Laos. According to
Countryaah, Laos, which is isolated and financially disadvantaged
but politically stable, took a major step towards regional
integration in July when the country joined ASEAN, the
Southeast Asian Allies. Since Laos began to open up to the
outside world in the 1980s, foreign investment has increased
steadily, mainly in the hydropower sector.
In March/April, Laos's parliament, nationally, adopted new
laws that strengthened private ownership, a prerequisite for
attracting more foreign investors to the country. In August,
Laos as the first country in Southeast Asia signed an
agreement with the United States on investment protection
and the free transfer of capital and profits.
A schism with the EU was resolved in October when the EU
again granted duty-free clearance for some Laotian textiles,
the country's largest export product. Customs duty was
withdrawn in 1995 since the textile industry used import
goods in violation of EU rules on the origin of goods.
In October, Philippine President Fidel Ramos came to the
capital Vientiane on Laos's first state visit from an ASEAN
A new National Assembly, extended from 85 to 99 members,
was elected December 21. Almost all elected members were
members of the ruling Communist Laotian Revolutionary
People's Party, so no major political changes were expected
after the election.