California an untapped investment proposition for Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Business operators in California, USA, have encouraged Lao businesspeople and the authorities to benefit from the state’s potential for investment thanks to its geography and suggest that business matching could benefit both sides.  

In 2018 the value of two-way trade between Laos and the United States was US$157 million, of which US$15 million was the value of US exports to Laos and US$142 million the value of imports from Laos. There is no data on investment between Laos and the US.

California is the number one US state for exports to Laos, with nearly 20 percent of all US exports to Laos coming from California. In 2018 California exports to Laos were worth US$3.1 million. Most of the goods exported (US$2.4 million) were pearls and precious stones/metals. Other exports include vehicles and beverages.

California is the number one US state for imports from Laos, with more than 30 percent of all US imports from Laos going to California. California imported US$48 million worth of goods from Laos in 2018. Top imports include electrical machinery, precious stones/metals, and iron.

Global Initiative Director of the CalAsian Chamber of Commerce, Ms Henan Li, said the chamber is trying to build relationships with more South-East Asian countries. 

This is because the large population in this region can support the growth of business production in California.

“I think that if we have more groups of businesspeople from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other countries from South-East Asia to visit California, this could be a good way of doing business together,” she said.

A vintner with the Wine Appellations Cellar in California, Ms Ivonne Zhu, said that in Asia, China is the most interesting place for businesspeople from California to invest in.

Even though Laos does not directly import wine from California, some Lao people have become wine consumers. This is because they import wine from Vietnam where California is in the wine business.

“I believe that the government can promote your country for selling our products and selling your products to California,” Ms Zhu said.

Sharing information about wine is necessary for business promotion between Laos and California. In addition, sharing information about trade is very helpful to encourage businesspeople from California to invest in Laos.

“Come and talk together to find ways to do business. We do not know what you need. We do not know what you have. Of course, we want to invest in Laos but we do not have much information about the country. It is very helpful if some Lao businesspeople or involved organisations can provide business information about Laos to us,” Ms Zhu said.

California is home to many Lao-Americans, particularly in the Central Valley. There are about 15,000 people of Lao origin living in Sacramento, 8,000 in San Francisco, 7,000 in Los Angeles, and 6,000 in San Diego.

• This article is written as part of a reporting tour under the Indo-Pacific project, which is supported by the Foreign Press Centre.

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