Laos’ minister of commerce Soulivong Daravong was in Washington this past weekend to participate as a keynote speaker in a conference on “U.S.-Lao PDR Relations: The Road Ahead,” organized by Johns Hopkins University. The minister discussed the conference and the benefits of NTR for Laos in an exclusive interview with VOA.
The conference was not open to the media, but Mr. Soulivong said participants discussed the various areas of US-Laos relations and exchanged ideas on how to further improve cooperations and expand bilateral trade and contact between the two nations now that the US has accorded Laos normal trade relation status or NTR.
Mr. Soulivong says U.S officials participating in the conference confirm to him that the US government considers illegal any activities by American nationals that are counter-productive to Laos' interests, that the U.S government will provide technical assistance to Laos on projects that they agree on to facilitate the implementation of the NTR and BTA, and that the U.S will support Laos' bid to enter the World Trade Organization.
The Lao minister says that U.S.-Lao relations are better than ever before, but many areas need improvement. He says basic foundations for better relations exist but, to proceed, there should be no more suspicions nor mistrust between the two sides either at the government or private level. He invites U.S. officials as well as private citizens to visit Laos to better understand his country.
For more detail, listen to our Overseas Lao report for today, 2/3/05.