The Lao government and development partners have discussed the barriers to trade in services in the Lao PDR and developing strategies on leveraging potential for regional cooperation in reducing barriers to trade in services.
Representatives from the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, Information, Culture and Tourism, Labour and Social Welfare, and Planning and Investment as well as private sectors and development partners attended an inter-ministerial national consultation meeting jointly organised by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Vientiane on Aug 16.
The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint (AEC Blueprint) has set an agenda that seeks to establish ASEAN as a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, with equitable economic development that could fully integrate into the global economy.
The support to the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) project is a joint initiative between ASEAN and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), implemented by the GIZ.
The IAl project aims to provide support to ASEAN’s newer and lesser developed member states, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), to implement regional agreements, accelerate the regional integration process, and enhance the mobility of skilled labour across ASEAN in the tourism and healthcare sectors.
The liberalization of trade in services and associated domestic reforms are essential to the implementation of the AEC Blueprint and to narrow the development gaps between ASEAN 6 and CLMV countries.
For CLMV, services development is a relatively new concept, but a rapidly evolving one. With regard to the AEC, services sector is still the biggest challenge but at the same time the biggest opportunity for the region: a more competitive services sector will lead to a more competitive manufacturing sector, an increase in overall productivity and export opportunities for the services sector.
During the one-day meeting, line ministries discussed together with some of its key partners, namely Lanith, Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lao Association of Travel Agents, European Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Laos, the World Bank, and the EU Delegation in Laos about cross-sectoral and sector-specific barriers to trade in services in CLMV countries, specifically in Laos and how to address them in the future.
The technical support was led by IAl international consultant, Mr Sven Callebaut, who conducted a mapping study on the current situation of barriers to trade in services in CLMV countries.
Director General of Department of Foreign Trade Policy, Dr Laohoua Cheuching stressed that this is a significant meeting for line ministries to see the identified key barriers on trade in services with a focus on healthcare and tourism sectors in Laos based on the results of the study. The findings are very helpful for us to validate and prioritize barriers on trade and services in Laos, he added.
Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development implemented by GIZ. Services sectors play a particularly important function for this economic diversification and transition. First, they offer new employment opportunities and income growth within the sector. Second, services sectors often play a decisive role for the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. Positive developments in the education, ICT, transport and logistics can substantially reduce the transaction costs of an economy, thus strengthening its competitiveness, said Project Director of the German project, Dr Hartmut Janus.
The regional project will continue to work closely with the ministries in all CLMV countries and will proceed with a follow-on regional consultation workshop that should facilitate technical exchange between the four countries and should identify common challenges and potential for cooperation in addressing barriers to trade in services in the region.
Source: Lao News Agency