Laos is a communist party country and is the only landlocked ASEAN country,
bordering Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, and China.
Laos became independent in 1953, but only adopted market reforms in the
Major trading partners include Thailand, China and Vietnam. Main exports
are timber, mining commodities and hydroelectricity. Major imports include
machinery, equipment and motor vehicles.
Over the last thirty years, Laos has made slow but steady progress in
implementing reforms and building the institutions necessary for a market
It has attempted to promote trade within the Greater Mekong Sub-region and
to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to support infrastructure
development, especially hydropower projects.
Laos gained full WTO membership in 2013 and has concluded many free trade
agreements, including FTAs with China, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Japan.
As an ASEAN member, Laos is also part of the ASEAN Economic Community
(AEC), which was launched in 2015.
Laos’ GDP reached $15.9 billion in 2016. The Lao population was
6.6 million in 2016. A majority of the population is employed in agriculture,
mostly in small scale farming.
The Lao population is young, with more than half under 25 years
of age and 70 per cent under 35.
China, Vietnam and Thailand have dominant trade and investment
roles in the Lao economy.
Trade relationship with Australia
Australia's total merchandise trade
with Laos stood at $35 million in 2014 to 2015, with Australian goods exported to
Laos valued at $31 million. Major Australian exports include pumps for liquids
and pump parts, taps, valves, civil engineering equipment and parts. During
2014 to 2015, merchandise imports from Laos was dominated by clothing and jewellery,
totaling $4 million.
The dynamo in the economic relationship has been investment in mining. Australian-owned and managed mining companies have a strong record in Laos. They contribute to government revenue, environmental management, workplace health and safety, community development work and skills training for their predominantly local Lao workers and managers.
Australian businesses also have a
presence in banking, tourism, and legal services. An agreement on the promotion
and protection of investment between Australia and Laos has been in place since
More information on doing business in Laos
ASEAN NOW – Insights for Australian Business
A digital report on Australia’s trade and investment relationship with ASEAN.
- Why ASEAN matters to Australia
- What’s driving growth
- Opportunities by ASEAN market
- Practical tips and assistance
- Case studies.