Market profile

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 late 1980s.

Major trading partners include Thailand, China and Vietnam. Main exports are timber, mining commodities and hydroelectricity. Major imports include machinery, equipment and motor vehicles.

Economic reform

Over the last thirty years, Laos has made slow but steady progress in implementing reforms and building the institutions necessary for a market economy.

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.

Other facts

  • 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 1995.

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.

Key sections:

  • Why ASEAN matters to Australia
  • What’s driving growth
  • Opportunities by ASEAN market
  • Practical tips and assistance
  • Case studies.


  • Merchandise exports A$0.26 million
  • Services exports A$38 million
  • Capital Vientiane
  • Official language Lao
  • Area 230,800 sq km
  • Population 6.8 million

Information provided by DFAT

Country brief

A comprehensive overview of political, economic and bilateral and regional trade agreements.

» read more at DFAT

Trade and economic fact sheet

Containing general information, recent economic indicators, Australia’s trade and investment relationship with Laos and their global merchandise trade relationship that is updated twice a year.

» read more at DFAT


The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller site provides advice for business travellers and tourists going to Laos. This is regularly updated and should be checked before planning travel.

» read more at DFAT

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