flag Laos Laos: Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Laos is not too open to foreign trade, which represents 36.4% of its GDP (WTO, 2018-2022 average). Although Laos is implementing a process to open its economy, the state maintains restrictions on the import of certain goods such as chemical products, weapons and some types of medication. Timber and weapons cannot be exported. Special permits are required to export rice, rough diamond, gold and polished silver. Laos became a member of the WTO in February 2013. This membership was subject to the adoption of the commitments of the WTO, mainly setting a limit to customs duties, the partial or total opening of all sectors, respecting the regulations of the WTO regarding inspections before shipping and adopting anti-dumping measures. Laos’ main exports by value are electrical energy, gold, natural rubber, refined copper and alloys, and copper ores or concentrates; which collectively represent 52.4% of the country’s overall shipments (with electricity accounting for one-fifth of total exports). Imports are led by construction equipment, fuel and gas, items used in industry, electronic products, vehicle parts, and food (Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce).

The country's most important trading partners are Thailand (41.4%), China (28.8%), Vietnam (18.2%) and Japan (1.6%), with imports following a similar path: Thailand (50.3%), China (29%), Vietnam (7.8%), and Japan (2% - WTO, 2019 – latest data available).

Laos has suffered a trade deficit for many years, but this trend had gradually reduced in recent years due to the steady growth of exports and the completion of infrastructure projects. According to figures from WTO, in 2020 the country exported USD 6.1 billion worth of goods (+5.3% y-o-y) and USD 346 million of commercial services (-72.1%), importing USD 5.3 billion (-14.4%) and USD 444 million (-64.2%), respectively, thus resulting in a positive trade balance for merchandise (reversing the usual trend) and in a negative one for services. Preliminary figures from Lao Trade Portal show that the country recorded a trade deficit of USD 336 million in the first 11 months of 2021, with exports at USD 4.9 billion and imports at USD 5.24 billion.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 5,6676,3156,2725,3706,275
Exports of Goods (million USD) 4,8735,4085,8066,1157,695
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,1401,2421,241444252
Exports of Services (million USD) 8789851,178346125
Trade Balance (million USD) -794-907-4667451,419

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Commercial Policy

International Economic Cooperation
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), AFTA and the ASEAN - China Free Trade Area.


Member of International finance corporation

Member of EAS (East Asia Summit)

Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country’s commercial policy
Barriers to exchanges
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
International Economic Cooperation
Member of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), AFTA and the ASEAN - China Free Trade Area.


Member of International finance corporation

Member of EAS (East Asia Summit)

Useful Resources
Laos Customs Department
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
Website of the Ministry of Industry and Trade
Go to this page to find the contact details of the intellectual property offices in Laos.

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Latest Update: February 2023