U.S. Supports Launch of Lao Single Window Roadmap

Vientiane – Lao, ASEAN and U.S. officials concluded a workshop concluded today by launching a roadmap for establishing a Lao National Single Window for faster customs clearance and linking it to the ASEAN Single Window. The U.S. Government sponsored the workshop in partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Lao Customs Department, and the Ministry of Finance.  U.S. Ambassador to Laos Karen Stewart and visiting U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden both attended the opening of the meeting.

The objectives of the workshop were to present and discuss a roadmap for developing the Lao NSW and seek input and feedback from government agencies and the private sector. The workshop was an opportunity to ensure a common understanding among key agencies and private sector stakeholders of the various trade facilitation initiatives in Laos and to ensure that they are well coordinated and responsive to the private sector’s needs.

Vice Minister of Finance Santiphab Phomvihane, attending the launch, noted that “Lao PDR is committed to the success of the ASEAN Single Window initiative, which aims to increase trade and ease of doing business among ASEAN countries and with partners outside ASEAN.  Lao PDR will fulfill its commitments to develop a National Single Window that can support the greater ASW effort.”

Laos and other ASEAN member states have agreed to establish their National Single Windows by 2012 and to link them subsequently to the ASEAN Single Window to further integrate the region’s economies and promote competitiveness. The ASEAN Single Window is a cornerstone of establishing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

“It is heartening to see Lao PDR take this important step towards both faster economic growth and increased integration within ASEAN,” said U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden, speaking during the opening ceremony. “The United States is pleased to support this and other trade facilitation programs in ASEAN, which we believe will help ASEAN reach its goal of a stable, prosperous, and competitive economic community by 2015.”

The World Bank Doing Business Survey ranks Lao PDR 170 out of 183 economies in its “Trading Across Borders” indicator. The survey shows that it takes a Lao trader 48 days on average to conclude an export transaction and 50 days for an import transaction, while the ASEAN average is 21 days for both indicators. Through a National Single Window, traders electronically submit forms for export, import, and transit procedures only once, and they are processed and cleared by multiple government agencies in an integrated process. As a result, time and cost savings for business are substantial.

ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Economic Community, Sundram Pushpanathan, added that while several ASEAN Member States have made substantial strides in establishing their respective National Single Windows (NSWs), “it is just as critical to ensure that others who are now launching their NSW programs, like Lao PDR, are also taking steps to realize the advantages when the ASEAN Single Window comes online.”

This assistance expands on existing U.S. support to the Government of Laos since 2008 to modernize and adapt its legal system and economic policies to meet the requirements for joining the World Trade Organization, implementing its bilateral trade agreement with the U.S., and meeting its obligations under the ASEAN Economic Community.