New plan leverages U.S. expertise in fostering trade and entrepreneurship.
The Lower Mekong Initiative is a multilateral partnership initiated by the United States in 2009 for promoting cooperation in the Mekong River sub-region in the areas of education, health, environment and water, connectivity, agriculture and food security, and energy security. In the past four years, the Lower Mekong Initiative has implemented many programs with interagency partners on both sides of the Pacific to meet some of the most pressing trans-boundary challenges in the region.
Building on the priorities identified under the Association of South East Asian Nations’ Economic and Socio-Cultural Pillars and Master Plan on Connectivity, the Lower Mekong Initiative recently launched “Connect Mekong.” This new plan leverages U.S. expertise in fostering trade and entrepreneurship, cultivating technical expertise to promote infrastructure connectivity, and expanding educational access to support development of sustainable infrastructure and technical capacity.
“Connect Mekong” increases investment opportunities in the region by providing avenues for public-private cooperation, establishes formal channels of communication to fast track the Lower Mekong Initiative programs, and initiates new efforts to generate grassroots entrepreneurship.
“Connect Mekong’s” signature program is Mekong Technology Innovation Generation and Entrepreneurship Resources, known as “TIGERS.” It is a new public-private platform supported by the U.S. Secretary of State's Office of the Global Partnership Initiative, and is aimed at boosting competitiveness and growth in targeted Mekong economies by supporting young innovators and entrepreneurs.
“Connect Mekong” will also give support to developing infrastructure which enhances competitiveness and allows better access to transportation, electricity, information technology, education, and improved sanitation and quality of life for the people.
The United States has committed substantial resources to the Lower Mekong Initiative in the next three years through the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative, which allows member-nations to support ASEAN regional efforts towards political and economic integration, and to narrow the development gap in Southeast Asia over the long-term.
On November 20, 2012, President Barack Obama came together with the Lower Mekong Initiative country leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to demonstrate the commitment of all members to develop strong collaboration to address the most important transnational challenges of the region.