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Trade accord with Laos signed

Manila Bulletin

Trade accord with Laos signed

2 ASEAN members hope to open investments GMA meets with visiting Prime Minister

By David Cagahastian

9 June 2007

The Philippines and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic signed yesterday an agreement on the promotion and protection of investments to increase bilateral trade that has remained low between the two members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The agreement was signed in Malacañang by Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Soulivong Daravong, president of the Planning and Investment Committee of the Laos government, after an expanded bilateral meeting between President Arroyo and visiting Laos Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh.

Favila said the agreement does not include any commitment for investments between the Philippines and Laos, but it would "pave the way for the first investment."

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the agreement on the mutual protection and promotion of investments is expected to increase the trade volume between the two countries which has remained minimal since they established diplomatic relations more than 50 years ago.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo and Bouphavanh would also discuss other issues concerning the ASEAN, like Myanmar’s shift to democracy and the continuing cooperation among ASEAN countries in the fight against terrorism.

"They are expected to discuss a range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including ASEAN, East Asian cooperation, regional security, subregional growth areas, counterterrorism and the possible expansion of bilateral trade and investments," Bunye said.

Though the balance of trade between the Philippines and Laos is skewed in favor of the Philippines, as the Philippines has not imported anything from Laos in the past two years, the trade volume between the two ASEAN countries has remained low.

In 2005, the Philippines’ total exports to Laos were valued only at 1,246. The Philippines’ top exports to Laos are consumer goods like rattan furniture, and printing and publishing materials. In 2006, total exports to Laos only reached 1,685 with the top exports being consumer goods and paper products, particularly cigarette tipping paper and cigarette paper.

Bouphavanh previously served as first deputy prime minister from October, 2003 until he was elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly in June, 2006.