As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) becomes reality in 2015, it announces the significant progress for implementing ASEAN Blueprint 2015 on regional economic integration in the past decade with enhanced competitiveness, integrated production networks, increased trade and investment and deeper ties among ASEAN people. Meanwhile, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program, launched in 1992, comprising China and five ASEAN countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, has also improved both in terms of physical and non-physical connectivity in the sub-region with shared insights and valuable lessons to ASEAN for achieving AEC goals 2015.
With the significant progress for regional cooperation under the ASEAN and GMS frameworks, however, crucial challenges remained, including involvement of private sector, physical and non-physical barriers to regional trade and investment, and financing development. Therefore, recognizing the regional economic integration as a dynamic on-going process, the ASEAN Blueprint 2025 was launched to continue the journey realizing a deeply integrated and highly cohesive ASEAN economy from 2016 to 2025, while GMS is also carrying on its strategic framework 2012-2022. In view of the challenges, both strategic frameworks emphasized the involvement of private sector through policy support and capacity building for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which are considered as the engine of economic development.
Against this background, the Mekong Institute (MI), with support from the Government of Japan, designed a two-year project covering a series of capacity development activities to promote business linkages and information network for SMEs, members of provincial and local Chambers of Commerce and Industries (CCI) and Business Associations along the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) in four bordering Mekong as well as ASEAN countries, namely Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. As part of the program, the regional seminar was organized to share perspective, knowledge and experience of AEC in connection with the development context of GMS and Economic Corridors, particularly Southern Economic Corridor (SEC).
The event was organized on September 19, 2016 at the residential training center of MI in Khon Kaen, Thailand, bringing together speakers and participants from international and regional organizations, respective ministries of commerce and industry, think tanks, banks, and representatives from private sector, in addition to members of the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC) Project Steering Committee from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam along SEC and the close project stakeholders from Japan and India.
The proceedings summarized the key outputs of the seminar on: 1) significance and impact of AEC and implementation progress in CMTV as envisaged in the AEC Blueprint 2025; 2) updated information on regional and sub-regional trade, cross-border trade, trade facilitation, SME development, financing development and others relevant issues in the integration process; 3) shared innovative ideas and information that facilitates the development of SEC through enhancing competitiveness of SMEs.
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