Private sector conditions in Laos are likely to improve following the launch of the New Laos Business Environment Project by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the US.
The project will provide capacity building and advisory services aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of Laos’ small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) while improving the implementation of trade-related laws, policies and regulations.
The project was unveiled on Thursday and attended by Minister of Industry and Commerce Khemmani Pholsena, US Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter, representatives of US Agency for International Development (USAID) and officials from related sectors.
The five-year project, funded by the US through USAID, is the latest partnership between the US and Laos aimed at supporting private sector competitiveness and facilitating trade.
“The launch of the Lao Business Environment Project reinforces our commitment to promote inclusive economic growth and competitiveness through improving the business operating environment and enhancing productive capacity of SMEs,” Khemmani said.
The SMEs make up the majority of firms and are responsible for most private sector employment in Laos. This project will target industry and service sectors with the highest growth and job creation potential.
The US has a long history of partnering with Laos to accelerate the country’s economic development, including through two previous USAID initiatives called Lao PDR-US International and Asean Integration (Luna Laos) and Luna II.
“This project is yet another example of the excellent partnership between the United States and the Lao PDR on issues of trade and investment,” said Bitter.
In recent years, the US has invested a total of more than $22 million in assistance targeted at bolstering Laos’ economic development and facilitating regional and international trade.
In her opening remarks, Khemmani said: “I strongly support the Laos Business Environment Project’s objective which seeks to strengthen national level facilitation and continuous improvement of the Lao business environment through a combination of capacity building and targeted advisory services.”
The US has supported Laos’ from accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2013 to the implementation of the US-Laos Trade and Investment Framework.
“An agreement was signed in 2017 to bring the highest international standards and practices to Lao business,” Bitter said.
In addition to improving the business environment and expanding trade, the US works in partnership with the government and citizens of Laos to improve competitiveness of agricultural microenterprises, strengthen the rule of law, promote health and nutrition, support people with disabilities, and improve education.
The country kicked off the Lao Competitiveness and Trade Project, a new EIF Tier II project, and extended existing related projects as well as launched the Arise Plus Lao project in September. A new project to promote home textiles was also launched recently.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK