Laos, US Unveil Comprehensive Partnership

US and Laos announce comprehensive partnership
Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith and US President Barack Obama.

Laos and the United States have unveiled a comprehensive partnership aimed at starting a fresh era of bilateral relations based on mutual respect and benefits.

The new partnership was revealed during talks held in Vientiane yesterday between President Bounnhang Vorachit and US President Barack Obama.

The new comprehensive partnership will lay the foundations for the two nations to cooperate in the future, particularly in areas relating to political and diplomatic relations, trade and economic ties, education and training, environment and health, fighting drug trafficking, UXO clearance, human rights, culture, sports and tourism.

Mr. Obama arrived in Laos on Monday in response to an invitation from President Bounnhang. He is the first US president to visit Laos.

An official ceremony to welcome Mr. Obama took place yesterday morning before the bilateral meeting took place.

The two sides issued a joint statement which outlined frameworks for enhancing their cooperative relations based on mutual respect for each other’s political system, as well as respect for one another’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which will contribute to peace, stability and cooperation in the region and the world.

The US will provide an additional US$90 million for Laos’ Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) sector over the next three years and US$27 million for the school meals programme over the next five years, according to the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The US will also provide US$6 million for a three-year community hygiene and food programme for mothers and children.

The two sides on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build and operate the Lao-American Nutrition Institute (LANI) in Vientiane between the Ministry of Health, the US government and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

During the bilateral meeting, the two sides reviewed their past cooperation and discussed future cooperation, notably in areas related to UXO clearance, US Missing in Action personnel, efforts to combat drug trafficking, trade, investment, education, health and social culture. They also touched on cooperation in areas related to the Mekong su b-region.

Laos and the US resumed normal trade relations in 2004 and since then the value of trade between the two countries has increased five-fold.

In 2005, the value of two-way trade was US$14 million but rose to US$84.9 million in 2011 before declining to US$69.7 million in 2015.

Concerning the investment outlook, the US Ambassador told Lao media recently that in general major or multinational US companies based in Japan, the United States and Europe are looking at Laos not as an isolated market (6.5 million people) but as part of the ASEAN Economic Community (a 10 nation bloc and a market of over 600 million people). As such, Laos becomes a much more attractive investment proposition for multinational companies.

For instance, Coca Cola, which opened a plant in Laos last year, is not only manufacturing products for Laos but also for Thailand and other countries.