The EU is committed to fair trade and open markets. It is the world’s largest trading partner and the main destination for exports from 130 countries worldwide. It therefore has a strong interest in creating conditions in which trade can prosper. Facilitating trade is also an important part of the EU’s strategy to foster development and reduce poverty.
European Commission cooperation helps Lao PDR develop its trade policy and capacity so as to maximize economic development and poverty reduction as well as to integrate into the world economy. Trade-related Assistance in this regard aims at improving market access on a preferential basis and assisting the beneficiary country in improving the structures and means of exploiting this market access.
Lao exports to the EU enjoyed significant growth in 2015. They amounted to EUR 204.9 million from January-October 2015, growing by 16, 6 percent from the same period last year. Textiles, clothing and coffee remain the largest imports from Laos.
The 'Everything but Arms' initiative extends import quota and duty-free access for Lao exports to the EU market, opening the door to the biggest single market in the world. Trade related issues are also discussed regularly in an Informal Working Group on Cooperation and Trade in the context of the EU-Laos Joint Committee Meeting.
Support for exporters
The EU is committed to further opening its market especially to developing countries. A number of resources exist to assist Lao exporters to do business with the EU. The Commission’s Export Help Desk is a free and user-friendly online service providing information on how to access the EU market: EU import requirements, tariffs (and preferences), customs documentation, rules of origin, and much more.
Chambers of commerce and economic missions
The European Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lao PDR (ECCIL) was established in May 2011 to represent and promote the European business in Laos. This includes the promotion of investment, raising the profile of Lao PDR in the European business community and vice versa, and to promote linkages between Lao and European SME. The ECCIL was transferred from the former French Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Laos. The EU works with ECCIL through a grant mechanism. The purpose of the EU grant to ECCIL is to increase and diversify trade and investment of European businesses, particularly SMEs, to Laos, and to the regional ASEAN market.
Trade-related technical assistance
In terms of bilateral cooperation, the EU supports the second Trade Development Facility (TDF 2), a multi-donor programme that builds on the success of the first phase of the programme (2008-2014) in assisting the implementation of government's trade policies. Together with the World Bank, Germany, Ireland, Australia and the United States, the EU supports TDF 2 with a contribution of EUR 4 million which aims at strengthening the capacities of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in achieving its trade related priorities: trade facilitation, policy and regulations, diversification and competitiveness and aid for trade. The EU also monitors the coherence between TDF 2 dispositions and the ASEAN and WTO regulations.