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Canada Eyes Economic Cooperation Potential

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Mining, energy, agriculture and forestry, as well as aerospace have been among the sectors that Canada has expressed cooperation interest in, seeking to boost ties and trade with Laos.

Canadian Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland revealed the Canadian intention in her exclusive interview with Vientiane Times and Lao National Television on Thursday during her visit to Laos and her attendance in the outgoing 48th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane.

“There are real opportunities in mining in Laos, which is an area of real expertise for Canadian companies. Laos is very involved in the energy sector where Canada also has a lot of expertise,” Ms Freeland said.

There is a lot of focus on infrastructure where Canada has expertise, in particular public and private partnerships in that space, according to the minister, who said aerospace is another possibility for cooperation as well as information technology.

Mentioning agriculture and forestry, the Canadian minister said that cooperation with her country would provide an opportunity for building high value-added agriculture as Canada has strength in this field.

She also made mention about forestry as an important sector for both Laos and Canada.

Laos and Canada established diplomatic relations in 1974. Canada opened its first resident diplomatic presence last September, through which until recently, relations were handled by the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

Since opening a diplomatic office space in Laos, the Canadian Ambassador to Thailand remains accredited to Laos, and the Lao Embassy in Washington, D.C., is responsible for relations with Canada.

Laos and Canada are partners in La Francophonie and also cooperate through ASEAN and the security oriented ASEAN Regional Forum. Approximately 25,000 persons of Lao origin live in Canada.

Ms Freeland said she was very excited about the Canadian relationship with Laos, as the two countries are now making a big push to grow and develop that relationship.

“We now have a diplomatic office here with resident Canadian diplomats, which is a first and an important foundation for developing the relationship going forward,” she said.

Bilateral trade between Laos and Canada amounted to US$29 million last year, an increase of four percent over the previous year. Canadian exports to Laos amounted to US$5.8 million, a decrease of 55 percent, primarily in machinery and mechanical appliances.

Meanwhile, imports from Laos were valued at US$23.7 million in the same year, an increase of 43.6 percent over the previous year. Chemical compounds such as silicon, apparel and clothing accessories make up 90 percent of merchandise imports from Laos.

The Canadian minister was impressed with Canadian investors here in Laos such as Celestica Laos, which she said employed 600 Lao workers.

Other Canadian companies include SN Plus and Hatfield Consulting, who are bringing investment and expertise to help promote economic growth.

Companies like Joma Café, not only operate successfully in Laos, but they demonstrate a strong ethic of social responsibility and a commitment to giving back to the country.

On the same day, Canadian Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland presided over a ceremony announcing US$13 million in support to progressive trade in Southeast Asia, aiming to help the most vulnerable workers in the region become more successful in business.

In partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development, Canada will support research, training and capacity building to help the governments of ASEAN members put small and medium- sized enterprise (SME) friendly policies and programmes in place and help to identify opportunities to integrate SMEs into global value chains.

Source: Vientiane Times