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The digital economy of Lao PDR has been growing rapidly as it adopts digital technologies to expand various industries and sectors. As a result of rapid digitalization, the country’s trade patterns are also undergoing substantial transformation, with the creation of new ‘digital’ trade opportunities. Going forward, digital trade will play an increasingly important role in its economy, growing faster than traditional trade.

However, as this report will highlight, there is still significant scope to further increase and accelerate overall trade through harnessing national digitalisation efforts and leveraging international standards. Greater use of new and emerging technologies is not only creating trade opportunities in digital goods and services, but also increasing trade in physical goods and services that can be delivered digitally or otherwise enhanced through digital enablers.

Adoption of international standards has the potential to accelerate digital trade. For instance, by enabling businesses and governments to digitise or use systems that can interoperate and interconnect with one another, seamless cross-border trade is facilitated. Standards, therefore, play the role that regulation has traditionally played: facilitating market access and participation, ensuring competition, reducing compliance costs, benchmarking universal access to digital systems, information technology, and boosting productivity.

Digital technologies can significantly lower barriers to trade, improve trade efficiencies and open access to markets, creating new trade possibilities. For Lao PDR, this report estimates that—at a minimum—digital trade could increase to a total projected AUD7.24bn by 2030. This suggests that the economic value of digital trade has the potential to increase 191% for Lao PDR.

In this context – particularly noting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – it is useful to examine the ways in which digital trade is taking shape in Lao PDR, and the ways in which international standards can be leveraged to maximize its growth potential.

In order to scale this potential growth, this report will:

  • Examine digital trade and break down its components;
  • Estimate the economic value of Lao PDR’s digital trade;
  • Identify priority areas for cooperation;
  • Identify key international standards for each prioritised area to focus on; and
  • Map out a suggested way forward in order to accelerate digital trade growth.

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