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 cooperation 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.
EU-Lao trade revolves around the textiles industry, which accounted for some 80% of Lao exports to the EU from 2002-2008. In 2009, the portion of agricultural product exported to EU was increase to 25% reflecting the diversification of Lao export products to EU. The total Lao exports to the EU in 2009 were valued at €138 million and the total. EU exports to Laos were valued €92 million making the Union Lao PDR's forth most important trading partner
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. It received supports from the European Member States, France and Germany and the EU Delegation.
Trade-related technical assistance
The European Union has been a long-standing development partner to Laos through providing trade preference and also significant trade- related technical assistance. The on-going Trade Development Facility (TDF) which the EU co-finance € 4.2 million and several other on-going EU funded regional initiatives.
The TDF provides direct technical assistance to support the ongoing reforms aiming to facilitate trade and cross border movement of goods and by increasing the capacity of the Lao government to undertake specific tasks related to regional and global economic integration with a view on WTO accession. It responds to Lao needs in e.g. the adaptation of sanitary and phyto-sanitary regulations and the removal of other technical barriers constituting bottlenecks for enhanced regional and international trade. The programme also provides support to businesses in selected strategic sectors such as garment, wood processing, handicrafts and agricultural products. One important feature of TDF is a success in improving capacity of the government to set up a coordinating mechanism and structure for Trade Related Assistance under Enhance Integrated Framework for Aid for Trade.