Lao officials say they are working actively on preparations to meet all the requirements for joining the World Trade Organization. It is not clear when Laos will be admitted to the world body but with the help of the European Union, Laos hopes it can become a WTO member in 2010.
EU has granted the Lao government 33-million Euros for socio-economic development projects for 2007 to 2010, with 13% of that earmarked for its preparations to join the World Trade Organization.
To be able to join WTO, Laos has to bring all of its trade and investment regulations as well as customs and tariff rules up to international standards. Another area that Laos has to liberalize is the banking sector, according to Mr. Nam Vignaket, Laos' Minister of Industry and Trade, who says Laos needs to open its banking sector to foreign banks in order to facilitate investors and to bring in more foreign investments because foreign investors would want to borrow from their own banks.
In another development, the United Nations says more than 23,000 small and medium-sized business in Laos will be affected when the country starts implementing AFTA or the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement by the end of this year, which requires Laos to adjust its import tariffs down to 5% on more than 10,000 goods. The move will also affect Laos' revenues from import tariffs.
Listen to our report for more details in Lao.