Lancang-Mekong FTZ can spur regional growth amid pressure of US trade protectionism

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/13 22:08:39

As Sino-US trade tension intensifies, there has been talk that China plans to set up a free trade zone (FTZ) on the border between Thailand and Laos.

If the FTZ becomes a reality, it will be part of a long-term effort to achieve closer economic integration between China and Southeast Asian countries. With the rise of trade protectionism in the US, efforts to find an internal impetus for development of the Asian economy are becoming more and more important.

Chinese officials haven't confirmed that the country is holding free trade talks with Thailand and Laos. However, Beijing has rolled out measures to upgrade free trade agreements (FTAs) with Southeast Asian countries. China's intention to seek closer economic cooperation with Thailand, Laos and other nations along the Lancang-Mekong River is obvious.

The Lancang-Mekong region has the potential to become a new bright spot in the Asian economy.

Many countries in the area have achieved dynamic economic growth, but facing the headwinds of trade protectionism, the region can no longer rely on external demand for GDP expansion.

Those countries have no choice but to look inward for a driver of economic development.

Now may be the right time to upgrade the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism and establish a high-level FTZ in the region.

We believe that border trade will throw up some good opportunities to expand cooperation within the Lancang-Mekong area.

China wants to upgrade its strategic partnerships with countries in the region and build infrastructure networks that include railways, highways, harbors and airports.

China is likely to upgrade its FTAs with Southeast Asian countries and include the Belt and Road initiative to create a comprehensive FTA at a time when US trade protectionism is forcing Asian nations to look inward for economic development.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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