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China, Laos to speed up rail construction talks

Updated: 2014-04-09 07:13
By Zhao Yinan in Sanya, Hainan ( China Daily)

China and Laos pledged on Tuesday to speed up railway construction talks with the aim of signing agreements as soon as possible.

Negotiations on an inter-governmental railway agreement have been initiated to promote the interconnection of the two neighboring countries, Premier Li Keqiang and visiting Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong announced after meeting in Sanya, Hainan province.

Li said the China-Laos railway is the focus of ongoing major cooperation between the two countries, and China hopes an agreement can be reached as soon as possible to set the stage for further cooperation.

The two countries, both at a critical stage of deepening reforms and restructuring their economies, are facing an increasing number of cooperation opportunities, Li said.

Thongsing thanked Li for China's support for Laos as well as for the concrete benefits it has brought to its people.

He said Laos will grasp the opportunity of China's economic expansion for its own development.

"Laos is willing to see the railway project yield concrete results as soon as possible as well as deepen cooperation in other sectors," he said.

China has become the largest investor in Laos with over $5 billion invested in the country, Xinhua News Agency reported. In 2013, the value of trade between Laos and China reached $2.03 billion, a year-on-year increase of almost 30 percent.

Laos is one of the targeted markets for the world's top trader, and China is making efforts to restructure its exports by actively promoting railway technology and construction to overseas countries.

A line connecting Kunming, provincial capital of Yunnan, with Laos is included in China's medium- and long-term railway network plan, according to China Railway Corp.

It is part of a cross-border railway plan initiated in the 1960s, which began to take shape after 18 countries signed an agreement on the rail network in 2006.

Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University who specializes in China's rail system, said the railway linking Yunnan and Vientiane is expected to boost the development of China's southwestern region and Southeast Asian nations, but financial difficulties have delayed construction.

Previously, the Vientiane Times quoted Lao Public Works and Transport Minister Lattanamany Khounnyvong as saying that the Export-Import Bank of China agreed to provide loans for the construction of a rail line linking border cities in Yunnan to Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

The report said the two sides are working on details of the loans, and the rail line will eventually cost $7 billion.