AALEP has entered into a Protocol of Cooperation with the European Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lao PDR (ECCIL). Under this Protocol AALEP joins ECCIL as an Associate Member and reciprocally ECCIL joins AALEP as an Associate Member. It should be pointed out that Associate Membership does not confer any right for either organization to vote at annual meetings but it does provide entitlement to participate in meetings, events, projects and programmes.

AALEP will help co-ordinate and promote the representation of ECCIL to the EU institutions and act as ECCIL's Brussels antenna/liaison office to optimize the communication channel to EU political and economic institutions. In particular AALEP will reinforce ECCIL's issues through direct lobbying efforts at the EU and Member State level as well as assist LAO in WTO accession. Conversely, ECCIL will help co-ordinate and promote the representation of AALEP to the Lao authorities and Lao companies and act as AALEP's Lao antenna/liaison office to optimize the communication channel to the Lao political and economic institutions. ECCIL wil be AALEP's sole official representative for any activities, interactions and projects in Lao, however, both organizations will remain fully independent entities.

As the Lao government addresses governance and corruption with a special focus on the public service, public participation, rule of law and public finance, ECCIL with the support of AALEP will extend its assistance to the Lao authorities and  provide relevant training in public affairs for individuals and groups with a view to enhance good governance and democracy.

Laos known as the "Land of a Million Elephants" is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia with a population of over 6 million. The elephant symbolizes the ancient kingdom of Lan Xang and is sacred to the Lao people who believe it will bring prosperity to their country. Laos is bordered by China to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, Thailand to the west and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to the nothwest.

The reason for taking a closer look at Laos is the strategic location of the country and its economic development over the recent years which has been impressive by many standards. Being increasingly land linked by bridges and plans of additional railways to neighbouring countries, Laos commands a crucial area between the emerging economy of THailand, the densely populated costal lowlands of Vietnam and factory agglomerations of Southern China.

GDP growth is forecast to 7.8% in 2012 making Laos one of the fastest growing economuies of the world and the Lao Government has set the goal to be removed of the UN list of Least Developed Countries by 2020. About half of Laos impressive growth rate can be attributed to the resource sector, in particular to hydropower generation and mining which means predominantly unearthing copper and gold ore. Laos is a net exporter of electricity, frequently labeled the "battery of South East Asia". But there is more to the Lao economy than its wealth of minerals, abundance of forests and huge untapped hydropower potential. Construction is booming, the garment industry with about 28,000 employees the biggest manufacturing industry of the country, is expected to see an export growth of about 15 to 20% in 2012. In the service sector tourism, transport and retailing are expected to expand considerably.

Lao merchandise exports are forcast to rise by about 25% in value in 2012. Exports of clothing and farm products, too, are projected to increase. Imports of machinery and materials for new projects are expected to pick up in 2012.

While Laos benefits from an almost unrestricted access to the EU market it is the only ASEAN nation which is not yet member of the WTO. BUt this is expected to change in the not too distant future since the country is in the final stages of the negotiation process for the accession. The results will be far reaching, boost trade facilitation and improve conditions for investments. Already now the People's Democratic Republic welcomes foreign investment in almost any sector, allows the full repatriation of profits, gives taxe incentives etc. The investment conditions will most likely improve further with the setting up of an impressive number of Special Economic Zones which are currently in different stages of planning and approval.

Currently, most foreign direct investments in the country come from China, Viet Nam and Thailand. But recent developments show, that there is a good business potential for European companies. Hydropower, tourism, garment industry, environmentally friendly CDM (Clean Development) projects, food technology are just a few examples of successful European business activities.

Indeed, AALEP welcomes the opportunity to work closely with the ECCIL and contribute to the growth of Lao PDR


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