Laos is Australia’s 106th largest trading partner and joined the World Trade Organisation in February 2013. Australia and Laos engage in free trade through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. Australia sent $65 million of goods and service exports to Laos in 2018, made up mostly of water pumps, water parts, specialised machinery and civil engineering equipment. Imports from Laos totalled $57 million.
Service exports to Laos are negligible. Student enrolments in Australian institutions are very small, although Australia is considered a favoured destination for Laotians deciding to study abroad. The Australian government awards scholarships to Laotians for study in areas of developmental importance, including education, trade and rural development.
Multilaterals such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are active in education, health, energy, agriculture and other infrastructure development. This provides export opportunities for Australian firms specialising in advisory consultancies, tenders and the supply of machinery and equipment. Data on Australian investment in Laos is not readily available. But PanAust Limited, through its Laotian subsidiary, invests heavily in natural resources.