The Lao PDR is seeking to strengthen its regional and global integration – by building and strengthening economic relations with countries in the region and at the multilateral level. As a WTO Member State since 2013, the Lao PDR has undertaken commitments on a number of multilateral trade agreements.
At the regional level, the Lao PDR is a part of the ASEAN since 1997. Accordingly, it is a party to various regional trade agreements seeking to enhance and smoothen trade flow across the region, including the ASEAN+1 FTAs and the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
The Lao PDR is currently engaging in negotiations at the multilateral and regional levels – to formulate/strengthen trade rules in the context of the constantly evolving priorities and necessities in the world today.
With most contemporary trade agreements addressing a wide range of issues including services, investment, procurement, competition, e-commerce, and non-tariff issues, as well as environmental and social elements – it is important that the Lao PDR is well-equipped to engage effectively in these global and regional efforts to modernize trade rules and better integrate into global and regional value chains.
For instance, the ASEAN March 2022 launched negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) with the objective of making the Agreement more relevant, modern, forward-looking and responsive to regional and global developments and strengthening businesses’ capacity to benefit from regional integration.
The Lao PDR is taking part in these negotiations and will need to be prepared to engage with other Member States on various issues, including elements such as rules of origin, sustainable trade, facilitating the transition to the technological age, and strengthening MSMEs integration into value chains, among others.
Building upon the technical assistance provided by the International Trade Centre (ITC) to Lao’s trade negotiators and policy makers through the development of the Lao Foreign Trade Negotiations Roadmap (2021 – 2025), ITC is collaborating with the Department of Foreign Trade Policy (DFTP) of the Lao PDR to design and facilitate further targeted support for Lao’s policy makers to actively engage in these trade negotiations and capacitate stakeholders to effectively represent national interests and leverage further opportunities for businesses to integrate into global and regional value chains.
On that note, ITC and DFTP organised a training programme on New Trends in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in Vientiane Capital from 24 – 28 October. The programme demonstrated the evolution of FTAs over time. It explored the contexts of new and emerging issues being integrated into trade agreements, such as digitalisation, green and sustainable trade, labour and gender issues, among others, and its relevance for the Lao PDR. Participants actively engaged in group discussions on the relevance of new issues such as labour considerations, digitalization and procurement for the Lao PDR, and challenges faced in implementing trade agreements.
“Topics discussed in this training are highly relevant to trade facilitation, investment and development of digital economy in the Lao PDR – ultimately, regional economic integration. It is important to ensure that the Lao PDR has the right to access overall benefits. Most importantly, to guarantee that the future policy development is in line with the direction of trending topics related to free trade zone”. Says Seng-aloun Vilaysack, Deputy Director General, DFTP.
This training programme was conducted under the ASEAN Regional Integration Support Plus – Lao PDR (ARISE Plus Lao PDR project), funded by the EU. ITC, a joint agency of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations (UN), supports the Government of the Lao PDR in implementing the ARISE Plus Lao PDR project. The project seeks to strengthen Lao’s regional integration; increase benefits from trade opportunities and market linkages, including with the EU; and improve participation in the global value chains, focusing on coffee and processed wood products.
For more information, https://www.intracen.org/arise-plus-laos/
About Arise Plus the Lao PDR: The ASEAN Regional Integration Support – Lao PDR Trade Related Assistance project (ARISE Plus Lao PDR) is funded by the European Union (EU). It aims to contribute to inclusive economic growth, increased climate change resilience, mitigation of vulnerability and job creation in the Lao PDR.
About ITC – The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Source: Lao News Agency