U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of Lao PDR

WTO Trade Policy Review of Lao PDR
U.S. Statement delivered by Ambassador Dennis C. Shea,
Permanent Representative to the WTO

Geneva, November 18, 2019

The United States is pleased to participate in Lao PDR’s first ever Trade Policy Review since the 2013 WTO accession.  We warmly welcome the delegation from Vientiane led by Minister of Industry and Commerce Khemmani Pholsena, and we appreciate the reports compiled by the WTO Secretariat and the Government of Lao PDR.

The United States has supported Lao PDR both through the WTO accession process and subsequent implementation of its WTO commitments for more than a decade, including through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s technical assistance.  Further, the United States has worked closely with Lao PDR since the launch of our 2016 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to enhance bilateral economic relations.  We appreciated the Government’s partnership, led by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, in hosting our second U.S.-Lao PDR TIFA Joint Trade and Investment Committee meeting this past January 2019.  We remain committed to working together to resolve bilateral concerns in order to facilitate increased trade between our countries, which reached $157 million in two-way trade in 2018.

The United States applauds Lao PDR’s efforts to improve its WTO commitments through its ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and appreciated the updates from the Government on the implementation status.  We recognize Lao PDR has completed or is on track to complete its Category A, B, and C notifications.  Full and expedient implementation of the TFA will facilitate trade between Lao PDR and the rest of the world, particularly for small and medium-sized traders.

The Government of Lao PDR is taking action to further develop its digital economy, including by joining the Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce in January 2019.  We are working with Lao PDR and other members towards a high-standard outcome that would deliver commercially meaningful outcomes for firms and consumers.  Commitment to meaningful digital trade rules, including prohibiting mandatory data localization requirements and guaranteeing the unrestricted flow of data across borders, will ensure that small and medium-sized Lao companies benefit from access to innovative global digital economy.  The United States also encourages Lao PDR to sign on to the WTO Information Technology Agreement, as noted in the Government Report.

The United States has been a strong partner in Lao PDR’s efforts to strengthen intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement, including by joining the Madrid Protocol in 2016 and amending the Law on Intellectual Property to increase transparency and expedite judicial resolution.  We urge the Lao PDR to continue to take steps to improve IP protection and enforcement, including through developing judicial capacity to adjudicate IP cases and increasing public awareness of the importance of IP.

We recognize the Government’s progress in enhancing transparency, including through the launch of the Lao Electronic Official Gazette website.  The United States encourages Lao PDR to make every effort to comply with its notification obligations, in order to provide transparency for Members and traders, and to formalize mechanisms to facilitate stakeholder consultations.  Such notifications and transparency endeavors will serve to further connect Lao PDR to global markets and supply chains by providing traders the information they need to do business, and serve to strengthen the proper functioning and operation of WTO Agreements.

In closing, our written questions reflect our interest in understanding Lao PDR’s policies in these and other areas, including customs, government procurement, financial services, and the environment.  The large number of our questions reflects the United States’ continued interest in Lao PDR’s reforms and desire to strengthen our trade and economic cooperation both bilaterally and at the WTO.

We appreciate the responses to our questions and hope this review has been useful for the Government delegation.  Thank you.