China and Laos pledge to deepen trade, diplomatic ties

Updated: September 13, 2021 Source: China Daily
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Aerial photo taken on June 15, 2021 shows the Phonethong bridge under construction in Vientiane, Laos. [Photo/CREC-5/Handout via Xinhua]

As Laos and China mark the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, officials and business heavyweights from both countries are committed to building the Laos-China community with a shared future.

Sonexay Siphandone, deputy prime minister and minister of planning and investment of Laos, said the two countries have formed a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, and Laos has been working to attract investment to transform the landlocked country into a land-linked one.

Sonexay made the remarks at a roundtable dialogue with Chinese CEOs held both online and offline during the 18th China-ASEAN Expo and the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, which kicked off on Friday in Nanning, capital of China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Khampheng Saysompheng, Laos' minister of industry and commerce, said the China-Laos railway project is a good example of bilateral cooperation that will enhance the connectivity between Laos and other countries in the region.

He made the remarks at the China-Laos Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum on Thursday.

Other projects include the completed Vientiane-Vang Vieng section of the Laos-China expressway, the flagship Laos-China railway project under the Belt and Road Initiative, the Boten Special Economic Zone and the Vientiane Saysettha Development Zone.

Khampheng said bilateral cooperation and friendship have continuously deepened over the past 60 years.

Ren Hongbin, China's vice-minister of commerce, said China is willing to enhance bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Laos.

"China will provide assistance to the Lao economy within its capacity, supporting Laos to fight against the pandemic and encouraging more investment in Laos," Ren said.

China is Laos' biggest investor, undertaking 815 projects worth more than $16 billion from 1989 to July this year, according to Sonexay.

Timely support

Despite the pandemic disruption, China continued to invest in 21 projects in Laos last year, with total investment reaching $2.5 billion. Projects were in the mining, services, electricity, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.

Sonexay thanked China for its timely and effective support to Laos during the pandemic, including sending expert teams, medical equipment and vaccines to the country.

Laotian officials had discussions with company representatives of China Southern Power Grid, China Datang Corporation, China-ASEAN Information Harbor Co, China State Construction Engineering Corporation and China Railway International Co. They exchanged ideas on investment policies and intention, promoting projects worth $9.3 billion in infrastructure, electricity, and digital economy.

CAIH Chairman and CEO Lu Dongliang said the company is carrying out nearly 20 projects related to the digital economy in Laos and other ASEAN countries.

"CAIH has established the first cloud computing center in Laos jointly with the Lao Asia Pacific Satellite Co," said Lu.

"Through our partners in Laos, we have provided support in consultation and technology to the instant message system of the Lao government, improving its operation through digitalization."

Huge potential

Gao Yan, chairperson of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said direct investment by Chinese enterprises in Laos increased 8.9 percent year-on-year to $1.24 billion last year. Bilateral trade between the two countries rose 48.1 percent from the previous year in the first half of 2021, reaching $2.3 billion.

Lan Tianli, governor of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said the region hopes to deepen its cooperation with Laos.

"Bilateral trade between Guangxi and Laos increased by 2.7 times in 2020 and 2.3 times in the first half of this year, showing huge potential for growth," Lan said.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc that includes Laos.

Editor: 杨倩