Country Report Laos June 2009

Foreign trade and payments

Laos remains heavily dependent on Thailand as a market for its exports and as a source of imports. Recent data on trade with Thailand published by the Bank of Thailand (BOT, the Thai central bank) show that bilateral trade has been growing at a rapid pace. Thai imports from Laos rose by 30.3% in 2008, to US$612.6m, compared with a fall of 8.9% in 2007. However, Thai imports from Laos have been contracting on a year-on-year basis since October 2008, and in February 2009 shipments dropped to US$33m, the lowest level recorded since May 2007. In the first four months of 2009 Thai imports from Laos fell by 26.2% year on year to US$139.9m. The balance of bilateral trade remains in Thailand's favour, with Thai exports to Laos worth US$1.8bn in 2008, a rise of 35.5%. In January-April Thai exports to Laos fell by 12.3% to US$515.6m. (The BOT's trade data series do not appear to be consistent with the series published by the IMF, in that the latter may undervalue Laos's overall import bill.) In 2008 Laos benefited from strong demand in Thailand for minerals and timber, while the development of infrastructure projects in Laos pushed up demand for imports of construction materials and equipment. The trade figures so far this year have heightened concerns that Laos will not escape the impact of the global economic downturn.

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