The back-to-back workshops form part of the technical assistance for planning and development component of the Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI ASEAN) Project, which is jointly implemented by (SEARCA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Initiated in 2016, the (ATMI- ASEAN) Project aims to strengthen the capacity of ASEAN member states in developing policies and programs to improve the state of small holder farm sector vis-à-vis the agricultural transformation and market integration being driven by the ongoing ASEAN integration.
The main focus of agricultural trade facilitation is on the procedures that such trade undergoes in moving from the country of origin to the country of destination. Many, if not most of these procedures, are bureaucratic in nature involving papers and documents required for the traded products to be cleared and released to consignee (or loaded on the transport facility in case of exports). This follows the general meaning of trade facilitation as defined by the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as “…simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures that include activities, practices and formalities related to the collection, presentation, communication and processing of data required for the movement of goods…”1 Traditionally, this was confined to the processes and procedures at the borders, but with the expanded and more integrated logistics approach this has encompassed behind-the-border processes and procedures on both the production and consumption sides.
Environment ministers from the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) endorsed the Core Environment Program (CEP) Strategic Framework and Action Plan 2018-2022 in Chiang Mai in February 2018. The program, which was launched in 2006 and administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is embarking on its third phase. The new 5-year environment strategy will focus on green technologies and sustainable infrastructure, natural resources and ecosystem services, and climate resilience and disaster risk management. Within each of these priority areas the CEP will support three types of interventions that influence the investment project cycle: investment preparation and financing, knowledge management and technology uptake, and policy and strategic planning. These interventions will leverage the program's competencies on developing and supporting investment projects (such as the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors project, Green Freight Initiative, and Climate Friendly Agri-Business Value Chain).
Twenty-five years of cooperation under the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program have witnessed the evolving cooperation and partnership among the six countries that share the Mekong River. In 1992, Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam established the GMS Economic Cooperation Program and requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for support. It was not until 2002 that the Building on Success: A Strategic Framework for the Next Ten Years of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program (GMS SF-I) was adopted covering the period 2002–2012. It was succeeded by the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program Strategic Framework 2012–2022 (GMS SF-II), for which a midterm review (MTR) has been conducted. This Ha Noi Action Plan 2018–2022 (HAP) reflects the GMS Program’s agenda for the remaining 5 years of GMS SF-II based on the findings of the MTR, as well as the new thrusts and operational priorities of sector strategies. It builds on past achievements and lessons learned, and charts the way forward to address the emerging development challenges through regional cooperation.
Policy Recommendations for Narrowing the Development Gap in ASEAN
As the newer members of ASEAN, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV) consider deeper regional economic integration as a necessary and unavoidable process that will ultimately benefit them but will also present challenges. In this context, the key question for the CLMV countries is how they can catch up with the more advanced economies in the region given their limited resources and the limitations on their knowledge and practical experience. While advocating rapid and sustainable development in the longer term, the CLMV countries need to address several challenges inherent in their socio economic situation that may be magnified as ASEAN integration deepens. On the one hand, the CLMV countries are in the early stages of development and still experience a sizeable development gap with respect to ASEAN-6.2 On the other hand, the CLMV countries face a severe lack of institutional and financial capacity to properly address the impacts of adverse shocks. Finally, social structures with sizeable proportions of people living in or near poverty or in disadvantaged areas give rise to much concern over the sustainability of social stability, especially in the presence of shocks. In that context, ensuring both food security and effective social safety nets aimed at more sustainable development plays a critical role in ensuring more viable participation in the regional economic integration process.