On June 24, at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel, AMCHAM’s Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy Tomwit Jarnson represented AMCHAM at the CLMVT Forum, hosted by Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel. Just one day after the conclusion of the ASEAN Summit, which Thailand hosted as the Chair, the CLMVT Forum discussed how five continental Southeast Asian countries forming the CLMVT, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand, could collectively position themselves as a regional “value chain hub” connecting with ASEAN, Asia, and the rest of the world.

Opening the conference was Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. During his opening remarks, Prime Minister Prayuth called upon the private sector and the academia to take on a leadership role in creating seamless connectivity in CLMVT. Moreover, he stressed the importance of development of human capital as demonstrated in the promotion the “smart farmers” scheme. He also noted the expected implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of this year.

The forum’s first keynote speaker was Aditya Srinath, Associate Director of Asian Equity Research at JP Morgan. Srinath presented data showing opportunities emerging from China no longer being the largest source of export to the US. This permits CLMVT and ASEAN to attract more trade and investment to this region, especially from the US.

The second keynote speech was given by Chutima Bunyapraphasara, Acting Minister of Commerce of Thailand. For Acting Minister Chutima, in order to solidify CLMVT’s attractiveness as a regional value chain hub, priorities must be given to enhancing connectivity in terms of both infrastructure and regulation. To name a few, CLMVT should cooperate on creating more Special Economic Zones, enhancing the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Corridors, and linking up with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, she believes that CLMVT should become a “single production base,” whose rules and regulations are harmonized.

The forum concluded on an optimistic note, as endless potentials and opportunities for CLMVT have been identified, such as its growing labor force, sizeable market, and complementary strengths. To capitalize on those potentials, the way forward looks no less promising, as countries could complement each other’s strength, enhance connectivity, and promote the service sector. However, to fully take advantage, CLMVT must overcome immediate challenges, such as trade tensions, disruption in global trade, and developing soft infrastructure including regulations and human capital.

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