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Laotian Minister: Laos Full of Opportunities For Korean Investors

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Laotian Planning and Investment Minister Souphanh Keomixay said Thursday, the Southeast Asian country seeks to strengthen economic ties with Korea through investments from private sectors. He said the Laotian economy has the potential to follow the Korean economy’s development model.

In an interview with The Korea Times, the minister stressed that there are potentials and strengths in the Laotian economy which can benefit Korean investors.

“We know that Korean investors have rich experience in doing business in agriculture, tourism and other industrial sectors, especially electronics,” Keomixay said. He is visiting Korea to attend the Investment and Business Environment Seminar on Lao PDR hosted by the ASEAN-Korea Centre at the Plaza Hotel in central Seoul.

“Laos has a very good geographical location, bordering five countries — Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and China. Around us is a big market. Investors can enjoy benefits coming from the great market accessibility, high demand there, as well as rich natural resources in Lao PDR.”

Despite Korea being the fourth largest investor to Laos, trailing China, Thailand and Vietnam, Laos takes a relatively small portion in Korea’s overseas trading, being the 103rd largest exporting partner and the 113th largest partner in importing. The trade volume between Korea and Laos amounted to $198 million at the end of last year, with the former mostly exporting cars and auto parts, and importing timbers and potassium fertilizers. There are 329 Korean investors registered with the government, according to the minister.

To erase the stigma that Laos is “one of the least developed countries,” the Laotian government recently set its 8th five-year National Development Plan. In this, the country seeks three goals of maintaining sustainable growth at no less than 7.5 percent in real GDP on average, nurturing human resources down the road and developing infrastructure to facilitate investment, the minister said. He added that some $3 billion is required every year as development capital from the private sector.

“In its early phase of development after the Korean War, the country had a low-level of development based on agriculture,” he said. “However, it made a successful transition into an advanced industrial country, thanks to human resources. We can learn from such an experience and apply it to the Laotian economy.”

The minister cited the case of NongHyup, Korea’s nationwide agricultural cooperative federation. “Its logistics system is very organized, playing a key role by buying agricultural products from farmers, processing them and supplying to customers in cities.”

The seminar drew keen interest from business communities here as it came amid the ASEAN Summit scheduled for next week in Laos. President Park Geun-hye will pay a visit and have a meeting with her Laotian counterpart Bounnhang Vorachit to discuss future cooperation between Korea and Laos.

After the meeting, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and Laos’ Ministry of Planning and Investment signed an MOU on a strategic framework for bilateral cooperation to help Laos’s five-year National Development Plan.

Source: The Korea Times