The five Southeast Asian countries of ACMECS are aiming for shared prosperity.

Cooperation is emerging as the key to a better future for member countries of ACMECS. On June 15 and 16, the leaders of the five countries that form the heart of mainland Southeast Asia will meet in the Thai capital of Bangkok to commit to a common plan for shared and sustainable development. Individually, none of these nations have realized their full potential. Collectively, they believe they can change that, and in doing so set a positive example for other regions in Asia and around the world.

The five nations form ACMECS: the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. Its members are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Founded by Thailand in 2003, and named after the three mighty rivers that course through the region, ACMECS was conceived of as a subregional platform to narrow the wide gaps in wealth and development among these neighboring countries.

A Master Plan

While there are several sub-regional groups in Asia, the eighth summit to be held by ACMECS leaders, will be different than those that came before. Together, the five countries have forged and will adopt a master plan to guide their collective development from 2019 through 2023. Broad and ambitious in scope, the ACCESS master plan is designed to support shared development that is seamless, synchronized and smart. To that end, the theme of the summit will be, “Towards an integrated and connected Mekong community.”

“Thailand will be proposing the establishment of an ACMECS Trust Fund at the summit in order to facilitate the Master Plan and finance advanced infrastructure that will boost connectivity among members and between the subregion and the world in a sustainable way,’’ says Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Thailand, the country that is serving as the current chair of the group.

Few groupings are as diverse and dynamic as ACMECS. The economies of the five countries are expected to grow between 4% and 8% per year during the next several years, well above the global growth rate forecast of 2% to 3%. The region is abundant in natural resources and human resources. ACMECS’s 243 million people represent a sizable market brimming with young people eager to embrace new ideas and innovation.

Breakthroughs in terms of connectivity within the subregion include proposals for the development of shared power and digital grids; common customs rules and procedures; and adaptability to new technologies in order to make the land bridge between China and India not just a byway but a worthy destination in its own right for investors and developers.

What began as a grouping focused on economic development, however, has expanded to include social, cultural and environmental concerns and cooperation as well. At this summit, public health and social welfare will be as important to the ACMECS agenda as investment facilitation and building infrastructure.

 Sustainable Development

The leaders in attendance will also include business leaders. Private sector involvement is an important component of regional development. As our business partnerships, which is why representatives of other regional groupings, international organizations and major donors will also be participating in this all-important summit.

“If we can grow together, we can prosper together,” says Pramudwinai. With so much human and [natural] resource potential, prosperity among ACMECS member countries is undoubtedly attainable. And with its visionary master plan, as a group, ACMECS is taking sure steps toward becoming the master of its own destiny.