Thai and Lao ministers will discuss transport connection between both countries including two new bridges across the Mekong River at the 2nd Joint Cabinet Retreat (JCR) this weekend, while Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has urged the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI) to bring Thai business operators to Laos for business matching. Laos and Thailand plan to improve infrastructure connectivity to boost bilateral trade, in the hope that trade value will exceed $8 billion by 2015 as a result of closer cooperation within the Asean Economic Community. Thailand will host the Thai-Lao cabinet retreat in northern Chiang Mai province from May 18 to 19, the first joint Cabinet meeting between the neighbours in eight years, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported. At the meeting, Thailand will follow up construction of the 4th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge linking Chiang Kong district in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province with Laos’ Huay Xai Town, which may officially open in mid-2013. The Thai Cabinet will also raise plans to construct the 5th Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge connecting Thailand’s northeastern Bueng Kan province and Laos’ Paksan Town. The Lao Cabinet is expected to urge Thailand to speed up a new high-speed train project that links Bangkok with Nong Khai province in the Thai Northeast, which will be connected to a rail route from Laos and southern China for regional benefits. Thai laos border trade, helped by more bridge across the MaKong river, like at Vientiane-Nong Khai Friendship Bridge have seen a major surge thanks to robust economic growth in Laos. According to a report from the Thai News Agency MCOT, Lao-Thai border trade at the Vientiane-Nong Khai Friendship Bridge reached US$462.5 million in the first quarter of 2012 amid a rising demand for Thai goods in Vientiane. The first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on the Mekong River opened in 1994, linking Thailand’s Nong Khai province with the Lao capital of Vientiane, providing a gateway to Thailand and the rest of the Indochina region . Since its opening, the Friendship Bridge has been of significant benefit to the two neighbouring countries in terms of their economies, trade, tourism, investment, cultural exchange, transportation and logistics (Source).