Electricity Exports Propel Laos to Trade Surplus, Marking Record Growth

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Lao Electricity Imported to Cambodia

Laos has recorded a significant surge in its annual trade, reaching a total value of over USD 15.5 billion in 2023. 

The figures, released by the Lao Trade Portal, highlight a 3.5 percent increase compared to the previous year. According to the data, Laos witnessed a notable rise in both export and import activities throughout 2023. 

The total export value amounted to approximately USD 8 billion, marking a 3.5 percent increase over 2022, while total imports surged over USD 7 billion, reflecting a 5 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The top five export categories in 2023 were dominated by electricity, which accounted for USD 2.382 billion, followed by gold bullion at USD 703 million, paper and paper products at USD 467 million, gold ore at USD 425 million, and iron ore at USD 411 million. These exports signify Laos’ diverse range of products contributing to its trade portfolio.

On the import front, diesel emerged as the top imported commodity, valued at USD 952 million, followed by mechanical equipment at USD 606 million, land vehicles at USD 580 million, iron and steel products at USD 451 million, and gasoline at USD 428 million. The import spectrum showcases Laos’ reliance on various goods to fuel its domestic economy and development initiatives.

The country’s trade surplus surpassed USD 1 billion for the annual trade, a positive indicator amidst global economic fluctuations. Despite reporting a ten-month trade deficit in 2023, the inclusion of electricity trade at the end of the year, a significant export product, tilted the balance in Laos’ favor.

Electricity exports have notably propelled Laos’ trade surplus, emphasizing the country’s increasing role in providing sustainable energy options to the region. This highlights a growing demand for renewable energy sources in Southeast Asia.

In terms of trade partners, Thailand emerged as the leading export destination with USD 2.8 billion, closely followed by China, Vietnam, Australia, and Cambodia. Thailand has also claimed the top spot as Laos’ primary importing source, with USD 3.3 billion, followed by China, Vietnam, the United States, and Japan.

Looking ahead, China is poised to solidify its position as Laos’ leading trading partner. Reports from state media indicate that China has invested in 17 projects totaling nearly USD 1 billion since the beginning of the year, suggesting a deepening economic relationship between the two nations.