VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Leading Lao and Chinese business operators are mulling ways to strengthen business partnerships to better tap the potential offered by the Laos-China railway and closer regional economic integration.
Business leaders from the two countries met in Vientiane on Friday (Aug 25) to discuss the possibility of joint investment projects along the railway, especially in relation to logistics, agriculture, tourism and industry.
President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), Mr Oudet Souvannavong, said Lao business operators are keen to cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in projects linked to the railway.
“The LNCCI is currently conducting a feasibility study on the construction of industrial parks in Vientiane and the provinces of Oudomxay and Borikhamxay to maximise the benefits offered by the Laos-China railway,” he said.
Despite global economic challenges, trade and economic cooperation between Laos and China continues to grow, largely due to the railway, which came into operation at the end of 2021.
China is the largest foreign investor in Laos and a key trading partner. Chinese companies have invested in more than 920 development projects valued at more than US$13 billion, in all sectors of the economy.
The value of trade between the two neighbours reached US$15.9 billion between 2018 and 2022, representing an average annual increase of 15.63 per cent.
The Laos-China railway is part of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The railway not only enhances trade and investment cooperation between Laos and China, but also serves to boost regional economic growth.
Speaking at the meeting, the Mayor of Vientiane Dr Athsphangthong Siphandone said China is the biggest foreign investor in Vientiane, with most investing companies based in Yunnan province.
“The Laos-China railway, the Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway and other infrastructure developments create a strong foundation for the growth of the economy, trade and tourism in Vientiane and Laos as a whole,” he said.
But Dr Athsphangthong also said Laos needs to attract more foreign investment, particularly from China, to boost production so that more goods can be manufactured both for domestic supply and export, which would reduce the volume of imported goods.
The Vientiane Mayor said the government is promoting light industry and the building of modern factories that use environmentally friendly production methods.
“We encourage the development of modern logistics systems, tourism, and tourism related services in order to attract more visitors to Laos,” he said.
The Mayor invited Chinese businesses to invest in Laos and explore the potential offered by the Laos-China railway.
The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry has set up a committee to facilitate Lao-Chinese business partnerships as part of regional economic integration.