Myanmar is to expand its cooperation with China in a broad range of areas, including agriculture, trade, tourism and border management, U Thant Kyaw, Myanmar's deputy minister of foreign affairs, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily on Monday.
He made the comments during a visit to Kunming, provincial capital of Yunnan, for the First China Yunnan-Myanmar Cooperation Forum.
During the event, Myanmar agreed to establish a new coordination mechanism with Yunnan, aiming to improve economic and security ties, and Thant Kyaw said future cooperation will extend to energy supplies and sports.
"Trade with China is the best way to help raise the living standards of locals in northern Myanmar, such as in Kachin and Shan states, by providing more employment opportunities," Thant Kyaw said.
Yunnan shares a border of about 3,000 kilometers with Myanmar, and people of the same ethnic origin live on both sides of the border.
Cooperation with Yunnan has a great significance for Myanmar's relationship with China, he said, adding that the current focus is mainly on the agriculture and tourism sectors.
"We are focusing on the agricultural sector, which is the most important for both sides. Myanmar has changed a lot in the past two years, and we had great success, but we also have many aspects to improve, such as some economic issues and tourism coordination. The forum is a good opportunity," the deputy minister said.
Yan Miao, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture of Yunnan, said the trade volume in agricultural goods between Yunnan and Myanmar rose to $86 million last year, of which 87 percent was exports from Yunnan to Myanmar.
Thant Kyaw said: "Farmers and merchants in my country need a stable market whenever they sell agricultural goods to China. Sometimes, the Chinese traders won't buy Myanmar goods, and harm the confidence of Myanmar farmers."
Yang Hui, deputy director of the Yunnan Department of Commerce, said the province imports a large amount of agricultural products from northern Myanmar, in particular Kanchin and Shan states.
However, the agreement on inspection and quarantine for imports expired in September. A new framework is needed as soon as possible after a risk assessment has been carried out, Yang said.
Myanmar hasn't signed an agreement on the inspection and quarantine of animals and plants with China, said Dan Guoyi, deputy director of the Yunnan Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau. The agreement is needed urgently, he said.
Thant Kyaw called for China to clarify its standards for the agricultural goods that Myanmar farmers should follow.
Wang Changming, deputy president of the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the institute has maintained close cooperation with Myanmar in agricultural technologies and planting since the late 1980s. Five new types of crops developed by the academy, such as new potatoes and sugar cane, now cover 5,333 hectares in Myanmar, he said.
Wang suggested establishing a joint research platform for agricultural professionals from both countries to better communicate and exchange views on innovation in agricultural technology.
"If Myanmar approves the plan, we will warmly welcome visiting scholars from the neighboring country at any time," he said.
Yunnan was the top destination for the 600,000 people from Myanmar who visited China in 2012, said Duan Yueqing, chairman of the Yunnan Commission of Tourism. More than 70,000 Yunnan residents visited Myanmar last year, bringing considerable revenue to the local tourism industry.
Yunnan will invite 30 tourism officials from Myanmar for exchanges, he said.
The Kunming International Tourism Expo, the biggest in Asia, will be held in October and Thant Kyaw promised to participate in the event.