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Foreign Trade in Figures

Laos is not too open to foreign trade, which represents 36.4% of its GDP (WTO, 2018-2022 average). Although the country is implementing a process to open its economy, the state maintains restrictions on the import of certain goods such as chemical products and some types of medication. Timber and weapons cannot be exported, and special permits are required to export rice, rough diamond, gold and polished silver. Laos became a member of the WTO in February 2013. This membership was subject to the adoption of the commitments of the WTO, mainly setting a limit to customs duties, the partial or total opening of all sectors, respecting the regulations of the WTO regarding inspections before shipping and adopting anti-dumping measures. According to figures from ITC, Laos’ main exports by value are mineral fuels and oils (27.4%), pearls (10.9%), ores, slag and ash (10.5%), paper (8.8%), and vegetables (5.2%); whereas imports are led by mineral fuels (12%), electrical machinery (9.1%), vehicles (8.7%), pearls (8.7%), and live animals (7.3% - data 2021). Nevertheless, these statistics do not take into consideration the country’s main export, electrical energy: according to official governmental figures, Laos earned more than USD 1.76 billion from electricity export in 2022, up 7.5% from the previous year.

The country's most important trading partners are Thailand (35.6%), China (31.1%), Vietnam (11.6%), Australia (5.8%), and Cambodia (2.1%), with imports following a similar path: Thailand (41.4%), China (24.3%), Vietnam (14.5%), the U.S. (3.8%), and Switzerland (3.7% - ITC, 2021 – latest data available).

Laos has suffered a trade deficit for many years, but this trend had gradually reduced recently due to the steady growth of exports and the completion of infrastructure projects. According to figures from WTO, in 2021 the country exported USD 7.7 billion worth of goods (+25.8% y-o-y) and USD 125 million of commercial services (-63.8%), importing USD 6.2 billion (+16.8%) and USD 252 million (-43.2%), respectively, thus resulting in a positive trade balance for merchandise (reversing the usual trend) and in a negative one for services. Preliminary figures from the Lao Trade Portal show that the country’s export value was estimated at USD 8.19 billion in 2022, as imports were logged at USD 6.80 billion, resulting in a positive trade balance of USD 1.39 billion.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 6,3156,2725,3706,2757,244
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5,4085,8066,1157,6958,198
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,2491,246445252528
Exports of Services (million USD) 9851,179346125406
Trade Balance (million USD) -907-4667451,419n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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To go further, check out our service Import controls and Export Controls

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows

 
 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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List of tariffs and local taxes that apply to your product on our service Customs duties

 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
International Economic Cooperation
Member of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), AFTA and the ASEAN - China Free Trade Area.

 

Member of International finance corporation

Member of EAS (East Asia Summit)

Useful Resources
Laos Customs Department
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
Website of the Ministry of Industry and Trade
Go to this page to find the contact details of the intellectual property offices in Laos.
 
 
 

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Latest Update: November 2023