|Top Story of the week: Laos Approaches Final Stages of WTO Accession Process|
|IN THIS UPDATE:|
The government meeting held on July 23-24 in Vientiane has discussed four fundamental issues for the nation, including a report on Laos' preparations to receive World Trade Organisation membership at the end of this year.
The government meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and attended by other cabinet members, and consensus was reached on all four issues discussed. The country's preparations to join the WTO are in the final stages of negotiation and the country's WTO membership is expected to be confirmed before the 9th ASEM Summit in November.
Laos is on track to complete its WTO accession negotiations after this year’s summer break, officials announced last week, with the Asian country’s membership in the Geneva-based trade body widely expected to be formalised before 2012 comes to a close.
Laos formally announced at a 12 July Working Party meeting that it had finished its series of bilateral negotiations with WTO members, clearing one of the last major hurdles of the accession process.
Laos has unveiled a road map on trade and private sector development as part of its efforts to strengthen domestic firms before the country joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the end of this year.
The Trade and Private Sector Working Group, which receives financial support from Australia, the European Union, Germany and the World Bank held its first meeting at the Lao National Cultural Hall in Vientiane yesterday to discuss their working road map.
Development partners have provided assistance to help Laos to join the WTO at the end of this year, hoping that the international economic integration of the landlocked country will free it from the list of least developed nations by 2020.
Politburo member of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and Deputy Prime Minister Mr Somsavat Lengsavad attended the opening of the Sakai Mining Joint Venture Company in Sangthong district, Vientiane on Thursday.
He was joined by a high-level Vietnamese delegation led by a Politburo member of the Communist Party of Vietnam and permanent member of the Party's Central Committee Secretariat, Mr Le Hong Anh. From now until the end of the year, the factory will mine 250 tonnes raw material per day from which they will extract gold and silver. They aim to double production by the end of 2013.
IBM (Thailand) is expanding its business base into Laos, viewing the neighbouring country as an emerging market with high growth potential. It has also set up a fourth branch office in Thailand to widen its coverage of customers in upcountry provinces.
Parnsiree Amatayakul, country general manger of IBM (Thailand), said IBM headquarters had appointed the Thai unit to take care of the Laotian market early this year. The first step is for the Thai branch to establish an office in the new market.
Laos is seeking investors from HCM City and other parts of Viet Nam for important projects to build railways, highways, airports and electricity systems in Vientiane and Champasak Province.
Vientiane has around 200 investment projects that need more than US$1 billion in total, according to Soukanh Mahalath, mayor of Vientiane, who spoke at a recent conference in HCM City on trade relations between the two countries.
The central bank of Laos will modernize commercial banks as the country speeds up economic integration with the regional and global community. According to Bank of Lao PDR (People's Democratic Republic) annual report, which was made available to Vientiane Times this week, the bank will modernize the services provided by commercial banks to enable them to integrate with international levels and standards.
A national meeting was held in Vientiane yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-Laos diplomatic ties and the 35th anniversary of the signing the Laos-Vietnam Friendship and Cooperation Treaty.
At the meeting, Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) Secretary General and state President Choummaly Sayasone saluted the ties between the two nations, shown through their mutual reliance in the fight against the same aggressors and celebrated by the model relationship and closeness between the two nations.
The National Assemblies (NA) of Laos and Cambodia will enhance bilateral cooperation in the future, aiming to strengthen the ability of the two legislative bodies to fulfill their growing roles.
President of the Lao NA Pany Yathortou and her Cambodian counterpart Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Vientiane yesterday, setting out a roadmap for future cooperation between the two parliaments.
Samdech Heng Samrin, his spouse and delegates arrived in Vientiane yesterday for a five-day official goodwill visit to Laos, at the invitation of Mrs Pany.
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met Lao Minister of Science and Technology Boviengkham Vongdara yesterday to discuss bilateral co-operation in the science sector.
Boviengkham Vongdara, who is also President of the Lao National Science Council, briefed his host about the results of the Lao delegation's meetings with leaders from various Vietnamese ministries and agencies.
The World Bank Board of Executive Directors in Washington, D.C., approved US$21 million in additional grant financing on Thursday for the Lao Road Sector Project.
The grant will build upon the excellent progress made in road construction under the previous grant of US$27.8 million, which was approved in 2010, the World Bank reported.
According to the World Bank, the newly approved financing augments the Bank's support for the programme, which is aimed at improving road services on two main national corridors and important parts of the provincial road network.
Xayaboury hydropower plant, the first run-of-the-river dam in the lower Mekong basin, will not cause any serious impediment to sediment flows to the lower Mekong delta, according to the dam consultants contracted.
Poyry and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, both reputable international dam consultants, which are providing consultancy services for the Xayboury dam development project, say sediment from upstream of the planned Xayboury dam contributes only 2.5 percent of the total sediment flows to the lower Mekong delta.
The Xayboury dam has been redesigned to address cross-border concerns, and will become a world leading modern hydropower plant, according to international hydropower plant experts. Representatives from Swiss Poyry and French Compagnie Nationale du Rhone yesterday presented the latest redesign of the first dam in the lower Mekong basin, at a meeting at the Santi Resort and Spa in Luang Prabang.
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, Mr Viraphonh Viravong, presided over the half-day presentation session regarding the US$3.5 billion hydropower project, marking a milestone for the government as it makes the construction plans for the dam more transparent. A number of representatives of Mekong River Commission countries, development partners in Laos, and journalists attended the meeting to better understand the government’s policy on dam construction, and its planned measures to address the negative impacts of the 1,200MW power plant in Laos.
The government is ready to answer questions concerning the Xayaboury dam and is confident it can address concerns over the cross-border impacts of the first hydropower dam planned for the Lower Mekong Basin.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines announced on Friday that it will accompany representatives of Mekong countries and development partners in Laos on a visit this week to the planned site of the first hydropower plant on the lower Mekong.
The recent visit to Laos by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is a sign of the growing interest in a small country with huge potential.
Blessed with abundant natural resources and low labour costs, Laos is strategically located near the heart of Southeast Asia and has one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world – 7.9% in 2011 (a growth rate it has enjoyed for most of the past decade.) Laos has similar resources and strengths to Myanmar but is about one-third the size and has one-seventh the population.
As less-developed countries, Laos and Myanmar will both have preferential access into Europe and the United States.
The European Union has made 5 million euros available to finance climate change projects initiated by civil society organisations, public sector operators, local authorities and international organisations with expertise in the field.
The funding is being provided through the EU initiated Global Climate Change Alliance Programme (GCCA), launched in 2007 to strengthen national and international dialogue and cooperation on climate change between the European Union (EU) and developing countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Final year university students are very concerned about job security in Laos once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is established in 2015, allowing the free flow of labour within member nations.
They worry that the good jobs available in the country will be taken by skillful workers from other countries including Singapore and the Philippines. Meanwhile more Lao labourers could be forced to leave their country to seek employment in neighbouring Thailand. A senior Lao economist Dr Liber Libuapao from the National Economic Research Institute told Vientiane Times on Tuesday that the government needs to focus more on the quality of the education system in Laos so graduates won't lose out from the regional integration.