As a small, land-locked, and commodity-dependent country in a fast-expanding region, Lao PDR’s growth prospects are directly linked to its ability to integrate with the global economy. This is why the government has been prioritizing economic integration with both the Southeast Asia region and the multilateral rules-based trading system. In 2010, Lao PDR became signatory to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013, and ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2015.
In a recent study, we provide a comparative overview of the landscape of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) affecting imports in Lao PDR, and identify lingering regulatory hurdles that hamper its ability to reap the gains of deeper integration with the global economy. Our findings reveal that while the existing NTM framework is broadly in line with regional practices (figure 1), Ultimately, the system of quantitative controls applied by Lao PDR is equivalent to an ad-valorem tariff of 5.4%, which is well above regional and world averages.
There are three main problems associated with the procedures for obtaining import licenses in Lao PDR:
Lao People's Democratic Republic
For older generations of Lao citizens, the streets of Vientiane must be nothing short of unrecognizable. Over the past fifteen years, Lao PDR and its capital have enjoyed strong economic growth on the heels of a natural resources boom and closer regional integration. The result has been an undeniable if only gradual trend toward modernity for a country once completely shielded off from the outside world. With some of the world’s fastest growing economies right in its backyard, Lao PDR has benefited significantly from external demand for tradable goods and services and increased foreign direct investment inflows. Cooperation and coordination with development partners has intensified, leading to progressive efforts to reform and increase openness. What’s more, strong growth in real GDP (averaging over 7 percent throughout the two decades to 2014) has been accompanied by a reduction in poverty from 46 percent of the population in the early nineties to 23 percent in 2013.
At the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali on December 2013, all WTO members reached an agreement on trade facilitation and a compromise on food security issues, a contentious topic which had previously stalled talks during the 2008 Doha Development Round. The “Bali Package,” as it came to be known, was quickly heralded as an important milestone, reaffirming the legitimacy of multilateral trade negotiations while simultaneously recognizing the significant development benefits of reducing the time and costs to trade.
Seven months after the Bali Ministerial Conference, however, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has yet to be ratified as India is concerned that insufficient attention has been given to the issue of food subsidies and the stockpiling of grains. India maintains that agreements on the food security issue must be in concert with the TFA.
Despite the current impasse in implementing the Bali decisions, the food security concern at the heart of the matter sheds light on the importance of improving the agribusiness supply chains of developing countries to ensure maximum efficiencies. Consider the fact that in 2014, farmers will produce approximately 2.5 billion tons of food. Yet, 1.3 billion tons are lost or wasted each year between farm and fork, while 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger.
- Doha Round
- Bali Agreement
- Trade Facilitation Agreement
- trade facilitation
- supply chains
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- The World Region
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
Here at the World Bank we put great effort into facilitating South-South exchanges. But the truth is that developing tangible results and sustainable partnerships are still tremendous challenges. That’s why when a genuine, substantive example of South-South cooperation comes along—as is the case with the new Lesotho Trade Portal (LTP)—this effort should rightly be praised.
The LTP—billed as “the first trade portal in Africa”—was developed through a bilateral agreement between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, with the assistance of the World Bank Group. The LTP is a single, online source for all trade-related laws, regulations, and procedures for importing and exporting. It was officially launched on March 26, 2014, immediately establishing a new standard in Africa for communication with traders.
The World Bank has been working with the government of Lao PDR to better integrate the country into the regional and global economy since 2006. As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Lao PDR faces a number of barriers to trade. Since beginning to implement reforms in 2008, the country has seen marked improvements in a number of key areas -- culminating in Lao PDR's formal ascension to the WTO last year. The Trade Post spoke with Richard Record, a senior economist based in the Lao PDR country office, about the video. Here's what he had to say...
The clearance of imports and exports by customs and other agencies are among the most problematic links in global supply chains. They are frequently blamed for undermining the capacity of developing countries to compete on global markets. As a result, the Bank and other development organizations have devoted a great deal of attention to supporting reform and modernization of border clearance processes. In spite of significant effort, border management inefficiencies continue to impact heavily on the competitiveness of developing countries.