Laos govt seeks ways to reduce barriers to trade in services

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Ministry of Industry and Commerce is holding consultations with its line ministries, donors, development partners and the private sector to identify barriers to trade in services in Laos so that they can be overcome to boost regional cooperation.

The ministry co-organised an inter-ministerial national consultation meeting with the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH yesterday to facilitate an open discussion on trade in services and on developing strategies for leveraging the potential for regional cooperation to reduce barriers to trade in services.

Though Laos is officially integrated with the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and is a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it still faces barriers in promoting trade in services as the country is at an early stage of economic development and transition.

To promote and support the AEC Blueprint for establishing Asean as a single market and one production base, the Lao government is working to reduce unnecessary regulations, principles and legal processes to ensure the country is integrated with the regional and international systems.

At the meeting, the Director General of the Foreign Trade Policy Department of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Laohoua Cheuching, said: “It is a significant meeting for line ministries to see the identified key barriers to trade in services, with a focus on the healthcare and tourism sectors in Laos based on the results of a study.”

He said the findings are helpful for Laos to validate and prioritise barriers to trade in services in order to maximise the benefits from trade in services and other sectors.

The Project Director of the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into Asean, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED), Dr Harmut Janus, said trade in services plays a significant function in economic diversification and transition.

“Generally, they offer new employment opportunities and income growth within the sector and the services sector often performs a decisive role for the competitiveness of the economy as a whole,” he said.

Dr Janus said positive developments in education, ICT, transport and logistics can substantially reduce the transaction costs of an economy and strengthen its competitiveness.

A joint initiative – “The Support to the Initiative for Asean Integration (IAI) Project between Asean and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) – implemented by GIZ is now a key supporter for promoting Asean as a highly economic region with equitable development that can be fully integrated into the global economy.

This project aims to support Asean’s newer and lesser developed member states, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), to better implement regional agreements and accelerate the regional integration process. It also aims to enhance the mobility of skilled labour across Asean in tourism and healthcare.

To this end, the liberalisation of trade in services and associated domestic reforms are essential to implement the AEC Blueprint and to narrow development gaps between the six Asean nations and CLMV.

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