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Laos Accepted as New WTO Member
Source: asianewsnet.net
Source Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Focus: Internet Governance
Country: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Created: Nov 06, 2012

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has accepted Laos as a member after 15 years of negotiations, Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Nam Vinhaket announced yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference in Vientiane, Dr Nam said he had signed the WTO accession protocol and would submit it to the Lao National Assembly to consider and ratify at the end of this year. This would enable Laos to achieve full membership in the global trading body early next year.

“Laos will automatically become a full member when the National Assembly informs the WTO that it has ratified the protocol,” he said, adding that Laos has 180 days to complete the ratification process.

An official ceremony to accept Laos as a WTO member was held on October 26 in Geneva, Switzerland. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Thongloun Sisoulith attended the event along with Dr Nam and other Lao officials.

Dr Nam said that over the 15 years of negotiations with WTO, “we amended over 90 laws and regulations to meet WTO requirements”. This legislation would not only help Laos to integrate its economy with that of the international community but would also improve the domestic business climate.

According to the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, Laos has improved its business landscape this year thanks to government efforts to streamline the process of business registration along with import and export procedures.

“In a country like the Lao PDR, the accession process is not limited to changing some laws and regulations. We had to change our way of doing business. Indeed, such a mind change is a difficult and time-consuming exercise. Given the progress we have made, both institutionally, legally and in our mindset, 15 years actually seems a very short time,” Dr Thongloun said when speaking in Geneva.

“In that period, over 90 laws and regulations were enacted, including on trading rights, import licensing, customs valuation, investment, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and intellectual property rights.”

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said Laos had come a long way since it embarked on the road to membership in 1997.

“This is never easy for any least developed country, and Laos' first steps were slow. But it is now seriously reforming its economy and its institutions, and has shown skill in its membership negotiations.”

“The ability to strike the deal says much about Laos' own ability, the flexibility of WTO members who are now implementing a series of deci sions to speed up least developed countries' accession to the WTO, the technical assistance several of them have provided, and the invaluable mediation of the chair of the Working Party, Ambassador Yi Xiaozhun of China,” Lamy said.
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