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The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (“Lao PDR” or “Laos”) is one of the smallest Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States in terms of population, three-quarters of which works in agriculture, mostly at a subsistence level. Laos is the only ASEAN Member State that is landlocked. It is the newest member of the WTO, becoming a member in February 2013. Though one of the poorest and least populated countries in Asia, Laos has the potential to play an important role in meeting ASEAN’s food security and trade objectives, positioned, as it is, at the heart of the region. With more integrated regional trade, Lao farmers will benefit from lower-cost inputs from other member states. For their part, consumers will pay less for food in a more competitive environment, and growers and processors will increasingly prosper with better access to regional markets and an improved business enabling environment.
As of 2013, the Lao government’s policy focus as it relates to trade in agricultural products is mainly on family farm sustainability, poverty reduction, and improved efficiency of value chains that, in its view, are important to food security. Policy reform and public investments have contributed to robust agricultural sector growth—around 4.7 percent annually in recent years, according to the World Bank.
Some government attention is paid to larger, growth-oriented enterprises, but assistance is sometimes ad hoc, and the government’s targets are often changeable and disconnected from some private sector participants’ views of their own support and regulatory needs.
The formidable efforts that prepared Laos for its WTO accession both highlighted major gaps in the country’s regulatory and institutional framework, and laid the foundation for rapid progress in filling those gaps. New laws and regulatory frameworks for the legislative process, intellectual property protection, and a host of trade-oriented essentials have brought Laos a long way toward modernizing its trade enabling environment.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 1:00am
Last updated: July 24, 2014