Laos country brief
Laos country brief
Australia and Laos are long-standing regional partners, with a relationship underpinned by economic ties, community links and development cooperation. In 2017, Australia and Laos will celebrate 65 years of unbroken diplomatic relations. Australian businesses have been significant investors in Laos, including in the banking, mining and mining services sectors. The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Laos was established in 2005 and was the first international chamber of commerce in Laos.
More than 12,000 people in the Australian community identify themselves as having Lao ancestry and close to 10,000 were born in Laos. In 2014, 206 Lao students started studying in Australian education institutions. In 2015 there were 2,200 short-term arrivals from Laos and 7,800 Australians visited Laos. In 2015-16, Australia will provide an estimated $44.8 million in official development assistance to Laos.
Australia is one of only two countries that have a regular bilateral human rights dialogue with Laos. The dialogue provides a forum for open and constructive discussion of human rights issues of interest to both countries. The fourth dialogue was held in March 2015 in Canberra. Previous dialogues took place in 2006, 2009 and 2012. To underpin this bilateral dialogue, the Australian Government provides support for capacity building under a Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program.
Trade and investment
Australia's total merchandise trade with Laos stood at $35 million in 2014-15, with Australian goods exports to Laos valued at $31 million. Major Australian exports included pumps for liquids and pump parts, taps, valves, civil engineering equipment and parts. During 2014-15, merchandise imports from Laos, dominated by clothing and jewellery, totalled $4 million.
The dynamo in the economic relationship has been investment in mining. Australian-owned and -managed mining companies have a strong record in Laos. They contribute to government revenue, environmental management, workplace health and safety, community development work and skills training for their predominantly local Lao workers and managers. Two Australian-managed mining companies contributed between 18 and 23 per cent of government revenue in the period 2010 to 2014 – and almost all mining revenue. Australian businesses also have a presence in banking, tourism, and legal services. An agreement on the promotion and protection of investment between Australia and Laos has been in place since 1995.
Australia and Laos are parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) which entered into force on 1 January 2010 in Australia and 1 January 2011 in Laos.
We are now both participating in negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will cover ASEAN countries and ASEAN Free Trade Agreement partners.
As part of its efforts to assist growth in the Lao economy, Australia has, since July 2003, provided duty-free and quota-free access for Lao goods exported to Australia. Australia continues to support reforms that improve the business environment in Laos, particularly through our aid program.
The private education market in Laos is very small but growing. Australia is a favoured destination for Lao students studying abroad.
Australia has a long history of successful development cooperation with Laos. The current strategy for Australian aid to Laos focuses on basic education, human resource development and trade reform and private sector competitiveness.
People to people links
Australia Awards have supported more than 1,200 Lao leaders to develop their skills and knowledge through tertiary study in Australia and contribute further to the development of Laos.
The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program promotes economic growth and poverty reduction in the Indo-Pacific region by assisting host organisations to deliver effective and sustainable development outcomes. AVID funds around 20 new volunteers per year in Laos.
The New Colombo Plan provides opportunities for Australian undergraduate students to undertake study and internships in the Indo-Pacific region. In the first 3 years, over 90 students are being funded to work and study in Laos under the mobility component of the program.
High level visits
October 2015: Lao Minister of Planning and Investment Somdy Douangdy visited Australia to discuss Laos' 8th National Socioeconomic Development Plan for 2016 to 2020.
October 2015: An Australian parliamentary delegation (Dr Andrew Southcott and Mr Warren Entsch) visited Laos as part of a broader visit to a number of ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia).
une 2015: Lao Deputy Prime Minister Dr Bounpone Bouttanavong visited Australia.
March 2015: A human rights study tour led by Minister to the Prime Minister's Office and Chairman of the Lao National Steering Committee on Human Rights Mr Phongsavath Boupha visited Sydney and Canberra.
October 2014: GAVI Alliance facilitated a visit by seven Australian federal members of parliament to see GAVI's vaccination work in Laos.
September 2014: Dr. Souvanpheng Bouphanouvong, Chairperson of the Economic Planning and Finance Committee of the Lao National Assembly, visited Australia.
September 2014: Minister for Education, the Hon. Christopher Pyne, led Australia's delegation to the 2nd East Asia Summit Education Minister's Meeting in Vientiane.
September 2014: Speaker for the House of Representatives, the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, visited Laos.
September 2014: Dr Dennis Jensen MP led an Australian parliamentary delegation to Laos to attend the 35th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Vientiane.
July 2014: Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, visited Laos.