The WTO has formally agreed to Laos joining its ranks by 2013. The Southeast Asian country first applied to become a member of the WTO in 1997. According to Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Laos has taken strides since then to become a member by “seriously reforming its economy and its institutions.” Sisoulith commented on the accession process, stating that “we had to change our way of doing business.”

By joining the WTO, Laos has committed to certain obligations that will benefit U.S. manufacturers that export to Laos. As a “least developed country,” Laos has committed to:

  • "Bound” tariffs for goods for an average of 18.8 percent for all products—19.3 percent on average for agricultural products and 18.7 percent for the rest;
  • Increase market access in 10 sectors covering 79 sub-sectors including, but not limited to, business services, construction, private education, hospital services, tourism, and air transport; and
  • Protect intellectual property to comply fully with the WTO TRIPS Agreement by December 31, 2016.