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Canada and Lao PDR are nearing 50 years of bilateral relations. Diplomatic relations between Canada and Laos were established in 1974. In August 2015, Canada posted its first resident diplomat to Vientiane, and in July 2016 the Office of the Embassy of Canada was officially opened. Canada’s ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) resides in Bangkok, Thailand. Lao PDR is represented in Canada by its embassy in Washington, D.C., and through its honourary consulate in Vancouver.
The Office of the Embassy of Canada in Vientiane offers trade and consular services to Canadian clients, and is mandated to deepen political, development, and cultural cooperation with Lao institutions. Canada’s priorities in Lao PDR include:
- Supporting the implementation of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy in Lao PDR
- championing gender equality and empowering women and girls
- encouraging inclusive governance and respect for human rights
- enhancing private-sector development and infrastructure
- improving border management and the situation of migrant labourers
- developing skills among vulnerable groups, including young women, disabled persons, and ethnic minorities
Canada also supports the Lao government in reducing the harmful effects of unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining from the Second Indochina War, in support of Lao PDR’s national Sustainable Development Goal 18, “Lives Safe from UXO”. In 2023, Canada committed $750,000 to support de-mining efforts.
Canada cooperates with Lao PDR as a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Lao PDR takes over for a three-year period as Canada’s Country Coordinator for ASEAN in mid-2024.
The links between our two peoples contribute to the Canada-Lao PDR relationship. Today, roughly 40,000 people living in Canada identify themselves as being of Lao origin. Canadian tourism to Lao PDR is increasing, and pre-pandemic total numbers of Canadian visitors are anticipated to surpass 18,000 in 2023.
In 2022, bilateral trade between the 2 countries was valued at $ 43.5 million. Canada also launched negotiations for a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement in 2021. Several Canadian firms are active in the Lao PDR, working in the extractive and manufacturing sectors. These include Celestica, ASEAN Contact Center, 5NPlus, PRI-MED, Deluxe Food Group, and Aheeva Technology. Other opportunities exist in areas where Canadian firms are strong, such as clean technologies, information and communication technology, infrastructure, agriculture, education, and environmental consulting. Canadian companies play a positive role as good corporate citizens and responsible investors in the Lao PDR.
In 2020, Canada and Laos concluded negotiations for a code-share only Air Transport Agreement (ATA).
The Office of the Embassy of Canada in Laos includes members of the Trade Commissioner Service, whose task is to expand commercial linkages between Canada and Lao PDR.
Since 2000, Canada has contributed $142 million to development and poverty reduction in Lao PDR, including $8 million in 2018. While Canada does not have a bilateral development program in Lao PDR, the country is eligible for Canadian assistance through Global Affairs Canada’s ASEAN Regional Development Program, security capacity-building programs, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, and through multilateral institutions and Canadian and international civil society organizations.
In 2022-2023, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives helped support six projects in health, human dignity, growth for everyone, rule of law and inclusive governance, human rights and inclusivity, and gender equity and rights of women and girls. Canada also provided support for Lao PDR’s COVID-19 pandemic response measures by donating 1.2 million medical-grade masks through an ASEAN-led program.
Canada is also working with the Asian Development Bank to support the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Monsoon Wind Power Project, the first cross border wind power project in Southeast Asia.
The Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED) program provides post-secondary students from ASEAN member states, especially women and citizens of Least Developed Countries, the opportunity to study or research in Canada for up to two semesters. The Canadian Program for Francophonie Scholarships, which runs until 2025, has allowed nearly 30 Lao students to obtain advanced graduate degrees at French-speaking universities in Canada since 1991.
Partnerships and organizations
To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and Laos work closely in multilateral fora, such as:
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- La Francophonie
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- Pacific Alliance
- United Nations (UN)
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
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