Source: Vientiane Times
Lao economists are optimistic that economic cooperation between Laos and Republic of Korea will surge after eight cooperation documents were signed by the two countries last week.
The agreements relate to industry and commerce, energy and mining, employment, social welfare, grant aid, construction of eco-friendly energy villages, healthcare and cultural exchange.
The documents were signed during an official visit to Laos by the President of the Republic of Korea, Ms Park Geun-hye, in response to an invitation from Lao President Mr. Bounnhang Vorachit.
The agreements are not only designed to deepen economic cooperation, but also contribute to the improvement of infrastructure and service delivery in Laos.
A senior economist at the National Economic Research Institute, Dr Leeber Leebouapao, told Vientiane Times that South Korea is Laos’ fourth-largest trading partner after Thailand, China and Japan.
“South Korea is increasingly becoming a key trading partner. We import a lot of technology and electronic products. Vehicles and mobile phones made in the ROK feature strongly in the Lao market,” he said.
“The main challenge for us is that we still don’t have much to export to Korea, so every sector needs to sit down and discuss how we can benefit from this market.”
When asked how Laos could encourage more Korean businesses to invest in Laos and export to the Korean market, Dr Leeber said their intention was to set up business here but to export goods to other countries, not Korea.
Dr Leeber said Korean business operators were currently investing in the banking and tourism-related sectors.
The eight documents signed last week will provide momentum to accelerate economic cooperation between Laos and Korea.
Last Friday, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ROK officials held a meeting in Vientiane at which business operators from both countries discussed trade, investment and business cooperation.
The two sides agreed to push for greater cooperation in areas relating to economic and trade, education, agriculture, health, human resource development, and culture.
The ROK is ranked the fifth largest foreign investor in Laos with the total value of investments exceeding US$700 million.
Some 100 Korean businesses are currently operating in Laos, according to Ms Park Geun-hye, who granted a special interview with Vientiane Times via e-mail.
The value of two-way trade reached US$197 million in 2015, and the two countries agreed to further strengthen economic cooperation.
In 2015 the number of business people and tourists coming to Laos from the ROK rose to 160,000 after the two nations began operating direct flights between each others main airports in 2012.