Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson today welcomed Laos officially as the 158th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Australia supported Laos's bid to join the WTO, serving two terms as Chair of the Working Party for Laos's accession. It also provided technical assistance during negotiations.
Dr Emerson said domestic reforms implemented as part of the WTO accession process had already benefited the Lao people.
"Now, as a Member of the WTO, they will enjoy the security of international trading rules, while reaping the benefits of further domestic economic reform," he said.
Australia has been at the forefront of recent negotiations in Geneva to streamline accession processes for least-developed countries (LDCs), recognising the challenges they face when liberalising trade in goods and services.
Laos is the first to benefit from this new LDC accession process. It joins 32 other LDCs as WTO Members, with a further nine currently negotiating their accession.
"Australia supports and applauds these LDCs," Dr Emerson said.
"Their governments have recognised trade liberalisation as essential to sustainable economic growth, the fight against poverty, and better jobs for their people."
As part of its membership commitments, Laos has agreed to lower its import tariffs on goods, including on exports of Australian specialised machinery and parts and pumps.
Greater trade in these products will help Laos and Australia link into rapidly growing value chains in Asia, Dr Emerson said.
Laos has also agreed to allow for majority foreign ownership of joint ventures.
Australian exports to Laos were worth $29.6 million in 2011.
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