Australian Alumni Discuss Trade and ASEAN Integration

Vientiane, 6 June —Almost 100 people including Australian scholarships Alumni and leaders in the trade and business sectors gathered to have a frank and open discussion on the challenges and issues around a changing trade environment as Laos prepares for a the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.  The Workshop on “Managing for a Changing Trade Environment” was held on Friday evening at the Settha Palace Hotel, organised by the Australian Alumni group, with support from the Australian Embassy and the Laos Australia Institute.

The Workshop not only allowed participants to learn about the current situation affecting their businesses and the market in Laos but also to connect and network with each other and other leaders in the trade sector. Workshop speakers included Dr. Leeber Leebouapao, the Director General of the National Economic Research Institute, as well as Mr. Konesawang Nghardsaysone from the World Bank and Mr. Keovisouk Dalasane from 108 Job Magazine.  They were joined by Mr. Sean Reilly from the Australian Government’s trade promotion organisation, Austrade.

Ms. Katheryn Bennett, First Secretary, Development Cooperation at the Australian Embassy praised the alumni in Laos for taking the initiative to hold this forum. “It is wonderful to see so many of our returned alumni interested in trade and regional integration, which are important for the development of Laos.  Australia is a longstanding development partner in Laos, and our aid program supports a number of initiatives that strengthen the policy environment to help prepare Laos for 2015” she continued.

The speaker covered topics including the readiness of Laos to enter the AEC, the views of business operators, especially support and assistance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and issues of human resources, skills and employment..

Dr. Leeber Leebouapao outlined government plans and policies that address these challenges, while Mr. Konesawang Nghardsaysone noted that the World Bank provides financial support for SMEs through finance and customs and trade facilitation projects.

Mr. Keovisouk Dalasane from 108 Job Magazine saw opportunities for local businesses, but warned that they needed to be ready.  He said “Most people worry about more competition in the market once the AEC opens in Laos. It’s impossible to stop it so we business owners have to improve ourselves and find out how to take benefits from it instead and what we have to prepare to handle it.”

Mr Sean Reilly, the Austrade representative for Laos based in Ho Chi Minh City, described how the Australian Government promotes exports and investment in the region.

The speakers were followed by a lively question and answer session, where the main concerns also related to ensuring labour market readiness, including being able to find workers with the right skills.

The Workshop is expected to be the first in a series of professional development events for Australian alumni in Laos.  Returned alumni are encouraged to contact members of the Alumni group or the Laos Australia Institute to ensure that their contact details are up to date.

 

Media Contact: Vannaphone Sitthirath, Tel: 020 5559290

 

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