Sweden comes up with ideas to boost Lao exports

Sweden and Laos celebrated forty years of diplomatic relations with a range of activities, formal as well business oriented, in the Lao capital Vientiane 11-12 October.
     “I am happy to see so many Swedish and Lao participants here,” said Sweden’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ms Annika Söder when she opened a business seminar on the 12th. ”Sweden is a strong supporter of free trade and we notice an increasingly opened market in Laos over the last few years. Our companies and the Swedish government can cooperate in many areas with Lao PDR,” continued Annika Söder.
     In Vientiane Sweden introduced a brand new service for developing countries entering the Swedish market: Open Trade Gate Sweden.
     “There are many rules and regulations unique for Sweden, even if we are a member of the EU, and that sometimes create unnecessary problems for exporters who like to trade with us,” explained Ms Elisabeth Dahlin, Acting Director General of the National Board of Trade in Sweden.
     To counter this obstacle has Sweden introduced a one-stop-shopping service called Open Trade Gate Sweden, under the management of the National Board of Trade.
     Questions will be answered within two days, promised Elisabeth Dahlin.
     “It can be issues regarding trade rules and regulations, problem solving or questions about Swedish and EU trade policies. No matter what, we are the single channel to contact and we will make sure that you receive a reply within 48 hours, ” assured Elisabeth Dahlin. “By introducing this service we want to increase imports to Sweden.”
     Open Trade Gate Sweden is introduced in details, including all proper contact information, at the Board of Trade website http://www.kommers.se/page_disp.asp?node=5
     Laos´ government is currently trying to get a revised and improved foreign investment legislation passed in the National Assembly, revealed Mr Siasovath Savengsuksa, Vice Minister of Commerce, during the seminar, and drew up the broad lines of Lao PDR´s economic goals for the future.
     “Poverty eradication is a high priority in Laos,” said the Vice Minister and explained that sustained economic growth is the way to achieve this goal.
     “Laos aims to have an annual economic growth of 7.2 percent and if that is sustained we will reach our goal by 2010.”
     Swedish industry is very well positioned to enjoy the new investment regulations, which will include a three level company tax – 10,15 and 20 percent – and different tax holidays depending on where in Lao PDR the investment is made.      Obviously upcountry investments will receive the most favorable terms. The current 1 percent import tax on raw material used in foreign production plants will also be scrapped in the new law.
     “Although our foreign investment laws are general in nature we have some priorities where foreign investment is most welcome. These industries are energy, mining, agriculture and forestry, tourism, construction material and light industry, “ said Mr Vilayvong Bouddakham, Deputy Director General of the Department for Domestic and Foreign Investment, DDFI.
     The Swedish Federation of Trade, Svensk Handel, proposed a new venture, which if successful will benefit both countries, during the seminar.
     Ms Christina af Klint from Svensk Handel will together with Industrial Design Professor Mr Johan Huldt from the University College Borås spend the next few days in Laos searching suitable Lao handicraft which will be introduced to Swedish designers at home.
     The idea is then to let the Swedish designers have a look at the handicraft and suggest adaptations and design ideas that make the products ideal for a Swedish consumer.
     This new design will then be brought back to Laos and introduced in the production and soon thereafter generate a range of products exported to Sweden.
     “It is about adding a touch of Swedish/European look and feel, not more, to the uniquely Lao handicraft. Our timeframe is to begin production in Laos during the spring 2005 and introduce the handicraft at Design Year 2005 in Sweden,” said Christina af Klint.
     A concept that Laos´ Vice Minister of Commerce Siasovath Savengsuksa rapidly encouraged when he handed Sweden’s Deputy Foreign Minister Annika Söder her farewell gift, a nicely embroidered piece of Lao cloth to sweep over the shoulders
     “See the empty space here?” asked the Minister and held up the cloth. “That’s where your designers can add some extra features!”

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