Bilateral relations between Canada and Laos, or Laos, were established in 1954 with the formalization of Lao independence from France. The Embassy of Canada in Bangkok has been accredited to Laos since 1974. Laos is represented in Canada by the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, located in Washington, D.C. Assistance is available to Canadians in Laos through a consular services sharing agreement with the Australian Embassy in Vientiane.
The Embassy of Canada in Bangkok offers trade and immigration services, in addition to managing political, economic, and cultural cooperation. Embassy staff visit Laos regularly and engage with Lao officials on topics of mutual interest. Canada’s political objectives in Laos include encouraging capacity building in the area of human rights and improving human security.
Canada continues to encourage Laos to accede to the Ottawa Convention banning antipersonnel landmines, as unexploded ordnance (UXO) continues to affect the lives of its citizens and presents a serious obstacle to development. During his visit to Laos in October, 2013, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird announced $1 million in new funding for projects to clear UXOs, bringing Canada’s total contributions in this area to $2.1 million. The Canadian Government was the first donor to contribute to the UXO Trust Fund, established in 2010 to support the full implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Canada also funded a community-based rehabilitation project aimed at increasing the Lao government’s capacity to provide for the basic needs of UXO survivors.
Canada and Laos are partners in l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, which is dedicated to the goals of promoting peace, cooperation, and sustainable development. Our shared membership allows us to work together to celebrate and support the international French-speaking community. In 2007, Canada participated in the 65th Permanent Council of la Francophonie and the 23rd Ministerial Conference, which was hosted by Laos. Through the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program Canada provides scholarships to support Lao citizens to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees taught in French at Canadian universities and colleges.
Canada also cooperates with Laos as a Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Both countries are also members of the security-oriented ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
The links between our two peoples also contribute to the Canada-Laos relationship. In the 2006 Census, roughly 20,000 people living in Canada identified themselves as being of Lao origin. Canadian tourism to Laos is increasing as are other opportunities for joint cooperation.
Canada-Laos Commercial Relations
Laos’ economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture but the country has made some recent progress towards establishing a more market-based economy. On February 2, 2013, Laos was granted full membership in the WTO and became the last country in the Southeast Asian region to officially join the organization. Laos’ real gross domestic product (GDP) growth has averaged more than 7.9% per annum since 2006 (from a small base) and forecasts project strong growth in 2013 as indicated by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) estimate of 8.3%. The country possesses abundant natural resources and aims to become a road and rail junction between China and Southeast Asia.
Several Canadian firms are already active in Laos, working on urban development, environmental, extractive sector and health care projects. Canadian merchandise exports amounted to $9.5 million in 2012, an increase of 34.6% over the previous year, while imports from Laos were valued at almost $10.0 million for the same year. In January 2012, the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok led a trade mission to the Laotian capital of Vientiane. Thirteen Canadian companies already active in the Southeast Asian region participated in the mission.
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