PHNOM PENH -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has announced that China will provide another 7 billion yuan ($1.08 billion) of government concessional loans within the framework of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC).
Li made the pledge here Wednesday at the second LMC leaders' meeting, where he also announced the setup of a 5-billion-dollar credit line for supporting production capacity and equipment manufacturing cooperation among Lancang-Mekong countries, according to a statement released Thursday.
The new offer came after China supplied other Lancang-Mekong countries with 10 billion yuan (1.54 billion dollars) of concessional loans, 5 billion dollars of export credit and 5 billion dollars for capacity cooperation in more than 20 infrastructure and industry projects, Li said.
The deficit that China holds with Mekong countries on farm product trade will not prevent China from importing more, Li said, adding that protectionism is China's last choice.
With a theme of "Our River of Peace and Sustainable Development," the meeting brings leaders of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the table on such issues as connectivity, water management and industrial production capacity.
China is the largest trading partner of Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand and the second largest of Laos. Bilateral trade between China and the five riparian countries totaled 220 billion dollars in 2017, up 16 percent year on year.
Some 80 percent of China's rice imports are from Mekong countries. Their fruit exports to China have increased at 21 percent annually over the past decade.
Initiated by China in 2014, the framework spans connectivity, production capacity, cross-border economic cooperation, water resources management, and agriculture and poverty reduction, benefiting dozens of millions of people living on the waterway.
The first LMC leaders' meeting was held in Sanya of China's Hainan province in March 2016, when the goal of building a community of shared future of peace and prosperity for the LMC countries was endorsed.
The Lancang River originates on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwest China. It is called the Mekong River as it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the sea.