The Lao government believes that the Laos-China Railway will be a huge boost to economic and trade cooperation between Laos and China in the coming years.
In 2021, the value of trade between the two countries soared to $4.35 billion, an increase of 21.4 per cent compared to the previous year, according to the Laos-China Cooperation Commission.
The value of goods imported by Laos from China was recorded at $1.67 billion, an increase of 11.9 per cent, while the value of Lao exports rose to $2.68 billion, an increase of 28.2 per cent.
China has become a key export market for Lao goods, especially agricultural produce, following the opening of the Laos-China railway at the end of 2021.
Last year, Laos earned more than $900 million from the export of agricultural produce, accounting for 82 per cent of the target figure set for 2021.
Bananas were the highest income earner, bringing in $225 million, while rubber exports earned $214 million, cassava sales brought in $196 million, sugarcane earned $25 million, and watermelon exports earned $26 million.
China is the top foreign investor in Laos, with Chinese businesses investing in 821 projects with a total value of over $16 billion, Laos-China Cooperation Commission vice-chairman Xaysana Sitthiphone told a recent meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sonexay Siphandone.
“In 2021 alone, Chinese businesses invested in 20 projects with an investment value of more than $1 billion, which will strengthen Laos’ socio-economic development and generate job opportunities for local people,” he said.
Dr Sonexay instructed the sectors concerned to encourage more businesses to invest in Laos to maximise the potential offered by the railway. The authorities responsible need to do more to encourage crop cultivation alongside the railway, he said.
According to a recent Xinhua News Agency report, the Laos-China Railway has transported more than one million passengers and 500,000 tonnes of cargo including 100,000 tonnes of cross-border goods since it became operational in December.
Business operators from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar are now using the railway to import and export goods to and from China and beyond.
Thailand transported its first shipment of 1,000 tonnes of rice to Chongqing in China using the railway.
The Thai government is also studying the possibility of exporting fruit, orchids, rubber, cassava, palm oil and fishery and livestock products by the new rail route.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK