Accelerating Development in the Mekong Region—The Role of Economic Integration

A seminar organized by the International Monetary Fund, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the Royal Government of Cambodia
Siem Reap, June 26-27, 2006

The three Mekong countries—Cambodia, Lao P.D.R., and Vietnam—have been growing buoyantly in recent years, benefiting from closer ties and cooperation with their more developed neighbors, and their per capita income levels are gradually catching up with those of other East Asian countries. Nevertheless, the catch-up process is still at its early stage. The countries still have sizable income gaps with the rest of Asia, a high incidence of poverty by regional standards, and structural impediments to growth that need to be overcome to sustain, and accelerate, the growth momentum over the medium term. In addressing these issues, a critical question is how to achieve further economic integration of these countries with the region as well as the global economy.

This seminar brings together official representatives from the Mekong countries as well as academics, researchers, private sector representatives and officials from the wider region. Takatoshi Kato, the IMF’s Deputy Managing Director, and Mr. Ong Keng Yong, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, will co-chair the seminar, and His Excellency Prime Minister Hun Sen will deliver a keynote address. Attendance is by invitation only. The Opening and Concluding sessions are open to the press. Queries regarding the seminar may be addressed to gbhatt@imf.org.


Provisional Program

Monday, June 26, 2006
8:30 am Registration
   
9:00 am Opening Session
  Chair: H.E. Mr. Keat Chhon, Senior Minister, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Cambodia
  Welcome remarks: H.E. Mr. Keat Chhon
  Opening remarks: Mr. Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director, IMF
Opening remarks: Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN
  Keynote address: Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen
Background paper:
Economic Development In The Mekong: An Overview Of Trends, Prospects And Challenges: Murtaza Syed, IMF, Asia and Pacific Department.
   
10:00 am Session 1
The Development Challenge in the Mekong Region
  Chair: H.E. Mr. Keat Chhon, Senior Minister, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Cambodia
  Speakers:
Integration and transition Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR
Dr. Suiwah Leung, Associate Professor, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, Australian National University
Historical and Cultural Constraints on Development in the Mekong Region
Professor Martin Stuart-Fox, University of Queensland
  Discussion
What is the outlook for the Mekong and what are the main obstacles (economic, social, and political) to bridging the development gap with the rest of Asia? How will greater economic integration help accelerate economic development in the Mekong? What are the main opportunities and challenges?
   
11:00 am Coffee Break
   
11:15 am Session 2
Integrating the Mekong Region into ASEAN
  Chair: Dr. Worapot Manupipatpong, Director, Bureau for Finance and Integration Support, the ASEAN Secretariat
  Speakers:
Integrating the Mekong Region into ASEAN
Dr. Chia Siow Yue, Senior Research Fellow, Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Can The CLV Effectively Engage In The ASEAN Integration?
Dr. Vo Tri Tanh, Director, Department of Trade and International Integration Studies, Central Institute for Economic Management (Vietnam)
  Discussants:
Mr. Ken Loo, Secretary General, Garment Manufacturers Association (Cambodia)
Mr. Prachith Sayavong, President of the Lao Transport and Freight Forwarder Association
  Discussion
A number of initiatives have emerged to help the Mekong countries bridge the development gap with the rest of ASEAN. What are the challenges and opportunities faced by the Mekong countries as “latecomers” to the process of regional integration? How can the objective of economic integration of the Mekong be accelerated? Are the existing initiatives well targeted for this purpose? Is ASEAN’s Vision 2020 achievable given the diversity of the economies in the region?
   
12:45 pm Lunch
   
2:00 pm Session 3
What are the implications of ASEAN+3 (and beyond) for the Mekong Region?
  Chair: Mr. Masahiro Kawai, Head, Office of Regional Economic Integration, Asian Development Bank
  Speakers:
CLMV and East Asian Integration
Dr. Chalongphob Sussangkarn, President, Thailand Development Research Institute
Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Secretary General, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Cambodia
  Discussants:
Mr. Nguyen Nam Cuong, Deputy Director, Foreign Economic Relations Department, Vietnam.
Mr. Sayakane Sisouvong, Director-General of ASEAN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lao P.D.R.
  Discussion
What are the implications for the Mekong countries of ASEAN’s comprehensive economic cooperation agreements with China, Japan Korea and India? What are the broader implications of the rise of China and India for the Mekong?
   
3:30 pm Coffee break
   
4:00 pm Session 4
Are Preferential Trade Agreements Beneficial for the Mekong?
  Chair: Mr. Tran Duc Minh, Vice Minister, Ministry of Trade, Vietnam
  Speakers:
The Implication of FTAs for the Mekong: How to Participate in International Production/Distribution Networks
Professor Fukunari Kimura, Keio University (Japan)
Are Regional Trade Agreements in Asia Stumbling or Building Blocks? Some Implications for the Mekong Countries
Ms. Patrizia Tumbarello, Economist, Asia and Pacific Department, IMF
  Discussants:
Mr. Fred Burke, Managing Partner, Baker & McKenzie (Ho Chi Minh City)
Mr. Somchith Inthamith, Director-General, Economic Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lao P.D.R.
  Discussion
Regional and bilateral trade agreements have been a prominent part of the region’s policy agenda. Is this a healthy development for the Mekong or will this result in an unmanageable “spaghetti bowl” trade regime? Are the preferential trade agreements consistent with WTO? Are they trade creating (i.e. pro development) or trade diverting for the Mekong?
   
5:30 pm End of Day 1
   
8:00 pm Dinner, Angkor Palace Resort
   
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
9:00 am Session 5
How Can the Mekong Region Maximize the Benefits of Economic Integration?
  Chair: Mr. Siaosavath Savengsuksa, Vice Minister,
Ministry of Commerce, Lao P.D.R.
  Speakers:
How can Mekong Region maximize the benefits of Economic Integration: A Cambodian Perspective
Dr. Chap Sotharith, Executive Director, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace
Cross Border Infrastructure to Maximize the Benefits of GMS Economic Integration
Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee, Director, Thai Exim Bank
  Discussants:
Mrs. Pham Chi Lan, Senior Advisor, Prime Minister’s Research Board, Vietnam
Mr. Sok Chenda, Secretary-General, Council for the Development of Cambodia
  Discussion
What are the main competitive challenges (labor markets, regulations, infrastructure, institutions, public sector reform) that the Mekong Countries face vis-à-vis the more developed economies in the region? How does the private sector view the investment climate? What are the main priorities for economic reform to ensure full advantage is taken of the opportunities provided by regional integration?
   
10:30 am Coffee Break
   
10:45 am Session 6 (Panel)
How Can the International Community Support the Mekong Region in the Integration Process?
  Chair: Mr. Masahiko Takeda, Senior Advisor, Asia and Pacific Department, IMF
  Panel:
Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee, Director, Export-Import Bank of Thailand
Mr. Naoyuki Shinohara, Senior Deputy Director-General, International Bureau, Ministry of Finance, Japan
Dr. Tang Xu, Director-General, Research Department, People’s Bank of China
Mr. Masahiro Kawai, Head, Office of Regional Economic Integration, Asian Development Bank
Mr. Kazi Matin, Lead Economist, Thailand Office, World Bank
  Discussion
What support can the international community provide to facilitate the process of economic integration and development in the Mekong? How well are the assistance strategies of the IFI’s and key bilateral donors tailored to this purpose?
   
12:00 pm Concluding Roundtable
  Chairs: Mr. Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director, IMF;
Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN
  Panel:
Concluding Remarks
H.E. Dr. Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Cambodia
Mr. Siaosavath Savengsuksa, Vice Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Lao P.D.R.
Mr. Tran Duc Minh, Vice Minister, Ministry of Trade, Vietnam
   
1:00 pm Lunch (end of seminar)