Laos Could Lose Millions With Closure Of Boten Border Crossing

Source: Vientiane Times

Laos may lose millions of dollars from lost exports to China now that Chinese authorities have closed the Boten International Checkpoint, a major travel and trade route between the two countries.

China has closed the border crossing due to the spread of Covid-19, meaning that no Lao goods can be shipped across the border for the foreseeable future, a Lao government official in Luang Namtha province, Ms Souk Pasanenga, told Vientiane Times yesterday.    

The border was closed to Lao imports on October 5 and Ms Souk could not say when it might reopen.

The border crossing was closed after some Chinese truck drivers tested positive for Covid. This indicated that truck drivers in Laos were not complying with the measures laid down by the National Taskforce on Covid-19 Prevention and Control, she said.

Numerous cases of the virus have also been detected in the Boten Special Economic Zone. 

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Some Lao drivers were negligent in complying with Covid control measures imposed by Chinese authorities, Ms Souk said.

It’s customary to see a line of trucks waiting to cross the border into China each day. But now that the checkpoint closed, many tonnes of agricultural produce loaded onto trucks could go rotten while drivers wait for the border to reopen, Ms Souk said.

In addition, Luang Namtha authorities have banned entry by goods trucks from other provinces travelling to China, meaning they cannot wait in the province while they undergo the necessary export procedures and now cannot spend time in Luang Namtha while they wait for the border to reopen, she added. China remains Laos’ largest export market and is also the largest foreign investor in Laos.

In the first nine months of this year, the value of goods sold to China hit US$1.72 billion, with a trade surplus of US$775 million.
Authorities now believe that over the next three months the value of trade between Laos and China will drop significantly with the closure of the border crossing.

Provincial taskforces for Covid-19 prevention and control have laid down measures governing travel and virus safety, but some Lao truck operators lack understanding of these measures.

Authorities are now trying to raise awareness among truck operators about the dynamics of the pandemic, saying it is a challenge for everyone involved to comply with the rules introduced by the National Covid-19 Taskforce.