U.S. Companies Engage with Lao PDR on Key Economic Policy Development and Capacity Building

(Vientiane) – A delegation of 10 leading American companies participated in the US-ASEAN Business Council’s annual Laos Business Mission in Vientiane from August 23-24. The group was comprised of over 20 senior executives from a cross section of industries. Over the course of the mission, the delegation met with key members of the Cabinet and other senior government officials, as well as business and thought leaders. The delegation was co-led by Alexander Feldman, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council; Desarack Teso, Chair of the Council’s Laos Committee and Legal Counsel & Director of Corporate, External & Legal Affairs at Microsoft; and Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

“This is a critical time to engage with Laos, as it embarks on developing key economic policies that will set business trends for the coming years,” said Alexander Feldman. “The American business community is enthusiastic in its support for the Government of Lao PDR in developing policies that will sustain an attractive investment climate in the country. This enthusiasm is underscored by the fact that this is our largest-ever business delegations to Laos.”

The delegation looked to build upon the momentum generated by Secretary Wilbur Ross’s visit to Laos in September 2017—the first-ever visit of a U.S. Commerce Secretary to Laos—by continuing productive dialogues with key government officials to discuss policy priorities of mutual interest. During the meetings, the delegation discussed the importance of developing policies that ensure Laos remains attractive to foreign investment, particularly by ensuring policies are flexible, interoperable with global standards, innovative, and transparent. In addition, the delegation identified opportunities for U.S. businesses to play a supportive role in developing the capacity needed to implement such policies, specifically through human-resources development efforts and public-private partnership mechanisms.

“The Government of Laos is heavily focused on developing a forward-looking regulatory ecosystem for sectors that are rapidly developing, such as ICT and financial services, and strengthening sectors that are well-established in the country but have great potential for growth, such as energy and tourism,” said Ambassador Michalak. “We were pleased to have representatives from leading companies in each of these sectors in our delegation, who were well-positioned to provide their expertise on policy approaches that would allow for maximum growth potential in each of these critical sectors.”

The key officials the Council delegation engaged during the visit included:

1. H.E. Khammani Inthilat, Minister of Energy and Mines

2. H.E. Saleumxay Kommasith, Minister of Foreign Affairs

3. H.E. Khamlian Pholsena, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment

4. H.E. Bounsaleumsay Khennavong, Vice Minister of Post and Telecommunications

5. H.E. Khamphone Phoutthavong, Vice Minister of Health

6. H.E. Somchit Inthamit, Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce

7. HE. Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, Vice Minister of Finance

8. H.E. Kongsy Sengmany, Vice Minister of Education and Sports

9. H.E. Vathana Dalaloy, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Lao PDR

10. The Honorable Rena Bitter, U.S. Ambassador to Laos

The Council delegation began the mission with a briefing from Ambassador Rena Bitter and other senior officials at the U.S. Embassy. The delegation also had the chance to partake in a panel discussion with

senior economists and experts from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Nathan Associates, and DFDL, and held a meeting with the American-Lao Business Association.

“Microsoft was pleased to co-lead this delegation, the largest in Council history,” said Desarack Teso, Chair of the Council’s Laos Committee and Legal Counsel & Director of Corporate, External & Legal Affairs at Microsoft. “The Mission served as a key opportunity for follow-up engagement following the signing of our agreement with the Lao Government to partner on a youth training technology platform. We remain committed, along with the rest of the U.S. business community, to supporting policy and capacity development in Lao PDR through such public-private agreements, and look forward to continuing our engagement with Lao PDR for many years to come.”

Companies participating in the delegation included 3M, BowerGroupAsia, Coca-Cola Company, Expedia, Ford Motor Company, Google, Mastercard, Microsoft, Rio Tinto, and Visa.

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For more than 30 years, the US-ASEAN Business Council has been the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the dynamic Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Worldwide, the Council's 150+ membership generates over $6 trillion in revenue and employ more than 13 million people. Members include the largest US companies conducting business in ASEAN, and range from newcomers to the region to companies that have been working in Southeast Asia for over 100 years. The Council has offices in: Washington, DC; New York, NY; Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, Philippines; and Singapore.