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Strengthening Laos-Australia relations, bolstering ASEAN-Australia cooperation

Laos and Australia have cultivated a unique and evolving relationship, driven by shared interests and a dedication to regional collaboration. Both nations have actively participated in various initiatives aimed at fostering peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.
With the forthcoming ASEAN Summit in 2024 set to take place in Vientiane, Laos, there exists a prime opportunity for Laos and Australia to further solidify their bilateral ties and contribute to the overarching objectives of ASEAN.

Australian Ambassador to ASEAN Tiffany McDonald gives an interview.

Australian Ambassador to ASEAN, H.E. Tiffany McDonald, recently visited Vientiane and gave an exclusive interview to the Vientiane Times, emphasising Australia’s support for Laos’ hosting of the ASEAN Summit. The visit is part of her several scheduled visits in the run up to the summit.
“It is my great pleasure, and I am very excited to visit Laos again after visiting as a tourist with my family in 2016 when Laos was the ASEAN host. I still remember well the beautiful decorations in Vientiane with the flags of the ASEAN countries and their partner countries. Laos organised everything very well and very successful as the host, and I’m sure it will be the same again this year,” she said.
Ambassador McDonald added that Australia has worked closely with Laos and provided support to prepare for Laos to host the summit. This support includes human resource development such as building interpreter capacity, supporting Lao officers to work in Jakarta on ASEAN issues, providing economic strategic advice, media training, and other technical assistance.
“The Australian Government is working very closely with Laos, and so far, a lot of work has been done,” she said.
Ambassador McDonald highlighted the strong bond between Australia and Laos, noting the significant number of Lao students who have studied in Australia and subsequently formed a substantial alumni network. “They are great people and a valuable connection between our two countries,” she added.
She expressed her personal connection to Laos through her family history and fond memories of the country.
“My father-in-law had a mission working in Laos many years ago. When I was here, I sent him some photos of temples and sounds of monks’ evening chanting, which brought back memories of his old times in Laos and the Lao way of life. Personally, I feel a very special connection to Laos.”
Diplomatic relations between Laos and Australia were established in 1952, marking the beginning of a longstanding partnership that has seen collaboration across various sectors, including trade, education, and development assistance.
Australia’s contributions to Laos’ economic development through aid programmes and investments have been instrumental, while Laos has served as a valuable partner to Australia in navigating the ASEAN region and promoting regional security.

Australian Ambassador to ASEAN Tiffany McDonald with Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR Megan Jones during her recent visit to Vientiane.

In terms of two-way trade, Australia exports a range of goods to Laos, including liquid pumps and valves, specialised machinery, vegetables and cereals, and electrical circuit equipment, among others. Conversely, Australia imports goods from Laos such as gold, telecoms equipment and parts, footwear and headwear, silver and platinum, and plywood.
In recent years, Laos and Australia have intensified their cooperation in the realm of education through various agreements aimed at enhancing trade opportunities, facilitating people-to-people exchanges, and jointly addressing pressing issues like climate change and natural disasters.
There are opportunities for Laos and Australia to collaborate further to promote trade liberalisation, bolster connectivity, and drive innovation across key industries. By leveraging their respective strengths and resources, both nations can tap into the economic potential within ASEAN and beyond.
Given their shared commitment to sustainable development goals, Laos and Australia can increase their partnerships on initiatives related to environmental conservation, renewable energy projects, and climate change mitigation efforts.
Cultivating cultural ties and fostering educational exchanges between Laos and Australia promotes mutual understanding and cooperation among their citizens. By increasing investment in youth empowerment programmes, language training initiatives, and academic partnerships, both countries can enjoy the benefits of the people-to-people connections for future collaboration.
As Laos gears up for the ASEAN Summit later this year, there are numerous opportunities for collaboration that can further strengthen the bilateral relationship between Laos and Australia.
The summit will serve as a platform for leaders from ASEAN member states and Dialogue Partners, including Australia, to engage in discussions on key regional issues, bolster economic integration, and enhance trade and investment. Laos and Australia can utilise this forum to advance their shared interests, align strategic priorities, and explore new avenues for partnership.
In the context of ASEAN, Australia has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the region’s future. Australia was ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner. The 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit commemorated the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations. The Summit held last month in Melbourne, Australia unveiled a series of new and expanded initiatives.
Prime Minister The Hon Anthony Albanese and ASEAN Leaders endorsed the ASEAN-Australia Joint Leaders’ Vision Statement and the Melbourne Declaration, outlining their practical cooperation and shared aspirations for the future.
From deepening economic and cultural ties to enhancing educational and environmental cooperation, this comprehensive package worth over AUD500 million underscores Australia’s dedication to Southeast Asia and ASEAN – both now and in the future. The initiatives encompass areas such as business, socio-cultural exchanges, climate action, clean energy, and maritime cooperation, and build on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that Australia and ASEAN agreed in 2021.
Ambassador McDonald spoke about Australia’s implementation of Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040. She said “there is significant potential for trade and investment between Australia and ASEAN. Various forms of support and facilitation, including tariff policies, are available. I encourage individuals from both sides to explore this promising opportunity.”
“Australia has established Austrade deal teams within the ASEAN region to facilitate trade and investment. With these facilitative measures in place, we anticipate a bright future for trade and investment between ASEAN and Australia,” she added.
Australia and ASEAN stand poised for fruitful collaboration leading up to the ASEAN Summit in 2024. By leveraging their shared ambitions, economic interests, and strategic objectives, both parties can collaborate to enhance regional stability, foster economic growth, and strengthen people-to-people connections. Cooperation in areas such as trade, security, climate action, and digital innovation can pave the way for a robust partnership between Australia and ASEAN in the years ahead.

By Keoxomphou Sakdavong 
 (Latest Update April 12, 2024)

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