WTO membership unleashes Lao SMEs onto the world market

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) congratulated Laos on its recent acceptance and upcoming ratification as Asean's latest member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“This achievement opens the door to new opportunities for Lao businesses, especially small and me dium enterprises (SMEs),” ADB Country Director, Mr Chong Chi Nai, said at the 9th SMEs in a Global Economy Conference in Vientiane yesterday.

Participants from Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, India, Laos, and the ADB are attending the three day meeting which ends tomorrow.

“To fully capitalise on WTO membership benefits and access world markets, Lao businesses must grow and transform, become more competitive by developing their products, and increase their output,” Mr Chong Chi Nai said.

The Lao government has acknowledged the strategies, and has set out its development priorities in its Seventh National Socio-Economic Development Plan, which targets an annual 8 percent GDP growth and a GDP per capita of at least US$1,700 by 2015.

“To achieve these targets, the government is aware that SME development is critical for broad-based economic growth, in place of over reliance on the natural resources sector,” Mr Chong Chi Nai said.

This is reflected in the government's SME National Development Plan for 2012-2016 and the ADB's subsequent support.

“The ADB has been pleased to work with the Lao government over the past few years to help develop the private sector and SMEs,” Mr Chong C hi Nai said.

National University of Laos Vice President, Assoc. Prof. Dr Phetsamone Khounsavanth, said that in economic terms, the development of diverse and competitive SMEs is central to achieving sustainable economic growth in Laos, and will play an important role in th e country's poverty reduction.

The conference aims to provide useful knowledge to participants, including entrepreneurship research, training and development, entrepreneurial motivation and behaviour, research application, development of regional SMEs, and SME networking.

“The meeting should be regarded as a significant gathering for university academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, SME owners, policy makers, financial institutions, government agencies, consultants, and practitioners from not just the Asean region but from all over the world,” Dr Phetsamone said.

The National University of Laos' Faculty of Economics and Business Management is hosting the conference under the heading ‘Rising to the Global Challenge, Entrepreneurship and SME Development in Asia'.

The objective is to provide a platform where participants can discuss and analyse the prospects and challenges faced by regional SMEs in the wake of globalisation.

The SMEs in a Global Economy Conference was initiated in 2002 by the University of Wollongong, Australia

vientiane times

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