coordinated efforts to fight COVID-19 and advance economic and social development. We adopted multi-pronged measures to protect employment, meet people's basic needs and shore up market entities. Thanks to these efforts, our economic fundamentals were kept stable, and China was the only major economy registering positive growth last year. This year, the Chinese economy has maintained steady recovery and a good momentum, yet it also faces rising uncertainties and difficulties. For China, development is the foundation and key to overcoming all challenges. We will focus on managing China's own affairs well by grounding our efforts in the reality that China is at a new development stage, applying the new development philosophy, fostering a new development paradigm and pursuing high-quality development. We will make our macro-regulation more forward-looking, focused and effective, and carry out cross-cyclical adjustments to see that major economic indicators remain within an appropriate range. We will further deepen reform, and foster a market-oriented, world-class business environment governed by a sound legal framework to further energize market entities and unleash social creativity. We will pursue opening-up at a higher level. We welcome investment from companies around the world, and will continue to treat domestic and foreign-invested enterprises indiscriminately and promote fair competition. We will take concrete measures to protect intellectual property rights and actively engage in international cooperation. China's development will generate new development opportunities and new development dividends for the Mekong countries and beyond.
With relentless pursuit, we will usher in a bright future. Three years later, China will host the eighth GMS Summit. We wish to work with the Mekong countries, with trail-blazing courage and a spirit of togetherness, to jointly advance the regional economic integration, build a GMS Community with a shared future and uphold peace and stability in the region. Together, we will make new contributions to the integrated development and shared prosperity in the sub-region.