（Written by Li Min / Translated by Chen Zhiying）In recent years, on the basis of political mutual trust, Laos and China have increasingly close economic and trade exchanges. In 2019, the total bilateral trade between China and Laos reached US$ 3.92 billion, with a year-on-year increase of nearly 13%. China has become the largest investment country in Laos. In the middle of the 2019 China-Laos Tourism Year, more than 1 million Chinese tourists have visited Laos. Laos-China relations are in the best period in history,” said H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh, Lao ambassador to China, who came to attend the 17th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) as an important representative of Laos on the spot, in an interview with the media.
In the interview, H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh not only spoke highly of the CAEXPO, but also answered questions from reporters over the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) and “anti-epidemic efforts”.
“President Xi’s remark boasts rich connotation and historical significance”
H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh said that the CAEXPO not only makes positive contributions to promoting economic and trade exchanges and cooperation between China and ASEAN, but also provides a good opportunity for strengthening political mutual trust between the two sides and a platform for China-ASEAN people to understand each other. “Especially in terms of political system, although ASEAN countries have different political systems, through the CAEXPO, all countries can seek common ground while reserving differences, because peace and development are our common ideals and goals,” said H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh.
At the 17th CAEXPO, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an important remark online. H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh, who was listening to the speech on the spot, was encouraged.
“I think President Xi Jinping’s remark has rich connotation and historical significance, which left a deep impression on me. In his remark, President Xi not only said that China would, as always, support ASEAN’s central position in East Asia cooperation, but also that China would continue to promote the development of relations with ASEAN and bring stability and prosperity to the world and the region,” said H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh. She also said:” I am also fully aware that ASEAN and China have made remarkable development achievements in the economic and trade area, laying a good foundation for us to enhance mutual trust in politics. President Xi also put forward a lot of suggestions for the future development of both sides, and firmly believed that the future cooperation between ASEAN and China would have a good prospect.”
CAFTA: Assisting the development of small and medium sized enterprises in Laos
2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the CAFTA. “In the past 10 years, CAFTA has not only enhanced the trade partnership between ASEAN and China, but also benefited Laos as a member of ASEAN, and promoted the economic and trade cooperation between Laos and China to a new height. Small and medium-sized enterprises in Laos, in particular, have obtained circulating capital through the CAFTA and greater impetus to enter the Chinese market,” said H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh.
H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh expressed her sincere hope that China and ASEAN would continue to promote the development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation, especially to implement the contents of the upgraded Protocol of the CAFTA, promote the cooperation of small and medium-sized enterprises between China and ASEAN, and facilitate the exchange of logistics, capital and personnel, making positive efforts to reach the goal of China-ASEAN trade volume of US$ 1 trillion and mutual investment of US$ 150 billion.
Cooperation between China and Laos benefits local people’s livelihood
“China has a lot of investment projects in Laos. Among them, the investment in infrastructure construction, such as the Lao-China Railway, and the repair and improvement project of Laos No. 13 National Road, will provide positive support for improving the transportation convenience of Laos.” She also said that from December 1, 2020, China would, in accordance with its commitment of zero-tariff treatment to 97% tariff products of the least developed countries, apply the preferential zero tariff to 97% products originating in Laos. “This will contribute to the economic and social development of Laos,” said H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh.
In 2020, the epidemic brought new challenges to the world. In terms of epidemic prevention and control, Laos and China and the two governments support each other. China provided Laos with a large amount of aid and financial support at the first moment of the outbreak, and sent relevant expert teams to Laos. On February, 2020, Laos, as the co-chairmen of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism, held the Fifth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Laos and the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), providing a platform for ASEAN to prevent the epidemic, together with China.
In addition, Laos also actively cooperates with China to promote the orderly resumption of work and production. The two sides have opened a fast track for personnel exchanges and logistics transportation, which will facilitate the construction of large projects in China, such as the China-Laos Railway, the China-Laos Expressway (Vientiane to Vang Vieng section), and ensure that these projects are completed on schedule. “In 2021, the completion of the China-Laos Railway will transform Laos from a “land-lock country” to a “connectivity hub”, and achieve connectivity between the various economies in the region. Although the current epidemic has brought some obstacles to the construction of China-Laos cooperation projects, H.E. Khamphao Ernthavanh is full of expectations for the future of the project cooperation.
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama