The United States and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic met for the Fifth U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 3, 2014. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel and Vice Foreign Minister of Laos Bounkeut Sangsomsak co-chaired the meeting. The dialogue provided an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive discussion of bilateral and regional issues that reflected the expanding relationship. During the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced plans to provide USD $1.5 million to support a UNODC-implemented alternative development program to combat opium cultivation in Houaphan Province.
The delegations discussed matters including Laos’ forthcoming chairmanship of ASEAN in 2016, Laos’ progress in implementing trade and legal reforms, ongoing bilateral efforts to help resolve the problem of unexploded ordnance in Laos, and cooperation on a range of activities including health, counternarcotics, law enforcement, trafficking in persons, environmental protection, and ongoing efforts to resolve the cases of American personnel still missing in Laos from the Vietnam War period.
The U.S. side thanked the Lao Government for its active support for the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) and affirmed its commitment to further strengthen the LMI by focusing on core issues and programs that the member countries find valuable. The United States reiterated its offer of technical assistance to mitigate environmental and social effects of large infrastructure projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) initiative.
The United States congratulated the Lao Government for adopting a National Plan of Action to fight trafficking in persons, and reaffirmed its continued robust support for cooperation in the justice and legal sectors to combat human trafficking as well as narcotics and other illicit activities. The United States welcomed the positive trends in the bilateral relationship and opportunities to further expand cooperation and professional development opportunities for Lao officials. Both delegations look forward to continuing regular consultations on a broad range of issues, including at the next U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.