The European Union (EU) has launched its EUR 5 million (USD 5.5 million) ARISE project designed to boost Laos’s export competitiveness and integration in regional and global value chains.
The ASEAN Regional Integration Support-Lao PDR Trade-Related Assistance (ARISE Plus-Lao PDR), launched on September 9, is a four-year project that will be implemented in partnership between the EU and the Lao government.
One of the main goals of the project is to increase Laos’s integration into the regional and global economy by improving connections to other markets, which remains a challenge to the country, according to Ms Arancha González, Executive Director at the International Trade Centre (ITC, a joint agency of the UN and World Trade Organization or WTO).
In particular, the EU wants to step up assistance to Laos to strengthen its economic integration into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by ensuring that the country is better enabled to take advantage of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) and other commitments under the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025.
ATIGA is designed to achieve free flow of good across the region while the blueprint project aims to create an integrated economic zone among the member nations.
ITC estimates that Laos could realize an additional USD 3.9 billion in exports to ASEAN markets by 2023.
“As the only landlocked member of ASEAN, Laos needs to continue to improve road, electricity, and telecommunications to take full advantage of its location in the center of the Southeast Asia peninsula,” said Ms González.
In addition, the EU wants to support Laos to take better advantage of its membership of the WTO, so that it can enjoy the benefit of greater access to the global market. Laos became a member of the organization in 2013.
To that end, the EU will work with various Lao government bodies to foster a better understanding of the problems and benefits of implementing regional commitments under the ASEAN framework.
The project will also raise awareness on trade preference for exports among Lao businesses, including small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), and on the requirement for placing products in sustainable markets, while helping them access buyers who value the sustainability efforts of supplies.
This is important because consumers are increasingly interested in how and under what conditions a product is produced and traded, according to Ms González.
Ms González is certain that Laos has great potential to successfully implement the project and achieve its goals.
She cited the Lao government’s careful approach to the project and strong interest of other stakeholders, such as businesses, as reasons to contribute to the success of this project.
“I am convinced ARISE Plus will help Laos sustain the momentum it needs towards shedding LDC [Less Developed Countries] status in the near future, building on the country’s undoubted export opportunities, and provide a more prosperous and inclusive future for everybody in Laos,” said Ms González. “A big future lies ahead.”