Laos is Australia’s 99th largest trading partner and joined the World trade organisation in February 2013. Australia and Laos are parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. Australia sent US$62m of goods and service exports to Laos in 2017, made up mostly of water pumps, water parts and civil engineering equipment. Imports from Laos were worth US$58m.
Service exports to Laos are negligible. Student enrolments in Australian institutions are minuscule although Australia is the favoured destination for those Laotians who do 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 ADB 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 equipment. Data on Australian investment in Laos aren’t readily available. But PanAust Limited, through its Laotian subsidiary, invests heavily in natural resources.