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Laos, EU meet to overview cooperation

Laos and the EU held a two-day meeting to discuss various works aiming to promote the development of a broad number of sectors in the country last week.

Both sides had arranged the 8th Lao-EU Joint Committee Meeting on January 17 after conclusion of the 7th Laos-EU Human Rights Dialogue one day earlier. The two day meeting held open and constructive dialogue on a broad range of political, economic and societal topics; including governance, human rights, development cooperation, the environment as well as trade and investment policies.

The Working Group on Trade reviewed EU-Laos bilateral trade and the investment climate in Laos. While the two parties discussed the state of play of Laos' WTO implementation and addressed a number of other bilateral issues in relation to Lao's uptake of the "Everything But Arms Initiative' as well as the investment climate for European companies in Laos. The countries presented their respective trade strategies while they also reviewed several regional and multilateral matters.

The Working Group on Development discussed current and future mechanisms to support Laos' private sector development, regional and international integration and trade related technical assistance.

Useful exchanges were also held around Laos' progress made on MDGs as well as on the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) and its alignment to the SDGs. EU support to the education, health, nutrition and UXO sectors was also discussed.

In addition, the importance of the contribution of civil society was central to the discussions over the two days.

According to an EU report yesterday, during the human rights dialogue, discussions of Laos' commitments under the UN Universal Periodic Review process took centre stage.

The events were also an occasion to share views on "Joint Programming,' a mechanism of cooperation that the EU and its member states, as well as Switzerland, have adopted in Laos. The European development partners have decided together with the government how to deliver aid more effectively by adopting a process of division of labour while ensuring close alignment with the NSEDP.

In this programme the EU has decided to focus on three areas including nutrition, education and governance for the period of 2016-2020. In total the EU will allocate almost US$220 million (some 207 million euros) over the period of 2014-2020. At the margins of the Joint Committee a media event was also held to mark the signature of an important support package of over US$64 million (60.5 million Euros) to assist in Laos' effort in the nutrition, governance and UXO sectors.

The Joint Committee was co-chaired by Director General of the Europe and America Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Khouanta Phalivong and by Ambassador David Daly, Head of Division for South and Southeast Asia at the European External Action Service.

According to attendees, all of the discussions held over the two days provided for fruitful exchanges with important contributions coming from both sides.

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We liked the Elephant Trekking in Champasak and the shopping in the Pakse markets. J&S Gentner.
F. White.