Based in Beijing, PR China, The “Support of Regional Economic Cooperation in Asia” (SRECA) Project, commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, works with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, PR China and Viet Nam in the context of sub-regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI) in Northeast Asia or the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in Southeast Asia.
The objective of the project is to improve the conditions for regional and global trade in selected focus countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam in the framework of ACFTA, and Mongolia in the framework of GTI – with the PR China, to ensure the equal inclusion of the focus countries interests in regional and global integration processes. Special emphasis is put on agricultural trade.
The SRECA Project operates in three areas: 1) enhancing the access of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to trade-related services; 2) strengthening the structures for cross-border (sub-)regional cooperation between the focus countries and China; 3) fostering regional and triangular measures for knowledge exchange among the focus countries and/or with China regarding regional economic cooperation within the context of the Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development (CSD). In these closely interlinked areas, emphasis is put on trade facilitation and private sector development. Cross-cutting topics within implementation is on the inclusion of women entrepreneurs in regional integration processes as well as the utilisation of digital tools.
Results achieved so far
The project builds on the results of the predecessor projects Regional Economic Cooperation (RCI) in Asia as well as Support for Economic Cooperation in Sub-Regional Initiatives in Asia (SCSI).
To support private sector development in the four focus countries, several product specific export guidelines were issued by SRECA with its partners on site. They are introduced to the business community and public sector to facilitate SMEs’ exports of agricultural goods to China. The guidelines are utilised for training and are further updated by the respective partners.
The project is utilising e-learning courses on export topics for online capacity building in the four focus countries in the local language. The compiled export guidelines are also converted into e-learning material.
Within GTI Northeast Asia Local Cooperation Committee the project supported the inclusion of Mongolia into the Marine Cooperation Sub-Committee to improve hinterland connectivity with port cities. Training and advice to Mongolian GTI focal points led to more Mongolian driven regional project proposals in the GTI mechanism.
A platform for regional exchange on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standard operating procedures among focus countries in Southeast Asia is initiated.
Regional and triangular pilot measures on export promotion and market access to China and Europe are introduced to the four focus countries. Pilot workshops for women entrepreneurs on e-commerce from the focus countries are conducted with Chinese and German experts. TVET trainings for Laotian and Mongolian teachers are piloted and upscaled within the framework of CSD. Methodological approaches on disaster risk management and SME resilience were initiated in triangular measures for Cambodia, Laos and Mongolia.
Greater Tumen Initiative
The Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI) is an intergovernmental cooperation mechanism which had been initiated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 and was subsequently founded in 1995 under the name Tumen River Area Development Programme. It has been aimed at strengthening economic and technical cooperation, as well as attaining greater growth and sustainable development in North-East Asia (NEA) in general and the Greater Tumen Region in particular. After the withdrawal of the DPRK in 1999, the four remaining founding members (People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Republic of Korea (RoK), and Russian Federation) continued to cooperate under the GTI framework in order to achieve their common strategic objectives in the areas of transportation, trade and investment, tourism, energy, environment, local cooperation, and legal transition. While the establishment of a dialogue platform in the politically sensitive environment of the Tumen River area in itself is already a tremendous success, the GTI member countries agreed to further enhance their cooperation which is why the organisation is currently in the process of transferring itself into an independent legal entity. This process will lift the initiative to a recognised international organisation.
ASEAN-China Free Trade Area
The ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is the largest free trade area in terms of population and third largest in terms of nominal GDP. It is also the third largest in trade volume after the European Economic Area (EEA) and the US- Mexico-Canada Trade Area (USMCA – former NAFTA). The Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and China (the ACFTA Agreement) was signed in November 2002 and came into effect in 2010. The ACFTA Agreement included provisions on economic cooperation and identified further areas for cooperation. In November 2015, all Parties agreed to sign on the Protocol to amend the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and certain agreements thereunder between the ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China. ACFTA has since it came into effect eliminated a large part of all tariffs in the trade with China but stays underutilised in smaller economies. Awareness and knowledge exchange on trade facilitation mechanisms needs to be improved and facilitated within the private sector as well as among respective national Ministries and private business associations. SRECA implements activities in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam to promote SME development and improve agricultural exports to China.