During the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) Summit held in Bangkok on December 19th and 20th, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang pledged billions of dollars to help support ASEAN infrastructure and development in Southeast Asia.
Specifically, Li promised US$1 billion for infrastructure in ASEAN, US$490 million for poverty alleviation, and US$10 billion worth of loans.
The Prime Minster also offered blueprints for five different transport links, currency-swap deals, and guidelines to increase living conditions and protect the environment in countries within the Greater Mekong Subregion, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, along with China.
“These are important parts of our efforts to upgrade China-ASEAN cooperation. We are ready to work with the five countries to build a new framework to deepen cooperation and bring the GMS comprehensive partnership to a new level,” said Li.
Another significant development was a memorandum of understanding signed between China and Thailand to jointly construct a standard gauge railway line worth US$10.6 billion, further developing ASEAN infrastructure. The link will connect Bangkok with the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, while passing through Laos.
“The railways are a very important issue. This is fundamental and will reinforce our cooperation with China,” said Yongyuth Mayalarp, a spokesperson for the Thai government.
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which will transform Southeast Asia into a single market for investment, and trade, is planned to come into effect in late 2015. Partnerships and agreements between ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members and large economies in the region, such as China, India and Japan, have become more common during the buildup to the AEC.
Thailand is the final stop of Li’s tour of Europe and Asia. He traveled to Kazakhstan for an official visit, and later attended a meeting in Serbia with leaders of several Central and Eastern European countries.