Commerce ministry resolves trading rights issue

Trucks transport goods from China to Laos via Boten International checkpoint in Luang Namtha. International firms exporting goods to Laos will no longer need a domestic operations license

LAO PDR (Vientiane Times) - Foreign enterprises that export goods to the Lao market will no longer need a domestic business licence as the Commerce Ministry has resolved this contentious issue. The Minister of Industry and Commerce , Mrs Khemmani Pholsena, signed a ministerial decision on June 6 authorising international firms to export their goods to the Lao market without obtaining a licence for domestic business operations.

According to the law, all enterprises conducting business activities in Laos need to obtain an enterprise registration certificate and a business operations licence. However, a number of local companies had complained that international firms were selling their goods in Laos without the necessary permission. The commerce ministry wanted to resolve this issue to create a fair business environment in Laos, officials said. Although international firms do not need a domestic licence to export their goods to Laos, they need to obtain trading rights from the Export and Import Department, according to the ministerial decision that was posted on the Lao National Gazette website.

From now on, international companies seeking to export goods to Laos must submit a request to get a trading rights licence from the Import and Export Department, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said. One of the main requirements for international firms to obtain trading rights from the Import and Export Department is that they must be enterprises registered in countries that are members of the World Trade Organisation. In addition, the companies must show the Import and Export Department evidence that they operate businesses in line with laws and regulations. Apart from this, they must never commit, or be in the process of being investigated for, crimes related to trade and financial issues.

Companies interested in applying for the trading rights can submit their requests for certification at the Import and Export Department, Ministry of Industry and Commerce. They must present their formal requests with the attached documents. These include a passport or their enterprise registration certification, alongside a crime-free record certification and a letter of authorisation from the foreign companies. As part of the document verification process, the Import and Export Department has demanded that the attached documents must be certified by Lao embassies in the countries where companies are registered or certified by authorised representative offices of the countries where the companies are registered.

Recently, Vientiane Times spoke to a group of business people about the import and export business in Laos. A local businesswoman questioned the government’s policy to create a fair trading environment for foreign and domestic firms. She preferred the relevant sector to investigate how many foreign companies distribute goods in Laos without permission. She thought this was not fair for domestic firms that have business operations licences and pay taxes according to the law.