U.S. Embassy, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and GIZ Host the Third Lao Digital Forum

VIENTIANE, Lao PDR – The United States Embassy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, hosted the Third Lao Digital Forum on December 14, 2018. The forum focused on opportunities for e-commerce in Lao PDR and how to best encourage its growth. It was chaired by Minister of Industry and Commerce Khemmani Pholsena, U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter, and German Ambassador Jens Peter Lütkenherm. More than a hundred and fifty representatives from government ministries, private firms, domestic and foreign business leaders, and non-governmental organizations attended.

In her opening remarks, Minister Khemmani noted that e-commerce is part of the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 Blue Print, and highlighted the Lao government’s goal of establishing a legal framework for e-commerce in the coming year.  “We are focused on two matters,” she said.  “The first is we want our domestic producers and service providers to engage in a bigger market, and second, to enable our domestic consumers to access more products and services.”

Ambassador Bitter emphasized the strong potential of e-commerce in Laos when she said,
“E-commerce creates jobs and increases economic efficiency.  Perhaps most importantly,
e-commerce can help narrow rural-urban development gaps while fostering more inclusive economic growth across Laos.”

“Electronic trade is a growing phenomenon both globally as well as in the ASEAN region,” stated German Ambassador Jens Peter Lütkenherm, noting that electronic trade “has the potential to lower the costs of trade for exporters in the Lao PDR and reduce prices for consumers.”

The forum featured panel discussions on the role of e-commerce in driving economic development, as well as the policies needed to grow the digital economy. Panelists highlighted the importance of e-commerce to sustaining Laos’ economic growth and discussed the need for improved government coordination, especially with respect to consumer protection, taxation, and cross-border trade.

This is the third Lao Digital Forum hosted by the U.S. Embassy in 2018 in partnership with the Lao government, with the previous two forums focused on the digital economy and financial technologies (fintech).  The digital economy, of which e-commerce in one component, is widely viewed as having great potential to promote inclusive economy growth in the Lao PDR and increase economic integration with ASEAN and the world economy.

The Third Lao Digital Forum was funded by the United States Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Lao PDR-U.S. International and ASEAN Integration (LUNA II) project, with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH GIZ’s Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) project. The United States helps Laos and other ASEAN countries further integrate into the global economy by supporting and implementing sound, modern, transparent, and inclusive economic policies and regulations.