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Laos outlines progress on regional trade links
Publication Date : 07-03-2013
Laos has made considerable progress in its efforts to develop connectivity and trade facilitation, a senior government official told the meeting of Asian-European Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) in Vientiane on Tuesday.
LLDC representatives from Asia and Europe convened their three-day final regional review meeting, which ends today, to review the progress made over the past decade in carrying out the Almaty Programme of Action (APA), which is designed to address the special needs of LLDCs.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alounkeo Kittikhoun detailed the progress made in the case of Laos in carrying out the Almaty Programme of Action.
After adopting the APA, he said, Laos has incorporated all five APA priority areas into its national development strategy, especially in the area of infrastructure development, trade regulations and transit systems.
“Throughout its implementation, we have made considerable progress,” he told the meeting. Regarding infrastructure development, the Lao government adopted and introduced a new policy with the aim of converting the country from being landlocked to a land link."
Alounkeo said to realise this transformation, the government has developed several programmes and policies on infrastructure development, especially the development of an efficient and reliable system for transit transport routes and the facilitation of cross-border transport of goods and people.
In this connection, the deputy minister stressed the importance of bilateral, sub-regional and regional cooperation frameworks in pursuit of the objectives of the APA.
F or instance, the implementation of various bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries has been undertaken, including the East-West Economic Corridor in central Laos, and the North-South Economic Corridor in the north.
In addition, there is the Greater Mekong Sub-region Cross-Border Transport Agreement, the Quadrilateral Agreement (China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand) on Commercial Navigation on the Lancang-Mekong River, and various Asean framework agreements.
Thanks to these agreements, a number of cooperation projects have taken place over the past decade while numerous other large projects are in the pipeline for the years to come.
“These include, among others, railway links between Laos-Thailand, Laos-Vietnam and Laos-China, and the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link project,” Alounkeo said.
There are also Mekong bridge projects between Laos-Thailand and Laos-Myanmar, and road transport network projects within the country and those international linkages as part of the Asian Highway and Asean Highway routes.
The Lao government has invested heavily in the improvement of its transport infrastructure and transport services. Each year, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport allocates more than 40 per cent of its budget to upgrade and maintain road networks.
It is concentrating mainly on the r econstruction and rehabilitation of international links as well as designated routes in Asean and the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
At the same time, the government recently completed amendments to the Road Transport Law, Road Traffic Law and Law on Multimodal Transport in order to support the implementation of the above-mentioned agreements.
Regarding trade and trade facilitation, the Lao government has made tremendous efforts to reform key legislation, bringing Laos in line with international and World Trade Organisation requirements. Laos officially become the 158th member of the WTO on February 2 this year.
The Lao government approved a National Trade Facilitation Strategy and Action Plan in July 2011. The strategy and action plan identify an agenda for improving trade facilitation and cooperation among border agencies.
However, despite the positive developments, Laos has faced a lot of disadvantages in relation to its geographical remoteness from international markets, and high transport and trade transaction costs, Alounkeo said.
It has also suffered from cumbersome customs and border crossing procedures, inadequate and poor transport infrastructure, a small economy, low productive capacity, low technology, insufficient human resource skills, limited export diversification and a lack of export competitiveness.
To overcome these disadvantages, Alounkeo recommended proposals to the meeting including promoting a genuine partnership between the public and private sectors and between landlocked and transit developing countries and their development partners.
He also stressed the need to strengthen efforts to simplify and harmonise laws, rules, regulations, procedures and transport related documents of LLDC and transit countries and further improve and maximise the utilisation of existing road networks and economic corridors.
It is of critical importance that the international community including development partners, the UN, international organisations and the private sector provide sufficient financial, technological and capacity-building assistance.
Meanwhile, all LLDCs and neighbouring transit countries should commit themselves with stronger political will to address the special needs and problems of LLDCs, he stressed.