Laos and Thailand have reached an agreement to double their bilateral trade value over the next four years as a measure to boost economic cooperation between the two neighbouring nations.
The agreement came after a meeting chaired jointly by Lao Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Nam Vinhaket and Thai Deputy Finance Minister Mr Boonsong Teriyapirom in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 22-23.
According to the Thai News Agency (MCOT), Laos and Thailand agreed to ease barriers to trade and investment, particularly at border checkpoints and immigration to create conditions for the two nations to double bilateral trade value from US$4 billion to US$8 billion in 2015.
The collaboration of the two countries will also include a one-stop point for customs processing, local product exhibitions and academic cooperation, making it easier for Lao and Thai businesses to export and import goods.
It was also agreed that Laos will host another meeting between its Industry and Commerce Ministry and the Thai Finance Ministry sometime next year.
At present, Laos exports about US$1.1 billion worth of goods to Thailand per year, most of which is electricity, agricultural produce and forestry products. Meanwhile, Laos imports about US$2.7 billion of goods from Thailand, most of which is petroleum products, automobiles, spare parts, and metal components.
Thailand has been active in attempting to secure a market in Laos in recent years after facing strong competition from China and Vietnam, which offer cheaper goods.
Lao people have begun to purchase Chinese cars as they are much cheaper than Thai vehicles, yet Thai goods remain popular because many people still consider them to be of a higher quality.
The Thai media's influence in Laos helps to protect the popularity of Thai goods among the Lao public. However, the decision by Chinese companies to inject large sums of money into advertising their automobiles in Laos is starting to pay dividends.
Thailand has dropped from its position as top foreign investor in Laos in the past few years due to increasing Vietnamese and Chinese investment.
The Lao and Vietnamese governments reached an agreement to boost bilateral trade value from about US$600 million at present to US$2 billion in 2015. The move will be made possible due to a reduction in import and export tariffs.
Laos and Vietnam have also agreed to establish border trade areas, creating better conditions for people of the two countries to exchange goods as a measure to boost economic cooperation between the two countries.
Bilateral trade between Laos and China is still low. However, increasing Chinese investment in Laos is expected to drive up bilateral trade between the two countries.