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Aug 07, 2021 / 05:34

Friends of Mekong provides US$25B for Mekong Sub-region in past 6 years

The Mekong River basin is important to ASEAN prosperity and the principles in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

Friends of the Mekong (FOM) countries and institutions have provided over US$25 billion in development assistance to the Mekong sub-region since 2015.

Participants at the Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting on August 5. Photo: Baoquocte

The news was released at the Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting held via video conference on August 5 chaired by US State Secretary Antony Blinken.

Addressing the event, Blinken emphasized US efforts in support of a resilient, secure, open, and interconnected Mekong sub-region through the Mekong-US Partnership and highlighted the importance of the Mekong River basin to ASEAN prosperity and the principles in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

The event is also to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Friends of the Mekong (formerly “Friends of the Lower Mekong”) including the US, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, the EU, Republic of Korea, Japan, New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB), and the Mekong River Commission Secretariat.

The ASEAN Secretariat, India, and the UK participated as observers.

The Friends of the Mekong Ministerial Meeting is a US-led framework intended to deepen coordination and cooperation between and among partners providing development cooperation to the Mekong region.

Blinken said enhancing US ties with this region is a priority of this Administration. Over 3.5 million Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Mekong countries, and over 1,000 US companies are active in the Mekong region.

The 14 participating countries and institutions discussed efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic; advance economic recovery; develop human capital; and support sustainable water, natural resource management, and environmental protection, especially the role of the treaty-based Mekong River Commission (MRC). The Friends welcomed the MRC Secretariat as the newest member of the group.

Sharing at the event, participants exchanged views on dealing with climate change and the sectors of infrastructure and energy. They said it is essential to promote coordination among relevant countries and organizations in a transparent manner.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu noted that the Mekong region is located at the core of the Indo-Pacific and has significant economic potential, and then explained the progress status of Japan-Mekong cooperation, focusing on the response to Covid-19, enhancing connectivity, and resolving the challenges facing the Mekong River.

With regard to the situation in Myanmar, both Blinken and Motegi urged the Friends of the Mekong to take immediate action to hold the Myanmar military regime accountable to the ASEAN five-point consensus. They expressed strong expectations for a constructive response from Myanmar.

Speaking at the event, Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son suggested four approaches for the FOM, including cooperation in Covid-19 response through timely, safe and effective access to vaccines; promoting technology transfer and improving vaccine research and production capacity; boosting high-quality infrastructure development through public-private partnership (PPP) and developing high-quality human resources to ensure sustainable and inclusive development in the Mekong sub-region; and promoting cooperation in green growth, climate adaptation and sustainable use of water resources as well as strengthening policy dialogues for the region.

 Fishing in Mekong river in Dong Thap, Vietnam. Photo: NLD