The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) has opened an office in Laos, creating a focal point for US businesses intending to invest in the country.
The Lao Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce held an official opening ceremony last week after getting the green light from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs to set up the office.
More than 75 people representing over 50 US and Lao businesses and companies attended the event, which was held at the Vientiane residence of the US Ambassador to Laos, Ms Karen Stewart, on September 19.
AMCHAM said one of its main objectives in opening the Vientiane office is to facilitate and spur investment by US businesses in Laos, to take advantage of the country’s strong economic growth over the past five years.
US businesses believe the office will be able to contribute to the overall development of Laos, which will soon become a member of the World Trade Organisation.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ambassador Stewart explained how the Vientiane AMCHAM office would benefit both Lao and US businesses and strengthen economic ties between the two nations.
“AMCHAM can be a strong partner to the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Lao government as this country continues to develop its business environment and works to integrate its economy regionally and globally,” Ms Stewart said as quoted in a press release from the US Embassy.
AMCHAM expects to host activities each month for members, alternating between social networking events and business-oriented presentations.
Currently, there are 40 US businesses operating in Laos. Licensed US investment in Laos is US$77 million, while bilateral trade between Laos and the US is valued at US$85 million.
Laos was ranked as America’s 182nd trading partner in 2007 moving up from 193rd place in 2005. Laos’ main exports to the US consist of apparel and clothing accessories, coffee, tea, spices, works of art, collectors’ pieces, antiques and other items.
Laos established Normal Trade Relations with the United States after becoming a signatory to a Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2004. However, Laos is not a beneficiary of the Generalised System of Preferences that the United States grants to some least developed countrie s.
Despite Laos having Normal Trade Relations status, the US prohibits and restricts imports of some Lao products such as alcohol, live animals and animal products, certain types of medicines, guns and arms, military arms, fruits, beans, meat and meat products, live poultry and poultry products, petroleum and petroleum products, and vegetables.
published with the permission of Vientiane Times