June 14, 2022
VIENTIANE – Bilateral ties between Laos and US have been elevated to a higher level since the two countries established a full Comprehensive Partnership in 2016.“I would say the US-Laos relationship is stronger than ever. I think it’s built steadily since President Obama visited Laos [in 2016],” Visiting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Vientiane Times in an exclusive interview that took place at the American Center in Vientiane last week.
“We have worked on full ranges of areas within that comprehensive bilateral relationship and have particular projects to move forward on.”
“We bilaterally work on a humanitarian basis to try to find the remains of service personnel missing in action and work together to remove unexploded ordnance, which is critical to the economic development of Laos.”
Ms Sherman outlined the key areas of cooperation that have expanded since former US President Barack Obama visited Laos in 2016 – the first trip to Laos ever made by a sitting American President, marking a historic milestone in Laos-US relations.
She said the cooperation between the two countries has broadened to cover areas of economic development, English language training, business development, and the fields of energy, climate and public health.
“We’re glad to help Laos during the horrible Covid-19 crisis, which has hit every country in the world. I can see that Laos is back on its feet and trying to build a strong future,” she said.
During the US-Asean Special Summit held in Washington last month, US President Joe Biden pledged to spend US$150 million on infrastructure, security, pandemic preparedness and other efforts in Southeast Asian countries.
Laos is set to benefit from this initiative through a number of projects.
“I think there will be a variety of projects [under the US$150-million initiative], but I think it will include scholarships, additional Fulbright, and English language training,” Ms Sherman said.
“Laos will benefit, of course, from what Asean does. I’m pleased to let you know that we have now decided to give US$45 million for unexploded ordnance clearance [this fiscal year]. This is more than we have given in any year. This will bring us to a total of US$240 million since 2016.”
Meanwhile, economic cooperation between the two countries has broadened.
The Coca-Cola Company, an American corporation, has a soft drink manufacturing plant in Laos, while US automobile maker Ford’s dealers in Laos have received a good response from customers throughout the country.
Two-way trade between Laos and the US reached US$130 million in 2020, and while it was smaller compared to other countries in the region, it grew by almost 100 percent compared to a decade ago.