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Laos, China Vow To Push Railway Project Forward

Laos and China have confirmed they will push forward with the Lao-Chinese railway project while the two countries are still looking for an effective method of cooperation that serves their mutual interest.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang made the confirmation at the Lao-Chinese high-level bilateral meeting held on Tuesday in the Chinese city of Sanya, Hainan province.

Mr Thongsing and his delegation are on a visit to China and will attend an annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) this week.

The Lao and Chinese governments have come up with a plan to build the 421km railway, which would link Vientiane to the Laos-China border in the coming years.

Under the original plan, China was to fund 70 percent of the project, which was to kick off in 2011 and be finished by 2015. However, the project was delayed after a Chinese construction company reportedly pulled out.

At the meeting in Hainan, the two prime ministers pledged for the two sides to launch renewed negotiations on the project.

Prime Minister Li conveyed the importance of the railway project in terms of bilateral cooperation on major projects, saying that China will seek an early signing of the deal in order to lay the foundation for cooperation.

At the meeting, the two sides discussed methods of implementing the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

China is ranked first among investors in Laos with a total investment volume of US$6 billion, spreading across 749 projects in mining, electric power, agriculture, processing industries, and services. The trade volume between the two countries was estimated at US$2.7 billion last year.

The Lao side also suggested that China should expand its investment in hydro and lignite power plants as well as provide loans for irrigation development in the central provinces in order to ensure food security in Laos.

They also announced they were willing to cooperate in the field of technology with the Lao side, proposing Chinese cooperation on Internet piracy regulation and in the E-government sector. They will also upgrade security measures along the Mekong River and fight against all forms of transnational crimes.

The Lao side proposed that China expand the provision of scholarships to students from Laos.

The two prime ministers also witnessed the signing of exchange notes on Chinese assistance in implementing the project on automatic banking payment systems.

Source: Vientiane Times