Regional cooperation will help the economic circle around the Beibu Gulf in the South China Sea to boom, said officials attending a regional forum Friday.
The economic cooperation of the Beibu Gulf Rim may follow the successful mode of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) cooperation in strengthening regional economic integration, said Geert van der Linden, vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development with the Asian Development Bank.
"As the Beibu Gulf Rim initiative moves forward, it may be useful to look at the highly successful GMS program, which offers a possible model for future efforts," Linden told the ongoing forum on economic cooperation around the Beibu Gulf.
The forum, attended also by representatives from six member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), opened on Thursday in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
The Beibu economic belt is an area surrounded by south China's Guangdong and Hainan provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region as well as six ASEAN members including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.
Yao Zhongmin, vice president of China Development Bank, called for a regional banking consortium to provide stronger financial support to the Beibu Gulf Rim economic belt.
The Chinese policy bank committed last month to extend 5 billion yuan (625 million U.S. dollars) of loans to foster the Beibu Gulf Economic Zone in Guangxi.
The Beibu Gulf economic belt will serve as a new platform to expand regional cooperation and facilitate free trade, said Jiang Zhenghua, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's parliament.
He dubbed the economic belt as "ASEAN on the sea".
The Beibu Gulf economic circle has emerged as a new highlight of China-ASEAN cooperation after the GMS cooperation program was initiated in 1992 to cover Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and southwest China's Yunnan Province.
The Asian Development Bank has played a leading role in boosting subregional cooperation initiatives including the GMS economic cooperation program, central Asia economic cooperation program, the "ASEAN plus three" and the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.
It has granted 770 million U.S. dollars worth of loans to facilitate the GSM program.
"The recent proliferation of free trade agreements, including the ASEAN-China FTA, reflects the desire of many countries to further economic integration," said Linden.
Against this background, east Asian economies are seeking faster integration and trade among the members made up 54 percent of their total trade volume in 2003, compared with 35 percent in 1980, he said.
The ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia-Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance.
In 2005, it granted 6.95 billion U.S. dollars of loans and 198.8 million U.S. dollars worth of technical assistance to boost regional development.