A high-level event held on February 2, 2023, as part of the 11th China Round Table on Accessions celebrated the 10th anniversary of Lao People’s Democratic Republic joining the WTO. Participants commended Lao PDR’s active participation in the WTO. A study entitled “Lao PDR: a Retrospective on 10 Years of WTO Membership” provided the backdrop for an exchange of views on the benefits and challenges of membership.
Lao PDR acceded to the WTO on February 2, 2013, becoming its 158th member following 15 years of accession negotiations. The country is the most recent addition to the WTO from the Asia-Pacific and the sixth least developed country (LDC) to accede since the establishment of the WTO in 1995. The commemoration of Lao PDR’s accession was the central event of the second day of the 11th China Round Table entitled “WTO Accessions and Trade Integration: Stories from the Asia-Pacific”.
In his remarks to the high-level event, Minister of Industry and Commerce Malaithong Kommasith noted that WTO accession has been instrumental in the socio-economic development of Lao PDR, enabling the country to integrate into the multilateral trading system, anchoring domestic legislative reforms, and promoting the rule of law and business growth.
He thanked all partners for their support during the accession process and the 10 years of WTO membership, noting that his country stands ready to exchange experiences and lessons learned with acceding governments.
In a video message, WTO Deputy Director-General Zhang Xiangchen commended Lao PDR for its sustained commitment to multilateral trade and active WTO membership. “Lao PDR’s accession is a demonstration of an exemplary commitment to integration into the multilateral trading system which has inspired many other LDC accessions, completed and ongoing,” he said.
DDG Zhang noted that Lao PDR has effectively used the accession process and WTO membership to transform and modernize its economy and trade regime, setting a high standard for LDC accession and participation in the WTO.
Assistant Minister of Commerce Li Fei of China also provided a video message congratulating Lao PDR on its considerable achievements since accession to the WTO. Drawing on China’s own experience, he called on members to expedite the accession process to support ongoing LDC accessions. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of capacity building support for LDCs to allow them to better integrate into the multilateral trading system and enhance their participation in discussions on WTO reform.
The high-level opening was followed by two sessions focusing on Lao PDR’s experience as a WTO member. To kick off discussions, former WTO Chief Economist Patrick Low presented the findings of a study authored by him, entitled “Lao PDR: a Retrospective on 10 Years of WTO Membership“.
The study reviews Lao PDR’s economic performance over the past 10 years, the key elements of its accession package, and its participation in the WTO and preferential trade agreements.
Discussions that followed focused on the challenges linked to LDC graduation, participation in the Joint Statement Initiatives, and accession to the Information Technology Agreement. The importance of trade diversification, both in terms of products and destinations, was also highlighted.