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Yearbook 1997

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.

1997 Laos

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 Customs duty was withdrawn in 1995 since the textile industry used import goods in violation of EU rules on the origin of goods.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 country.

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.

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