Community responsible for subregional interests in Mekong-Lancang

The Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) mechanism is a cooperation mechanism in line with the current trend of globalisation and integration.

The MLC aims to promote comprehensive cooperation to build a community of responsibilities and common interests in the subregion. In addition, the MLC also has other goals including strengthening mutual trust and understanding, maintaining peace and stability, promoting sustainable development, reducing poverty, narrowing development gaps, fully integrating into the regional and global economy, enhancing friendship and creating good neighbourly relations between countries.

The MLC has three main pillars of cooperation, including politics and security, economics and sustainable development, culture, society and people-to-people exchanges. In particular, the priority contents of cooperation are cooperation on the water resources management of the Mekong-Lancang, strengthening the connection between the six countries, namely Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and China, cooperation in developing production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation and agricultural cooperation and poverty reduction.

In particular, the orientations have been implemented by specific policies through conferences. At the MLC Summit in early 2018, the countries approved two important documents, the Phnom Penh Joint Declaration, and the MLC Action Plan for the period 2018-2022. MLC cooperation also needs to coordinate harmoniously with the development programmes and plans such as the Asean Connecting Master Plan (MPAC), the Asean Integration Initiative (IAI), the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the regional linkage initiatives field.

Financially, China pledged to contribute $300 million to the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Fund over the next five years to support the implementation of “early harvest” projects, 10 billion yuan for concessional loans, $5 billion for buyer credits and $5 billion for special loans for infrastructure projects and production capacity cooperation.

Regarding the working mechanism, a Mekong-Lancang foreign ministerial Meeting will be held annually; High-level meetings are held every two years and rotate in alphabetical order.

At the fifth MLC foreign ministers’ meeting in Vientiane, Laos, on Feb 20, the ministers agreed to push ahead with the implementation of the MLC Plan of Action for 2018-20, under which the member countries will speed up the building and realisation of an action plan on regional connectivity, production capacity, water resources, trade and agriculture.

It will also foster partnerships in the fight against natural disasters, diseases and cross-border crime, step up exchanges and dialogues between local authorities and border gate management agencies and improve the operational efficiency of the MLC Special Fund.

They consented to strengthen the MLC’s connectivity and support for relevant regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Asean, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the Mekong River Commission and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).

The Mekong-Lancang cooperation (MLC) should contribute to consolidating coordinations between countries in handling regional challenges and bringing about long-term benefits for people. The mechanism should aim to strengthen the economy’s resilience in the face of uncertainties. In agricultural cooperation, it is necessary to focus on raising technology capacity for businesses and improving market stability and confidence in farm produce. The severe drought in the Mekong River Basin requires relevant countries to take drastic action to ensure the river’s sustainable development.

The hydrological information and statistics in both rainy and dry seasons will intensify the sharing, setting up of early warning systems and coordination mechanisms in the emergency management of floods, droughts and other disasters, carrying out joint projects to ensure people’s livelihood in the face of climate change, enhancing cooperation in fighting diseases and reducing regional supply chain disruptions, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said.

Regarding the complex development of COVID-19 and its impacts, the ministers called on countries to boost coordination and share information about the epidemic, while maintaining trade exchange and economic growth.

In general, at this moment, with the pandemic Covid-19 turning out to be the worst non-traditional security threat ever facing the whole region, a very strong political will and mutual trust among the LMC countries are required. LMC mechanism will consolidate all the political, security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation to ensure greater contributions to upholding regional and global stability.

By Uch Leang: Department of Asian, African, and Middle-East Studies of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia