China, Vietnam Widen Road Links

An agreement between the two countries sets the stage for a broad Mekong trade network.

Workers carry bags of starch imported by China from Vietnam along their border in Dongxing city, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Dec. 29, 2010.

A new transport agreement signed by China and Vietnam will for the first time allow trucks and buses to travel deep into each other’s national territory, paving the way for similar groundbreaking pacts in the Mekong region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday.

The agreement will allow transport vehicles, previously restricted to a range of travel within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of each country’s border, to travel along a 1,300-kilometer (808-mile) route joining Vietnam’s capital Hanoi with China’s special economic zone in Shenzhen.

Restrictions on travel will now also be eased between China’s Yunnan, Guangxi, and Guangdong regions and six provinces in Vietnam, including Lang Son and Quang Ninh and the port city of Haiphong.

The agreement came despite an escalating row between China and Vietnam over territorial claims in the South China Sea. The two countries fought a brief border war in 1979.

In a statement, ADB principal economist for regional cooperation Yushu Feng called the pact “a key milestone for regional cooperation.”

“The new transport agreement will have a profound impact not only on bilateral trade and tourism, but also on Greater Mekong Subregion transport facilitation," Feng said. ADB facilitated the bilateral road transport agreement.

'Building blocks'

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is a development project launched by the ADB in 1992 that brought together the six states of the Mekong River basin: Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Yunnan Province of China.

Bilateral transport agreements amongst GMS member countries are "building blocks" for an all-encompassing GMS Cross Border Trade Agreement, which aims to remove impediments to regional trade and development, the ADB said.

The GMS subregion covers an area about the size of Western Europe and has a combined population larger than that of the United States.

Reported by Richard Finney.


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