Socialisation Workshop on the RCEP E-Commerce Work Plan for Lao PDR

Vientiane, 12 Jan 2022: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) came into force on 1 January 2022, with a chapter dedicated to e-commerce (Chapter 12). This chapter aims to foster digital transformation and deliver ICT-trade facilitation measures in the region. To support Lao PDR’s implementation of its commitments, in 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC) with ERIA Capacity Building support, developed a regulatory gap analysis of existing laws and regulations and commitments under RCEP, along with a work plan to address these gaps. Together, these documents can promote a strong regulatory framework for the RCEP e-commerce chapter for all Lao PDR departments and agencies.

To support awareness-raising of the work plan and receive updates on its progress, on 12 January, a workshop was held to align understanding of the work plan and the current implementation of e-commerce provisions. The workshop was opened by Mr Saysana SAYAKONE, Director General of Foreign Trade Policy, MOIC, who in his opening comments emphasised the importance of e-commerce cooperation and the potential benefits that RCEP e-commerce brings for Lao. He also highlighted challenges that Lao PDR is facing, including the limited level of technical capacity in technology and human resources. To overcome the economic difficulties resulting from the global pandemic, the Government of Lao PDR needs to enhance modern technology on Industry 4.0 and to use the digital economy to transition from a ‘land-locked’ country to a ‘land-linked’ country. Therefore, ensuring the government’s capacity and efforts on RCEP e-commerce are crucial, especially on topics including electronic authentication, online customers’ protection, data privacy issues, digital taxation, and streamlining the procedure of electronic transactions.

Following the opening, the workshop consisted of two sessions. The first was presentations covered three topics: 1) the overview of the RCEP e-commerce agreement; 2) the work plan for the implementation of RCEP provisions and priority capacity building needs in Laos; 3) specific areas of interest of Lao such as cross-border paperless trade, cross-border data flow, cross-border payment and transaction. This session was moderated by Dr Lurong Chen, Senior Economist ERIA, with the presentations on the three topics given by Mr Danny Burrows, Director of TradeWorthy, Mr Sven Callebaut, International Trade Consultant for ERIA Capacity Building, and Dr Leonila Guglya, International WTO expert.

For the second session, Lao officials including from the Department of Import and Export (DIMEX), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Lao National Internet Center (LANIC), and Bank of Lao PDR (BOL) discussed their responses to the presentations, sought clarification and explained the ongoing efforts of different Government of Lao PDR agencies on their implementation of the e-commerce provision.

The workshop was joined by a total of 93 participants including academics and students. It was held under the ERIA Capacity Building Programme, supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.

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