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Yunnan puts economic zone atop priority list

2014-01-21 16:37 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing

Province steps up efforts to promote links with neighboring countries

Southwest China's Yunnan province vowed to further promote trade, education and services cooperation with neighboring countries in 2014, its governor said on Monday.

Yunnan Governor Li Jiheng said at the opening ceremonies for the Yunnan People's Congress' annual conference that opening-up of border areas is a priority for the provincial government.

Yunnan intends to boost the Bangladesh-China-India- Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, the cross-border economic cooperation zone with Vietnam, he said.

The province will invest as much as 300 million yuan ($49 million) to accelerate construction in the Hekou-Lao Cai Cross-Border Economic Cooperation Zone in the neighboring area of Honghe Hani and Yi autonomous prefecture in southern Yunnan and northern Vietnam.

In April, Yunnan and Lao Cai will submit a comprehensive plan for the cooperation zone to the Chinese and Vietnamese central governments, said Li Jiming, director of the Yunnan International Exhibition Bureau.

Both sides will work hard to get the zone approved by their central governments, Li Jiheng told lawmakers.

In addition, the second China-South Asia Expo scheduled for June 6-10 also promises to be a crucial platform for Yunnan's opening-up.

Li Jiming said the BCIM Economic Corridor has been on the agenda as a national strategy since Premier Li Ke-qiang's visit to India last May.

The Yunnan government has been considering how to take advantage of the opportunity, and obviously the China-South Asia Expo is an excellent showcase, he said.

Last June, the China Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair upgraded its South Asian Countries Commodities Fair, first held in Kunming in 2010, to international expo level.

At the first China-South Asia Expo, held simultaneously with the 2013 Kunming Fair, more than 100 countries sent delegates to participate.

"A commodities fair couldn't provide the strategic significance of promoting stronger ties with South Asian countries," Li Jiming explained.

As a real step, the First Joint Study Group Meeting of the BCIM Economic Corridor took place in Kunming last December to sign a cooperation mechanism and joint research plan that covers topics such as transportation, trade and investment among BCIM member states.

India sent a delegation headed by Gautam Bambawale, director-general of the East Asia Department of the Indian Foreign Ministry.

"The convention showed the political will by the major powers for the South Asia subcontinent to step forward on the economic corridor," Li Jiming said.

China's Ministry of Commerce also will convene meetings for foreign aid and economic cooperation in Kunming at this year's China-South Asia Expo, Li Jiming said.

"We want to make the expo an occasion that officials and businessmen from South and Southeast Asian countries will view as an indispensable chance for economic aid and trade with China," said Li Jiming.

In 2000, China joined the Bangkok Agreement - which seven countries, including India and Bangladesh signed in 1975 to target a free trade system - but the pact fell short of real advances.

Five years later, the document was renamed the First Agreement on Trade Negotiations among Developing Member Countries of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, comprising China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Laos.

This June, the standing committee will convene in Kunming during the expo to get updates on the regional cooperation project, Li Jiming said.

Another agreement for free trade, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation signed in 2004 in Islamabad, also failed to promote multilateral trade within the framework.

"Our aim is to coordinate a convention for the SAARC countries to essentially reset the free trade system, and then China can join it along with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations," Li Jiming added.

Zhou Changchun, deputy president of the School of Management and Economics at Kunming University of Science and Technology, believes the BCIM member states should push for the construction of a road system that will provide convenient transportation between the cooperating countries.

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