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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Laos is open to foreign trade, which represents 62% of its GDP (2011-2013 average). Customs duties are not very high. Although Laos is implementing a process to open its economy, the State maintains restrictions for the import of certain goods such as chemical products, weapons and some medications. Timber and weapons cannot be exported. Special permits are required to export rice, rough diamonds, gold pieces 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 imports twice as much as it exports, which translates into a massive trade deficit. In 2015, the deficit reached USD 3.8 billion, i.e. 27% of the value of exports. However, this trend could be reversed in the coming years due to the strong and steady growth of exports and the completion of infrastructure projects. At the moment, imports are growing faster due to the high demand for consumption goods and the goods required for the large construction projects. Laos exports hydroelectric energy to China, Vietnam and especially to Thailand as well as minerals (which is its main source of foreign currency). 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, China and South Korea. The country exports wood, coffee, electricity and precious metals to Thailand, Vietnam, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. The main import products are machinery and equipment, vehicles, gasoline and consumption goods from Thailand (two-thirds of imports), China, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20112012201320142015
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,4043,0553,0814,2713,860
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,1902,2712,2642,6622,340
Imports of Services (million USD) 325333523479554
Exports of Services (million USD) 526553761746790
Trade Balance (million USD) -569-784-756-1,609-2,464
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 8190909787
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 4352535651
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3739374036

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - 2016.

 
 
 
 

Main Services

0.8 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Travel
88.81%
Transportation
8.82%
Insurance services
1.40%
Construction services
0.66%
Financial services
0.17%
Government services
0.14%
0.6 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Travel
89.55%
Transportation
3.11%
Communications services
2.64%
Insurance services
2.16%
Construction services
1.19%
Government services
0.81%
Financial services
0.54%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Last 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.
 
 
 

 

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Last Updates: June 2017