Agriculture trade between China and Laos to double after rail link opens

Photo taken on February 5, 2021 shows the Luang Prabang Bridge of the China-Laos Railway over the Mekong River in northern Laos. Photo: Xinhua

The operation of the long-awaited China-Laos railway is expected to be a significant boost not only for the economy of Laos by improving its tourism and trade with China, but also for the economy of the whole region of Laos. Lancang-Mekong, which includes Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand, securing a major transport hub in the region, experts said.

The top leaders of China and Laos will hold a video conference on Friday and jointly attend the official launch of the railway, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday.

The 1,035-kilometer China-Laos Railway, which began in December 2016, links Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan Province with Laos’ capital Vientiane.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the railway line, with a designated speed of 160 kilometers per hour, will significantly reduce the travel time from Vientiane to the Sino-Laotian border from two days to about three hours, while the drive to Kunming can be done overnight.

Experts said the railway will serve as an important transport hub for Laos, an inland country, and boost sectors of the Laotian economy like trade and tourism by facilitating the transport of goods and tourists between the two. country.

“In the past, goods were transported between China and Laos by road, which is only good for small quantities, or by air, which is relatively expensive. The China-Laos railway could significantly shorten the transportation time, which I think will certainly encourage trade between the two countries, especially for agricultural products, which have high requirements for freshness, “said Wednesday. to Global Times Gu Xiaosong, Dean of the ASEAN Research Institute at Hainan Tropical Ocean University.

Gu said China-Laos agricultural trade could double due to the operation of the railway. Laos’ warehouse trade could also increase as other countries use it as a transfer station for transporting goods to and from China, he said.

Chinese exports to Laos grew 12.7% on an annual basis in US dollars in the first 10 months of this year, while imports jumped 42%, according to Chinese customs data. China mainly imports agricultural and mining products from Laos, while also exporting raw materials and consumer goods, Gu said.

In addition to boosting China-Laos economic interaction, the railway could serve as an economic catalyst for the entire Lancang-Mekong region, which includes countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, by facilitating trade interactions and personal data, experts said.

“Building a rail network that includes both China and the Lancang-Mekong countries, some of which are landlocked, is of vital importance to facilitate regional cooperation and economic development,” Xu Liping, director of Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing said, giving examples of faster shipments of Southeast Asian fruit, Thai auto parts and parts. electronic.

This will greatly benefit Thailand via the existing rail line that crosses Laos, experts noted.

In September, Thailand’s rail transport ministry unveiled a zone development plan in Nong Khai to prepare for a rail connection with Laos. A section of the China-Laos railway line will be extended from the Laotian capital to the border with Thailand. Thailand expects to be connected with Laos and China in 2028, the Bangkok Post reported.

“Once Thailand is connected, it will establish a framework for building a trans-Asian network, as more countries like Malaysia and Singapore may be connected via the land railroad in the future,” Xu told Global Times Wednesday.

He said negotiations between China and Thailand have run into difficulties in part because the Thai side has priced too high. There are other options, such as extending the China-Laos Railway to Cambodia, a seaside country that has ports and shipping lines.

As for rail links with other Lancang-Mekong countries such as Myanmar and Vietnam, some have been suspended for various reasons, including political concerns, according to observers.

According to, Vietnam has adopted the Japanese high-speed train system for high-speed rail link, but there are also reports that Vietnam’s high-speed electric rail line will not be completed until 2045. .

Gu said there is a chance that Vietnam and China will continue cooperation in building land transportation facilities, although the two countries have friction over maritime issues.

“Sino-Vietnamese relations are generally stable and the two countries cooperate in many aspects, especially trade. I think the two countries need each other economically, and Vietnam should think positively to closer cooperation with China, ”Gu said.

According to Gu, although Vietnam has “complicated considerations” in terms of cooperation in building high-speed railways, the China-Laos railroad should wake up Vietnam as the convenience of rapid transport will greatly help the economy. Vietnamese.

“Because of the railroad, China doesn’t have to depend on Vietnam to interact with countries like Thailand and Malaysia, and Vietnam might fear being ‘marginalized’,” he said.

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