Lao leaders and visiting Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Ms Valentina Matvienko reiterated that both sides wanted to expand relations between the two countries.

Ms Matvienko was in Laos to attend the 35th General Assembly of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). She also paid an official goodwill visit to the country on this occasion in response to an invitation from her Lao counterpart Ms Pany Yathotou.

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The Federation Council’s Speaker held bilateral talks with Ms Pany on Saturday. After the talks, the Speaker and her delegates paid courtesy calls to President Choummaly Sayasone and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong.

Ms Matvienko told Lao and Russian media, in a press conference held shortly after her talks with the Lao leaders, that both sides reiterated that they wanted to expand relations between the two countries.

Through an interpreter, she added that Lao-Russian political relations have been strengthened over the recent years.

Leaders and high-ranking officials of both sides have visited each other. In 2011, President Choummaly paid an official visit to Russia. In 2013, Ms Pany also paid an official goodwill visit to Russia while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Laos to attend the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting in 2012.

The two countries will celebrate the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year (October 7, 1960-October 7, 2015).

At the bilateral talks, Ms Pany told Ms Matvienko that Lao people have always remembered and have always been proud of the traditional relations and cooperation between the two countries, which was formed during the era of the former Soviet Union.

Ms Pany said this visit of the Russian delegation to Laos was significant to enriching the bilateral relations between the two nations.

“We are confident that the visit of Her Excellency and your delegation will enhance further Laos-Russia traditional friendly relations in general and our two institutions in particular,” she said.

Ms Pany said the Lao side will work with the Russian to enrich the relations and cooperation further.

In the economic field, noting that Laos is striving for greater socio-economic development to boost its effort to graduate the country from the UN’s list of leas t developed country by 2020, Ms Matvienko told the media that this has provided opportunities for Russian investors to seek investment opportunities in Laos.

Russian companies have already been active in Laos investing in mining, hydropower and telecommunications, according to an official document provided by the Lao National Assembly.

At the present, Russian ranked 25th foreign investor in Laos with total investment amounting to US$ 75.49 million.

Ms Matvienko told the press conference that she was delighted to learn the Lao government has extended support to Russian companies in carrying out feasibility studies for mine projects in Laos.

Two-way trade volume between Laos and Russia reached US$ 46.6 million in 2011, an increase of 5.8 percent compared to the year before, according to the official document.

Russia’s main products exported to Laos are paper products, aircraft and vehicle spare parts, while Lao products exported to Russia are minerals, clothes and wooden products.

In recent years, two-way trade volume between the two countries has remained static. Therefore, both Laos and Russia agreed that the government sectors of the two countries should encourage and support businesses of both sides to meet for talks to explore opportunities in an attempt to increase trade volume.

In addition, Laos has proposed Russia to increase the list of Lao products that enjoy trade privileges from Russia from the current 65 product listed to 499, according to the official document.

Russian Parliament has agreed on the proposal. However, the proposal is being considered by the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, according to the official document.

In the tourism sector, Laos has witnessed growing numbers of Russian tourists arriving in the country. First six months of 2012, almost 4,000 Russian tourists visited Laos, an increase of 12 percent compared to the same period of 2011.

The increase is partially boosted by the fact that the Lao government has exempted entry visas for Russian citizens since September 1, 2007.

Currently, Lao authorities are proposing the Russian side exempt entry visas for short-period visits of Lao tourists entering Russia, noting that more Lao tourists are interested in travelling to Russia.

In this regard, Russia has considered the issue and sent a draft agreement on the visa exemption to the Lao authorities for consideration.

In the educational field, more than 7,000 Lao students graduated from the former Soviet Union. Currently, more than 200 Lao students are taking educational courses in Russia, thanks for the assistance provided by the Russian government.

In accordance to a request from the Lao government, Russia agreed to open Russian language courses at the Russia-Laos Information and Culture Centre in Vientiane. The course is expected to be opened soon.

Ms Pany told the bilateral meeting that a number among those students who graduated from the former Soviet Union have been playing key roles in vari ous administrative bodies.

Cooperation between the two countries also covered the areas of health, foreign affairs and the military along with cooperation between both sides’ parliaments.

Representing the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, government and people, Ms Pany expressed sincere thanks and gratitude to the government and people of Russia for the invaluable assistance and support they have extended to Laos.

Source: Vientiane Times
Published on September 22, 2014