Laos embassy reopening in UK gives impetus to rebuilding of relations

The Pha That Luang Temple in Vientiane. Photo by Bart van Poll via www.flickr.com/photos/bartvanpoll/

Laos embassy reopening in UK gives impetus to rebuilding of relations

03/11/14

By David Cowell

Asia House will host a key ceremony today to mark the formal reopening of the embassy of ASEAN member Laos in London.

Some 50 ASEAN heads of mission and Asia House Corporate Members will attend the event which follows the re-establishment in 2012 of the UK embassy in Laos after a 27-year gap as part of Britain’s drive to build stronger commercial and political ties with Asia.

Laos Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Thongloun Sisoulith will formally reopen the embassy at the Asia House ceremony which will also be attended by Britain’s Minister of State Hugo Swire.

While bilateral trade between the UK and Lao People’s Democratic Republic is small, Britain sees signs of increasing British business in the south-east Asian nation and has initiated a British Business Group, working with UK companies already present in the market and reaching out to UK companies in the region.

“We recognise that there are challenges in the business environment here, and we are assisting the Lao government in areas such as trade facilitation,” Britain’s ambassador to Laos, Philip Malone, wrote on his blog page.

UK goods exports to Laos increased by approximately 20 percent to £3.98 million in 2013, compared with the previous year. Lao exports to the UK increased by 9 percent £42 million over the same period.

The largest UK investor in Laos is currently Imperial Tobacco, which owns a minority stake in Lao Tobacco. Other popular British brands include Land Rover and Range Rover cars, JCB construction vehicles (both franchised through RMA group), and financial services companies such as Standard Chartered Bank, KPMG and PwC.

Tourists are also being attracted to Laos in growing numbers, drawn by its pristine environment, historical sites and backpacking opportunities.

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David Cowell is a freelance journalist working for Asia House.