China removes tariffs on Laos, but critics say barriers remain for Lao companies

China has agreed to eliminate tariffs on 97 percent of Lao goods, effectively making almost all Lao exports to China duty free, but sources in Laos are worried that the new trading rules only benefit China.

Unveiled following Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Laos in mid-October, Beijing’s Preferential Tariff Program will remove tariffs from 8,256 items starting Dec. 1. 

The ASEAN Briefing website said the new tariff status under China’s Least Developed Countries initiative was a big win for Laos, as it affords “plenty of room for export manufacturers in the smaller ASEAN economies to take advantage of the China market.”

Although the tariff reduction appears to help Lao producers and exporters on paper, Lao business owners say they fear unfair trade practices by Chinese companies will still give them advantages over Lao companies reports

“Access to the Chinese market will still be difficult for us. Our agricultural products like cows and buffaloes are not exportable to China,” the owner of a trucking company in Laos’ Luang Namtha province, in the northwest of the country on the border with China told RFA’s Lao Service Nov. 12.

“Up to 90 percent of Lao products that get exported to China are agricultural, like bananas, sugar cane, rubber and vegetables. These goods are produced by Chinese investors who come to Laos and lease land to grow these crops for direct export to China. Most products from Lao-owned operations are denied entry,” she said.


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