The 9th EU-Lao PDR Joint Committee took place in Brussels on 21st May 2019.
The Lao PDR and the EU held open and constructive discussions on a broad range of political, economic and social issues, including governance, human rights, development cooperation, environment, climate change and trade and investment policies.
Both parties acknowledged the extensive and candid discussions held in the framework of the Human Rights Dialogue held in Vientiane on 7th March 2019. Topics ranged from civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to fundamental freedoms, and the rights of women, children, ethnic and vulnerable groups.
The Working Group on development cooperation (held in the morning) discussed the current and future cooperation in full alignment with the National Socio-Economic Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals and in support to Least Developed Countries graduation. Both parties agreed on the importance of focusing on the financing of the national plans, involving all key players, notably the civil society, the private sector and all development partners. The areas of education, nutrition, governance and trade-related assistance were discussed in detail, with an overall positive appreciation of progress. The increased use of Budget Support as a preferred mechanism was also discussed, with an emphasis on the need to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to the social sectors reforms and that public debt is carefully managed. In that context, the parties agreed on the importance of implementing the Public Finance Management reforms which are being supported by the EU. Ongoing and future investment opportunities were also discussed with the European Investment Bank.
The Working Group also discussed the successful Joint Programming, a mechanism of cooperation the EU and its Member States, as well as Switzerland, have adopted in the Lao PDR. The European development partners decided jointly with the Lao Government on how to deliver aid more effectively by adopting a process of division of labour while ensuring close alignment with the current and the 9th NSEDP of Lao PDR.
In the area of trade and investment, both sides confirmed their readiness to hold the next Working Group on Trade and Investment later this year. Bilateral trade and investment issues, such as in relation to Laos' uptake of the Everything But Arms Scheme and the investment climate for European companies in Laos, were also discussed.
Cooperation has also further developed within regional frameworks such as ASEAN, ARF, and ASEM.The EU reiterated its readiness to share its experience in regional integration, in areas such as sound water diplomacy in the Mekong River Basin, or in security matters.
Global challenges such as environment and climate change were also high on the agenda. The Lao Government highlighted the efforts made to counter illegal wildlife and timber trading. Both sides welcomed the third round of FLEGT/VPA negotiations which will take place in June 2019 in Brussels.
Potential for further cooperation on research and innovation was explored along with possibilities for enhancing EU-Laos cooperation in the cultural field and the promotion of university exchanges.
The Joint Committee was co-chaired by Mr. David Daly, Head of Division for South and Southeast Asia at the European External Action Service and by H.E. Mr. Phomma Khammanichanh, Director-General for Europe and America at the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The 10th meeting of the EU-Lao PDR Joint Committee is expected to take place in Vientiane in 2021.