Diplomatic relations with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) were established in 1954 when Canada sent a resident delegation to Vientiane as a member of the International Commission for Supervision and Control designed to oversee the 1954 Geneva Agreement that formalized Lao independence from France. The Embassy of Canada in Bangkok has been accredited to Lao PDR since 1974. Assistance is available to Canadians through a consular services sharing agreement with the Australian Embassy in Vientiane. Lao PDR is represented in Canada by the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, located in Washington, D.C.
The Embassy of Canada in Bangkok offers trade and immigration services, in addition to managing political, economic, and cultural cooperation. Embassy staff visit Lao PDR regularly and engage with Lao officials on topics of mutual interest. Canada’s political objectives in Lao PDR include encouraging capacity building in the area of human rights and improving human security.
Canada and Lao PDR 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, the Canadian International Development Agency provides scholarships to support Lao citizens to pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees taught in French at Canadian universities and colleges.
Canada and Lao PDR also cooperate through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the security-oriented ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), demonstrating our shared interests in, and commitment to, Southeast Asia.
Canada continues to encourage Lao PDR 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. Since 1996 Canada has contributed over $3.7 million to the sector through the United Nations Development Programme. This includes $1 million contribution to UXO Lao, the Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme, in support of its clearance operations and risk education activities for 2011 and 2012. These funds will ensure that at least 2,900 hectares of priority land is cleared of UXO and that risk awareness activities are conducted in the nine most affected UXO provinces.
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. , including for UXO clearance, outreach and education. 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.
The links between our two peoples also contribute to the Canada-Lao relationship. In the 2006 Census, roughly 20,000 people living in Canada identified themselves as being of Lao origin. Canadian tourism to Lao PDR is increasing as are other opportunities for joint cooperation.
The Lao economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture but it has made progress towards establishing a more market-based economy. The country has a number of economic advantages, being situated in an area poised for strong growth and having recently increased access to millions of consumers through the infrastructure investments. IMF estimates suggest that GDP growth for 2011 was 8.3%, thereby establishing the Lao PDR as the fastest growing economy in the ASEAN region that year. The country also possesses abundant natural resources and is taking steps to ensure that they are exploited in a manner that best serves the interests of the nation.
Several Canadian firms are already active in Lao PDR, working on urban development, environmental, road construction and health care projects. Canadian merchandise exports amounted to $7.1 million in 2011 an increase of 153% over the previous year , while imports from Lao PDR were valued at $6.7 million that year. Lao PDR benefits from duty-free and quota-free access to Canada under the Least-Developed Country preferential tariff regime. In January 2012, a delegation from the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok led a trade mission to Vientiane. Consisting of Canadian companies seeking to make new inroads into one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing markets, the mission gave participants the opportunity to explore new commercial possibilities.
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