New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

(VEN) - On the morning of April 8, 2024, in Vientiane, Laos, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade, Nguyen Hong Dien, and Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce, Malaithong Kommasith, signed a new Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement.

During the April 6-8 working visit to Vientiane, Laos, on the morning of April 8, the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) delegation, led by Minister Nguyen Hong Dien, held talks with the Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce, Malaithong Kommasith, to exchange views and address difficulties in promoting industrial and trade cooperation between Vietnam and Laos. The two ministers signed a new Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement and witnessed the signing of several cooperative memoranda between the two countries.

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien and Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Malaithong Kommasith talk before their official dialogue

At the beginning of the discussions, Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Malaithong Kommasith welcomed and highly appreciated the personal role of Minister Nguyen Hong Dien in promoting and deepening the relations between the two ministries and the two countries. Minister Malaithong Kommasith believed that in order to promote the bilateral trade, the two ministries need to realize five main tasks, giving priority to trade and investment promotion, and striving to increase the bilateral trade value by 10-15 percent compared to 2023.

Minister Nguyen Hong Dien stated that cooperation in the field of industry and trade is key to the bilateral relationship, with the bilateral trade growing by 10-15 percent per year since 2012 (except the COVID-19 period) to reach US$1.63 billion in 2023 (down 4.3 percent compared to 2022), including Vietnam's exports worth US$533 million (down 18.7 percent) and Vietnam's imports worth USS1.1 billion (up 4.7 percent); and an estimated US$417.8 million in the first quarter of 2024 (down 1.8 percent compared to the same period in 2023), including Vietnam's exports worth US$148.3 million (up 16 percent) and Vietnam's imports worth US$270 million (down 9.5 percent).

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed
An overview of the dialogue between Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien and Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Malaithong Kommasith

According to Minister Nguyen Hong Dien, in recent years, Laos has shifted from a trade deficit maker to a trade surplus earner in trade with Vietnam. This indicates that Laos' production capacity has been gradually increasing. Laos has become an important ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) supplier of products and raw materials for producers in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vietnam has become the world's factory with total import-export value of over US$735 billion, one of the top 20 countries in terms of foreign trade value and one of the most attractive markets to foreign investors. As a result, Vietnam has a high demand for importing various types of raw materials and electricity from other countries, including Laos.

However, according to Minister Nguyen Hong Dien, the trade value between Vietnam and Laos has reached US$1.65 billion, accounting for 10 percent of Laos' total foreign trade value and 0.2 percent of Vietnam's total foreign trade value. This result is incommensurate with the special relationship between Vietnam and Laos.

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

The two ministers agree on specific solutions to realize commitments and agreements reached by senior leaders of Vietnam and Laos

In order to tap into the potential for trade cooperation, the two ministers agreed on specific solutions to implement the commitments made by high-level leaders of the two countries, as outlined in the Agreement on the Cooperation Plan between the two governments, and the minutes of the 46th session of the Vietnam-Laos Inter-Governmental Committee. These solutions include:

Firstly, in terms of solutions to promote exports between the two countries and increase the bilateral trade value, the two ministers agreed that the effective implementation of trade cooperation commitments between Vietnam and Laos depends heavily on close cooperation between businesses from both countries. The two sides agreed to increase trade and business connection activities such as business forums, business matchmaking conferences, trade fairs, trade promotion forums, and market information seminars.

Secondly, efforts should be made to promote cooperation in the development of cross-border commercial infrastructure between Vietnam and Laos. Currently, the cross-border trade value between Vietnam and Laos accounts for over 90 percent of the total bilateral trade value.

To further enhance cross-border trade between Vietnam and Laos in the coming period, both sides need to effectively implement the Memorandum of Understanding on the development and connectivity of cross-border commercial infrastructure between Vietnam and Laos, signed in January 2024. They should also review and exchange views to amend and supplement the 2007 Hanoi Agreement and the Vietnam-Laos Border Trade Agreement to align them with the current situation and new context.

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Malaithong Kommasith sign the new Vietnam - Laos Trade Agreement

The two ministers also agreed to instruct relevant units to exchange information and set a date for the 13th Vietnam-Laos Border Trade Conference to be held in Vietnam. This will enable timely discussions on emerging challenges and difficulties in cross-border trade between the two countries, as well as aligning cooperation directions for the coming years.

Thirdly, the focus will be on maximizing the efficiency of existing industrial parks and border economic zones in the border area between the two countries. Regarding this matter, Minister Nguyen Hong Dien fully agrees with the viewpoint of creating conditions to enhance the export of goods from Laos to Vietnam, especially goods that serve the production activities of Vietnamese enterprises.

“I acknowledge and appreciate the proposal to study the feasibility of building industrial and commercial zones in the border area or in areas of strength for both countries,” Minister Nguyen Hong Dien said. He suggested that the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce coordinate with localities to promote the effectiveness of border trade and border industrial parks and economic zones.

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and Minister Malaithong Kommasith witness the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the Market Surveillance Agency (MoIT) and Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s Department of Competition and Trade Inspection

The two ministers believe that both parties need to study, supplement, and improve the legal framework for cross-border industrial cooperation. Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and Minister Malaithong Kommasith have instructed relevant agencies to urgently negotiate and reach an agreement on the Memorandum of Understanding on the Development of Industrial Linkage between the two countries for signing in the near future.

Fourthly, close coordination is needed to ensure the stability of the Lao petroleum market. At the talks, Minister Malaithong Kommasith proposed that Vietnam share its experiences in managing the petroleum market and stabilizing petroleum supply.

Minister Nguyen Hong Dien emphasized that the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade is willing to support Laos in ensuring petroleum supply. Recently, the ministry has continually encouraged Vietnamese petroleum traders to proactively connect with Lao businesses, thus strengthening and creating stability in petroleum supply to Laos.

Additionally, Minister Nguyen Hong Dien said that the Vietnamese Prime Minister has issued Decision 861/QD-TTg dated July 18, 2023, approving the plan for building the infrastructure for petroleum storage and supply in the 2021-2030 period, with a vision to 2050. Furthermore, the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade promises to support and create favorable conditions for businesses of both sides to research, promote cooperation, and consider the possibility of petroleum depots, in accordance with the laws of each country and common interests of both countries.

New Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement officially signed

Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and Minister Malaithong Kommasith witness the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between GP Holdings, the National Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Phonesack Group on cooperation in building warehouses and coal conveyor belts

To ensure the domestic supply of petroleum, in the long term, Minister Nguyen Hong Dien said that the Lao Government needs to consider maintaining a stable and predictable exchange rate as well as ensuring its supply of foreign currency to ensure that petroleum enterprises can operate profitably. This is crucial to ensure the supply of petroleum to the market.

Fifthly, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation in market management. In response to the concerns from Laos relating to market management (including anti-smuggling, anti-trade fraud), Minister Nguyen Hong Dien emphasized that the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade is willing to share and cooperate with its Lao counterpart in market management and smuggling and trade fraud prevention.

After today's talks, the Market Surveillance Agency under the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Department of Competition and Trade Inspection under the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce will sign a Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of market management. This will be an important legal basis for cooperation between the two sides in the coming time.

Sixthly, it is necessary to strengthen cooperation in ecommerce development. Minister Nguyen Hong Dien said that Laos has made strong strides in ecommerce development, which is forecasted to reach a revenue of US$433 million by 2028. Additionally, there is a large potential for ecommerce development in Laos. Therefore, it is recommended that Laos focus on building policies to develop ecommerce, encourage and create the necessary conditions for businesses in this industry to develop, thus strongly developing the Lao economy.

"Vietnam is ready to share its experiences in developing ecommerce with Laos, with the Vietnam E-Commerce and Digital Economy Agency assigned to be the focal point for coordinating and sharing experiences with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Laos," Minister Nguyen Hong Dien emphasized.

After the talks, Minister Nguyen Hong Dien and the Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce signed a new Trade Agreement. Additionally, the ministers witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Market Surveillance Agency and the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s Department of Competition and Trade Inspection, as well as a Memorandum of Understanding between GP Holdings, National Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Phonesack Group on cooperation in building warehouses and coal conveyor belts. The signing of these documents will continue to contribute to deepening cooperative relationship between the two countries.

The two countries officially signed their Vietnam-Laos Trade Agreement in March 2015, and the Vietnam-Laos Border Trade Agreement in June 2015 to create favorable conditions to increase the bilateral trade. Since 2021, the coordination between the two countries’ ministries, sectors and localities, especially the one between Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and its Laos counterpart; along with efforts to overcome difficulties between the two countries’ businesses; has made economic and trade cooperation between Vietnam and Laos increasingly flourish and strongly grow. With a large development potential ahead, the bilateral trade is expected to not only grow 10-15 percent per year but to also move towards stable and sustainable development.

Therefore, the signing and implementation of the amended agreement will contribute to resolving arising problems, and improving the legal basis for Vietnam - Laos trade activities. In particular, reviewing and offering tax incentives before the Vietnam - Laos tax reduction roadmap in ASEAN will create favorable conditions for import and export activities, contributing to further promoting trade relations between Vietnam and Laos.

Concluding the talks, Minister Nguyen Hong Dien once again highly appreciated the cooperation between Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade and Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce and affirmed that the MoIT is always willing to coordinate, support and maintain regular exchanges with the Lao side to achieve more positive results, better exploit the advantages and potential of each country in the coming time, contributing to the special friendly relationship between the two countries.

The new agreement aims to promote market access for both countries’ goods and services and create stable, sustainable and long-term connections. The provisions of the agreement are built in compliance with each country's respective laws, regulations and policies; on the principle of equality and mutual benefit; creating maximum convenience in exporting and importing goods and providing services, and offering special incentives on trade in goods and services for each country.

The agreement consists of five chapters including: regulations on market access for goods and services; trade facilitation; trade promotion and e-commerce applications; cooperation against smuggling, trade fraud, money laundering and illegal cross-border transportation.

Reported by Nguyen Minh from Vientiane, the capital of Laos

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