Almost 150 government officials, businesspeople and experts from Japan, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam attended the forum, designed to promote public-private cooperation as well as cooperation in such areas as energy development, support of small and medium-sized enterprises and tourism.
At the outset of the one-day meeting, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Hisashi Tokunaga said, “In recent years, with a view to helping close development gaps and reinforce integration within the ASEAN region, Japan has placed particular importance on its cooperation with the Mekong region”.
Tokunaga said Japan has “actively backed the improvement of hard and soft infrastructure” in the Mekong region, pointing to Japan's recent efforts to boost exports of its infrastructure systems by making arrangements to meet the needs of recipient countries through the integration of promising Japanese technologies.
Sumitaka Fujita, adviser to the Itochu Corp., said the Mekong region has “a special potential for future development” due to its position between the two Asian emerging powers China and India and its position at the centre of the ASEAN countries.
Fujita noted that many Japanese companies do business in the Mekong area, where the items they produce include exports bound for US and European markets. Those firms also target the five Mekong nations with a combined population of more than 200 million, he added.
Fujita called on Japan and the Mekong countries to train personnel, establish systems to protect intellectual property and build more hard and soft infrastructure to support business activities in the Southeast Asian region.
The public-private forum was established in line with the Mekong-Japan Action Plan 63, which was adopted during the first-ever summit involving the six countries in Tokyo in November last year.
The outcomes of the forum will be reported to the Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers Meeting and the Japan-Mekong Summit, scheduled to take place in 2011.