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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Laos is open to foreign trade, which represents 49% of its GDP (World Bank, 2016). Although Laos is implementing a process to open its economy, the State maintains restrictions on the import of certain goods such as chemical products, weapons and certain types of medication. Timber and weapons cannot be exported. Special permits are required to export rice, rough diamond, gold and polished silver. Laos became a member of the WTO in February 2013. This membership is subject to the adoption of the commitments of the WTO, mainly setting a limit to customs duties, the partial or total opening of all sectors, respecting the regulations of the WTO regarding inspections before shipping and adopting anti-dumping measures. The weakness of the financial sector and a lack of transparency in administrative procedures limit the development of trade.

Laos has suffered a trade deficit for many years (USD -1.7 billion in 2016), but this trend could be reverted in the coming years due to the steady growth of exports and the completion of infrastructure projects. Thus, in the first three months of 2017 the value of goods exported and imported earned Laos a trade surplus of USD 95 million, due to greater sales of electricity and increased output in the processing industry in Special Economic Zones (Ministry of Planning and Investment of Laos). Laos exports hydroelectric energy to China, Vietnam and especially to Thailand as well as minerals (which is its main source of foreign reserves). Although the export of minerals can be volatile, the export of hydroelectric energy has the advantage of being stable.

The country's main trading partners are the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China and South Korea. The country exports wood, coffee, electricity and precious metals to Thailand, Vietnam, China, India and Japan. The main import products are machinery and equipment, vehicles, gasoline and consumption goods from Thailand (two-thirds of imports), China, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,0553,0814,2713,8604,720
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,2712,2642,6622,3403,020
Imports of Services (million USD) 333523479554n/a
Exports of Services (million USD) 553761746790n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) n/a129-6-4
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) n/a511-71
Trade Balance (million USD) -784-756-1,609-2,464n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 8384857568
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 4749504439
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3635363129

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.


Main Services

0.8 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Insurance services
Construction services
Financial services
Government services
0.6 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Communications services
Insurance services
Construction services
Government services
Financial services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), AFTA and the ASEAN - China Free Trade Area.

Member of International finance corporation

Member of EAS (East Asia Summit)

Useful Resources
Laos Customs Department
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
The DISM Department of Intellectual Property, Standardization and Metrology.


Learn more about How to Export to Laos on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: August 2017