12th Mekong-Japan Summit Highlights How Cooperation Enhances Connectivity in the Subregion
Japan and Mekong countries convened the 12th Mekong-Japan Summit on 13 November, cochaired by Japan Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and Viet Nam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The meeting underscored Japan’s strong commitment to the Mekong subregion and reviewed progress of cooperation between Japan and Mekong countries (Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic [PDR], Thailand, Myanmar, and Viet Nam) as guided by the "Tokyo Strategy 2018." The Strategy seeks to strengthen connectivity, improve human resource development, and enhance environmental protection. It focuses on the development of high-quality infrastructure
Leaders of Mekong countries expressed their appreciation for Japan’s determination to maintain cross-border travel and its support toward addressing the negative impact of COVID-19 in the subregion. They highlighted the high-level visits by Prime Minister Suga to Viet Nam in October and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to the Mekong region in August.
The meeting reaffirmed (i) the importance of further enhancing hard/ soft/ and industry connectivity, (ii) close collaboration toward the realization of smart cities as guided by the framework of ASEAN Smart Cities Network, and (iii) furthering trade and investment relations.
Initiatives under “Hard” Connectivity
Countries welcomed the steady progress of key infrastructure projects to boost connectivity in the Mekong region, including the construction of the new Bago-Kyaikto Highway Section in the East-West Economic Corridor.
They also acknowledged the initiative to encourage power trade and integration in the subregion through the launch of the Japan-US Mekong Power Partnership. Japan is implementing several energy initiatives in the subregion, such as a project in Thailand to facilitate cross-border electricity flows and power exchanges, a project in Myanmar to increase transmission capacity and improve system reliability, a project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to expand transmission lines and build substations, and a project in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) to assist the sustainable development of the power sector through a series of technical cooperation.
Initiatives under “Soft” Connectivity
Mekong leaders recognized Japan’s notable contribution in Customs capacity building in the subregion through trade facilitation-related trainings for customs officers. They also remarked on the growing importance of e-commerce in world trade under the COVID-19 pandemic, and called for Japan's support in their e-commerce commitments to enable them to fully utilize the benefits of bilateral and regional trade agreements.
The Mekong leaders stressed the role of well-planned masterplans and electronic systems for customs, immigration, and port-related data in boosting the East West and Southern Economic Corridors. Japan is supporting modernization of Myanmar’s Customs system, planned master plans for Cambodia and Myanmar’s port sectors, and capacity enhancement of Lao PDR’s Vientiane International Airport.