Vietnam’s Prime minister Pham Minh Chinh following his appointment as PM made his maiden two day visit to Laos. This visit also gains importance in the wake of accelerating economic growth and building economic ties between the two neighbours. Vietnam is one of the critical neighbours which have forced investment and trade relations with Laos and is keen to develop better networks so that Laos can utilise the port and shipping infrastructure facilities that Vietnam has been developing in its coastal provinces. Vietnam has been very supportive of its neighbours in terms of post pandemic recovery and has made efforts related to developing health infrastructure and providing critical supplies during the time of COVID-19 .
As the South East Asian countries have been working towards digitisation and therefore the two countries have signed an agreement on digital partnership. Further, the two sides have agreed to promote rail ,road ,civil aviation, energy grid and communication networks. The relationship also aspires to develop better international financial services, banking, and developing required infrastructure for promoting investment between the two countries. Vietnam has been one of the most prominent investors in Laos and has invested nearly US $5.34 billion in more than 238 projects. Interestingly, the primary destination for investment has been in telecommunications, financial institutions, energy, information technology and developing tourism to connect the two countries in a tourist circuit. Last year, the trade between the two countries have reached more than US $1.7 billion and is expected to follow the upward trajectory.
PM Chinh also met the general secretary of the Lao people’s revolutionary party and the president of the country . The two sides discussed possibilities of exploring and intensifying the solidarity and friendship year of 2022 and work on projects which can enhance the livelihood of the people and develop friendly ties between the people of the two countries. Interestingly, during the visit the Vietnamese PM Chinh also focused on projects related to legal field, skill enhancement in science and technology, cultural corporation, promoting tourism along the border areas and working for building comprehensive relationship between the two countries. It has been also seen that in the past meetings the two sides explored major areas of cooperation so as to promote socio economic development in both countries.
Vietnamese Prime Minister has inked 10 cooperation agreement with his Laotian counterpart particularly related to medicine and health digital technology, mutual legal assistance, education and knowledge, waterway transport, and developing skills in financial sector. Given the fact that Laos is a landlocked country therefore it has become important for Laos to explore the possibility of joint production and manufacturing with Vietnam and expand trade with other markets across Asia. The discussion between the two sides also focused on critical security issues and countering cross border drug crimes which has been signed last year during the visit of Vietnamese minister of public security and Laotian Deputy Prime Minister. Vietnam and Laos have work together to promote peace friendship, cooperation and development along the border areas and addressing major concerns related to terrorism, drug trafficking, apprehension of transnational criminals, addressing illegal migration and undertaking effective measures for addressing non traditional security threats. In the past also Vietnam and Laos have coordinated to raise issues in ASEAN and the United nations for promoting drug free Indochina and buttressing the multilateral stance on South China Sea issues.
In fact Vietnam and Laos are facing challenges because of thriving opium economy and last year Vietnamese police have seized nearly 300 kg of heroin, 2.7 kg of opium, and many million drug pills of synthetic drugs. The border land between Vietnam and Laos is about 2340 kilometre and closely monitoring the border for countering drugs and human trafficking is critical for the two sides.
The two sides have already signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation which celebrated 45 years of its existence in July 2022. As per the Vietnam foreign ministry the relationship between the two countries is one of the priority areas in Vietnam’s foreign policy and both Vietnam and Laos have maintained close economic relations right since the signing of Treaty in July 18, 1977. Vietnam has provided port facilities to Laos , and Laos has got privileges in the Vung Ang Port helping it to become major logistics hub in the Mekong sub region. Vietnam has invested heavily in hydropower, and in agriculture sector in Laos as well. Vietnam and Laos have been involved in a number of multilateral initiatives such as Asia- Europe meeting Greater Mekong Subregion and many others which have further enhanced their engagement. The two sides have been working on training of diplomats, promoting economic diplomacy, cultural interactions, and sharing best experiences in multilateral forums.
This visit by Vietnamese PM Chinh is seen from the point of view of rekindling the trust and faith that the two countries have towards each other and promoting economic growth and friendship between the two sides.