October 09, 2017

The Lao Trade Story

Title:  The Lao Trade Story - Implementing Trade Policy and Trade Facilitation Reforms in Lao PDR
By:  World Bank
Publisher/Year:  World Bank, 2016
Cost:  Free

The Lao Trade Story - Implementing Trade Policy and Trade Facilitation Reforms in Lao PDR

Summary from World Bank:
In 2015, Lao PDR is virtually unrecognizable from what it was just a decade ago. A more open, more outward trade landscape has transformed the country from a closed-off backwater into a fast-growing developing country, complete with coffee shops, restaurants, and billboards lining the streets of what is now a much busier and more lively Vientiane. Rural-urban migration is underway as non-agricultural opportunities are on the rise. Importers and exporters are experiencing an increasing level of government transparency. Customs operations are nearly fully automated and border clearance times have been drastically reduced. As a crowning achievement—and after 15 years of negotiations, Lao PDR is now a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), with its eyes set on establishing itself as an equal partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community (AEC).

The situation has improved to such an extent that the country has become a model for other Least Developed Countries (LDCs) undertaking trade reform. Optimism is in the air, and reformers know that having come so far there is still a tremendous amount to be done. Within the context of a complex and largely incomplete transition from a planned to a market economy, the strides taken by the Lao government in the relatively niche area of trade policy reform and trade facilitation merit attention.

The country still has many visceral challenges to overcome. Trade reform is much less visible, quite often not a front-page story, and rarely capable of changing people’s fortunes overnight. Rather, it is a process of deliberate, subtle changes that over time provide the atmosphere for a country to bloom, and Lao PDR is blooming. Understanding the scope and scale of reform that has occurred in order for the country to reach this point is not always easy. Without looking back over the last few years, without peering deeper into the structures that have changed, it is possible to miss just how remarkable this story truly is.

Table of Contents:
  • Introduction
  • The origins of trade reform in Lao PDR
  • Promoting the trade facilitation agenda
  • The Lao Trade Portal pushes into new territory
  • Customs reforms
  • Addressing labour needs in manufacturing - Garment Skills Development Centre
  • Sustainability: Lao Government takes the reins
  • The second TDF project sets its sights on the private sector
  • What can other client countries learn from the Lao trade program?
  • Leadership can be learned
  • Empowering youth mobilizes implementation
  • An effective institutional structure is important, but don’t wait for the perfect solution
  • Embedding international consultants with national counterparts has its benefits
  • What can development partners learn from the Lao trade program?
    - Identifying and empowering reform champions is essential
    - Donor participation in a pooled approach encourages them to "speak with one voice"
    - The goal is to support, not to impose
    - Continuity of support goes a long way, and upfront technical investment in the design of activities pays dividends
  • Moving toward the future
Download link:  World Bank

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