Source: Vientiane Times
China has agreed to support Laos through three projects as part of efforts to strengthen cooperative relations between the two countries.
The new schemes were announced following an official visit to Laos yesterday by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in response to an invitation from his Lao counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith.
The three projects will see China providing Laos with materials to combat dengue fever, rollout of Phase 2 of the infrastructure rural development project, and China offering the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for 97 percent of Laos’ export products.
The two sides also agreed in principle to facilitate the transport of goods across border crossings between Laos and China, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In addition, the two countries agreed to implement a fast-track immigration policy for China which would give certain privileges to individuals with regard to entry and exit procedures, especially for diplomatic staff, technical experts, and foreign workers needed for special projects.
These measures aim to facilitate economic activity in Laos while ensuring the continuation of Chinese development projects in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
During their meeting, the two ministers discussed future cooperation, especially plans to mark the 60th anniversary of Laos-China diplomatic relations next year. Laos is committed to working closely with China to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.
Mr Wang Yi is also visiting Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand from October 11 to 15, with a stop in Singapore, to further reinforce ties with Asean countries.
China’s Ministry of Commerce was quoted in the Global Times as saying that Asean and China have become each other’s largest trading partner, and total trade from January to August reached US$416.5 billion.
As of 2019, China was the largest foreign investor in Laos with 785 development projects, with a combined investment value of US$12 billion.
Chinese companies mainly invest in mining, hydropower, agriculture, finance, shopping centres, special economic zones, and industry.
In 2019, China was Laos’ second largest trading partner with two-way trade valued at US$3.5 billion, an increase of 17.4 percent compared to 2018.
This is the second visit to Laos by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi this year. In February, he attended the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease and the fifth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Laos and China continue to expand their relations, friendship, and cooperation.
Laos has supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative, believing that the initiative will help Laos to transform itself from being landlocked to a land link within the region.
The US$5.9-billion Laos-China railway is part of the Belt and Road Initiative and will connect the south of China with Laos and other Asean countries. The project is now more than 90 percent complete and is scheduled for completion next year.
During his visit, Mr Wang Yi called on President Bounnhang Vorachit and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to further discuss their cooperative relations.